More on Marina Abramovic

Stuart wrote about the Marina Abramovic Mass MOCA scandale a week or so ago, in this post here.

There’s been some interesting development since then. The performance artist who first wrote to Yvonne Rainer to alert her to Abromovic’s demands on auditioners has outed herself, and posted about her experience. Read Sara Wookey’s thought-provoking description here.

An excerpt:

I am writing to address three main points: One, to add my voice to the discourse around this event as an artist who was critical of the experience and decided to walk away, a voice which I feel has been absent thus far in the LA Times and New York Times coverage; Two, to clarify my identity as the informant about the conditions being asked of artists and make clear why I chose, up till now, to be anonymous in regards to my email to Yvonne Rainer; And three, to prompt a shift of thinking of cultural workers to consider, when either accepting or rejecting work of any kind, the short- and long-term impact of our personal choices on the entire field. Each point is to support my overriding interest in organizing and forming a union that secures labor standards and fair wages for fine and performing artists in Los Angeles and beyond.

I refused to participate as a performer because what I anticipated would be a few hours of creative labor, a meal, and the chance to network with like-minded colleagues turned out to be an unfairly remunerated job. I was expected to lie naked and speechless on a slowly rotating table, starting from before guests arrived and lasting until after they left (a total of nearly four hours. I was expected to ignore (by staying in what Abramović refers to as “performance mode”) any potential physical or verbal harassment while performing. I was expected to commit to fifteen hours of rehearsal time, and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement stating that if I spoke to anyone about what happened in the audition I was liable for being sued by Bounce Events, Marketing, Inc., the event’s producer, for a sum of $1 million dollars plus attorney fees.

I was to be paid $150. During the audition, there was no mention of safeguards, signs, or signals for performers in distress, and when I asked about what protection would be provided I was told it could not be guaranteed. What I experienced as an auditionee for this work was extremely problematic, exploitative, and potentially abusive.


Photo via NYT article on the MOCA Event.

One Comment

sbmeyers posted on November 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Thank you for sharing this, Ilana. I think it is critical that the informant herself, Sara Wookey, posted an article about her own experience and choices that spawned this controversy. Her description of the circumstances has revealed the true crime at hand. I must admit that when I read Yvonne’s letter, I thought that she was decrying the art itself; however, I now realize that the conflict is about the way in which funders and people with money are deplorably treating performance artists. I hear Sara’s cry to bring together these artists, especially in the dance field, to rally for equitable compensation for services rendered. I agree that if plushy unions such as SAG exist for actors, there should be a union for the performance artists who are asked for just as much of their time and energy. I feel that this is an important article for me to be reading as a young artist who plans to work in this field of performance. How do we fight for our right for respect met monetarily? What are we allowed to ask for, or rather what must we demand for ourselves as these fringe artists? I see that Sara has been given a great deal of support for her courage (there are many thank you’s) but I will be curious, and sad, to see if this affects her professional engagements.

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