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‘The racist is present’: Marina Abramovic slammed for Aboriginal comments

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Controversial performance artist Marina Abramovic has come under fire for a passage in her new book which says indigenous Australians are “dinosaurs” and “look terrible”.

The passage from her forthcoming memoir, Walk Through Walls reads:

“They look like dinosaurs. They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet they are not.

“But at the same time, when you first meet them, you have to put effort into it. For one thing, to Western eyes they look terrible. Their faces are like no other faces on earth; they have big torsos (just one bad result of their encounter with Western civilisation is a high sugar diet that bloats their bodies) and sticklike legs.”

The comments were widely shared on social media yesterday, with the hashtag #TheRacistIsPresent trending, in reference to Abramovic’s 2010 MOMA performance The Artist is Present (pictured above). 

Overnight, Abramovic released a statement to Facebook saying the comment comes from her diaries in 1979 and does not reflect her current appreciation and understanding of Aboriginal people.

Australian-born, London-based artist Christian Thompson also came to Abramovic’s defence today, showing support to Abramovic. Thompson is a Bidjara man who worked with Abramovic last year. He wrote:

“I undertook the to Marina Abramovic residency late last year at Kaldor Arts Projects in Sydney. In this time i developed a wonderful rapport with Marina and we have maintained a friendship and connection since that time. She has been hugely supportive of Aboriginal culture and especially Aboriginal artists much of which goes unseen and unacknowledged. The salacious daily mail article takes an excerpt from an early uncorrected unedited entry from Marina’s diary in 1979 and is written from the perspective of a young woman’s first encounter with our people. It was a poor command of language not a racially motivated attack as it has been represented and does not reflect the person i know or the opinions she holds today. I have only ever heard Marina express a great warmth and a deep respect for our culture and people.”

[box]Featured image: Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. Photo by Andrew Russeth[/box]

6 responses to “‘The racist is present’: Marina Abramovic slammed for Aboriginal comments

  1. Marina Abramovic has always seemed a fraud to me. I am not suprised at her comments no matter how old. She should also be questioned about how she evicted people in a house in Amsterdam she owned in the 80s. The story i have heard is not pretty. It may be hearsay but I am not a fan at all.

    I find Marina Abramovic’s work pompous and pretentious.

    1. When you say “It may be hearsay but I am not a fan at all”, it sounds like you are prepared to judge her on a matter without knowing if it’s true. Also, are you conflating your view of her work with your view of her opinions?

    2. Thank you Scott, I entirely agree with you. I also always thought of her ‘art’ as taking the mickey out of viewers, and being very arrogant and entirely void of interest. I am not surprised of the strange words used in her first encounter with Australian indigenous peoples.

  2. Following more news about this,a friend of mine was an ardent supporter of this artist,when she came to Melbourne before she became famous.I even think I met them.I am proud to say,I was never impressed.Like much contemporary art,the people good at promoting themselves sweep all before them! The general public is very gullible.

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