Interview: Marina Abramovic
From Oyster #103: The HIRL Issue — on sale now!
Marina Abramović is bigger than Beyoncé — well, not really, but as performance artists go she’s pretty darn famous. At 66 years of age, Marina has faced fear and death innumerable times. She’s gone walkabout solo in the Australian desert, been stabbed and scarred by her audience members and, perhaps most terrifyingly, made Gaga dance nude in her backyard. What’s next for one of the world’s most successful, notorious and experimental artists?
Zac Bayly: Hello?
Marina Abramović: You’re ten minutes late.
No, I’ve been online but it was saying that you weren’t online.
No — that’s so funny, because I was here, but never mind. I’m in the countryside. So, let’s talk [laughs].
I saw online that you danced with Jay Z recently. Would you ever release a rap album?
You know, I’ve just been proposed a very interesting project that I can’t say anything about yet.
What? You have to tell me! I’m conducting the interview, remember?
[Laughs] I’m really interested in going all the way in different directions, so you can expect lots of surprises from me these days. After the Jay Z thing and after I went to the [Watermill Center] Gala with Lady Gaga I had at least a few friends text me and say, “Do you know what you’re doing?” [Laughs] I was like, “Don’t worry about me, baby.” But it’s incredible how old-fashioned we are thinking about things and about categories. You know, if I went to do this thing with Jay Z or if I go out with Lady Gaga, does that make me a bad artist or is my work going in a strange direction? I don’t think so. It’s incredible how we think in a box.
Zac Bayly: What do you do to switch your mind off? Do you meditate or anything like that?
Marina Abramovic: I don’t do anything regularly; I am the most contradictory person you’ve ever met. I embrace my contradictions, and I’m not fighting them. So, right now I’m doing an interview, and I’ll be working this afternoon, but I woke up this morning at seven o’clock and went for a swim in the river for a long time — I arrived yesterday here in the countryside, which is incredibly peaceful and beautiful. My ideas don’t come from being in New York — I only go there to execute them, not to invent them.
Have you spent much time in the desert?
Oh, a lot. I was in the Sahara, the Gobi and the Great Sandy Desert, all in one year.
I’m Australian, but I’ve actually never been to the desert.
I probably know Australia better than you, because I’ve been in the places you’ve never been — I spent one year with Aboriginal tribes in Western Australia, near Lake Disappointment. Going to the desert… it’s really important. Muhammad went to the desert; Buddha, Jesus, Moses… They all went to the desert as nobodies and came back as somebodies. There must be something interesting in the desert — I tell you, it’s the most incredible place, because there is nothing there except yourself, and yourself is a big deal.
What’s Willem Dafoe like? I have a big crush on him.
[Laughs] He’s a wonderful guy.
Do you have a crush on him too?
He’s nicely married, so you can’t have a crush on him. Did you see the photos from the collaboration I did with Riccardo Tisci? Have you seen the one where he was sucking my tit?
I’ll tell you the story. He said that we should do a collaboration and I said, “OK.” I asked, “Riccardo, is it true that fashion is feeding on art?” He said, “That’s absolutely true.” So I said, “I am the art, you are the fashion — suck my tit!” So, we made this incredible image, like Madonna, where he’s lying in my lap in a tuxedo.
I’m googling it… Marina, you have really good boobs!
They’re not too bad, I know! I tell you, it was a huge problem getting Riccardo to touch them, because he’s really not into women! That’s another handsome guy. Riccardo is a real friend. He gave me an haute couture dress and I went to Laos and washed it in a waterfall and trashed it completely.
Read our full interview with Marina Abramovic in Oyster #103: The Hang Out in Real Life Issue — out now.