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Human centerpieces at MOCA's annual gala

Marina Abramović came under fire last week as a letter by famed choreographer Yvonne Rainer to Jeffrey Dietch, director of MOCA in LA, circulated through the media denouncing the artist’s upcoming performance at the museum’s annual gala. If all press is good press, then the strange unfolding of Saturday night’s event, and all controversy preceding and hereafter, proves the adage correct.

The controversy was sparked when an anonymous source auditioning for Abramović’s piece wrote a letter to Rainer describing the performance — which called upon dancers to function as human centerpieces — as indignant and abusive.

The deal is that the artists/dancers she will hire will spend 3(!) hours under the dining tables of the donor gala with their heads protruding from the tables. They will be sitting on lazy susans under the table and slowly rotating and making eye contact with the donors/diners. Of course we were warned that we will not be able to leave to pee, etc. That the diners may try to feed us, give us drinks, fondle us under the table, etc but will be warned not to. Whatever happens, we are to remain in performance mode and unaffected. What the fuck?!”

The letter continues to state — “The hours probably total 15 or more and the pay is $150 (plus a MOCA one year membership!!!)” — leading this writer to question why a benefit boasting such big-named guests as Debbie Harry and Gwen Stefani could not offer performers better pay. Yet, one could argue that given the chance to work with Abramović can be considered a lucrative experience for an artist’s career.

As for Abramović, her work often questions the limits of the human body, investigating themes such as pain, control and  objectification. Therefore, it is natural to assume that the complaining witness was aware of what he/she was getting into. In other words, do not apply for the job if you are not interested in the position.

Marina Abramović and Debbie Harry cutting into a life-size edible cake of Harry's nude body

– Chen Yerushalmi