Thursday, March 03, 2011
The queen of durational endurance-based performances
You've spent some time with James Franco, even making a video of the two of you creating gilt chocolates and consuming them together. What do you think about Franco as a performance artist — of the way he’s turned his entire public persona into a kind of performance piece, unlike, say, his recent collaborator Kalup Linzy, who draws a clear line between his artist persona and the personae of the characters he creates for his video works. You seem to fall more in the Kalup Linzy camp, moving back and forth between two distinct worlds — the real one and your performative one.
It's interesting. I'm just going after here to attend the Oscars, invited by James Franco. James Franco's an interesting character because he is really not interested in his career as acting but wants to explore so many different elements. I was asking him if he could make a list of things he didn't do, because it would be much shorter than the things he's doing. He wrote his thesis on my own work, on my performance work, at Columbia. And then apart from writing books for children, doing the TV series, mainstream television, so on and so on, and even including asking his own mother to perform — there are so many interesting things where he crosses these kinds of boundaries, of what it means being a Hollywood actor and something else. He's a very good example. But another side of James Franco would be Lady Gaga, for me. She made a meat dress, which was done in the 70s by several artists. At the same time she is daring, and she has this performative element that she brings to the established tradition of singers and pop stars, who become kind of bored with how they have to behave — she completely breaks all the rules. I think it's quite interesting. So James Franco and Lady Gaga are the two examples for that kind of border-crossing in my point of view. But I really think for me performance is such an incredible taking-time kind of thing. "The Artist is Present" at MoMA took three months, so it's something that becomes life itself but then after that I have to go back to the normality of life, so I can't extend the performance to become life, because it's not true, really — otherwise you're acting. And I really want not to act. Performance is not about acting. For me it's like I stage difficulties and different tasks. I go through that and then in the end I finish it and I really want to do something very simple and be the most normal that normal can be. So everybody always when they meet me in real life thinks how kind of normal I am. After a performance they are always afraid to meet me because they think I am the same as in the performance. It's actually not like that at all — it's two different states of consciousness.
Why is this mass embrace of performative efforts — as seen in the blockbuster success of your MoMA survey and the widespread interest in the performance-based activities of James Franco and Lady Gaga — happening now?
Performance art is like a phoenix that always gets born in its own ashes. In the 70s it was very much in focus, but afterward, since it was nobody's territory, everybody kind of did takeoffs of performance art. So designers, fashion, MTV, the theater, the opera, film, video — everyone was taking elements and never giving any credit to the original material. But there's a difference now because somehow people see that there are the people doing performance seriously and they should give credit for these things. Performance was always there, except that the focus of the public was not so present, that's all.Marina Abramovic sat with Klaus Biesenbach during "The Artist is Present" at MoMA last year. - ARTINFO