At the invitation of Jeffrey Deitch, Yvonne Rainer has seen a rehearsal of Marina Abramovic's performance art project for this year's MoCA Los Angeles gala. And in a new letter to Deitch, she has refined and reiterated her condemnation of it as an exploitative and "grotesque spectacle [that] promises to be truly embarrassing."
Would that it were actually embarrassing to the people involved, and to Marina herself. Rainer goes to great, cordial lengths in her open letter to Deitch [reproduced below] to separate her criticism of the gala from Abramovic's work. While generous, I believe this is incorrect; the only context in which a revolving human head centerpiece on a $100,000 table could be realized is as an artwork. I mean, Abramovic's certainly not claiming this is just edgy party decoration, is she?
If that were so, the case for embarrassment would be easily made. No, I think the reason this rankles so much is precisely because the gala does take on the mantle of art--and the stamp and stature of the artist. It's not possible to say that this gala is not art; it is art you cannot afford to experience. It is art that you find humanly, ethically, and socially objectionable. And it is being produced and shown for money in one of our [sic] most reputable museums, by an artist who shows and is celebrated in similar institutions.
That's a reality of the art world as it's currently constructed.
Last year between the blog post where I declared the Gala as Art Movement and my presentation on it at #rank, I found two things: 1) Abramovic was deeply engaged in the luxury/sensual/sensory spectacle that is the gala experience's stock in trade. And 2) Doug Aitken's MoCA gala Happening was, on one level, a critique of the real estate and cultural forces which used art and museums to shape Los Angeles to serve their own needs. And that critique was utterly and completely subsumed by those very forces, probably without Aitken realizing it.
The Gala is bigger than any artist's attempt to subvert it from inside the party tent. Aitken tried and failed, but I think Abramovic is just fine with it.
Yvonne Rainer Blasts Marina Abramović and MOCA LA [theperformanceclub.org]
Previously: An Incomplete History of The Gala-as-Art Movement [greg.org]
"Relational Aesthetics for the Rich, or A Brief History of the Gala as Art" [vimeo]
Yvonne Rainer's revised letter to Jeffrey Deitch, along with its growing list of signatories, is after the jump.