Yvonne Rainer Accuses Abramović & MOCA of Exploiting Performers

A still from Pier Paolo Pasolini's disturbing masterpiece "Salo" (via

Since Marina Abramović was picked to provide the entertainment for LA MOCA’s upcoming gala we’ve all been wondering what the performance art queen would conjure up to do her bidding. Now, we kind of know and it raises some serious questions, namely, is performance art ever an excuse for labor abuse?

The Performance Club has published the letter of one potential performer who has written a letter to choreographer Yvonne Rainer explaining the cruel conditions they are expected to perform in for MOCA’s wealthy donors during the gala:

“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?!”

In response to the concerns, Yvonne Rainer has penned a very critical letter to the MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch and let the rather new Angeleno what she really thinks of Abramović’s performance:

“This description is reminiscent of Salo, Pasolini’s controversial film of 1975 that dealt with sadism and sexual abuse of a group of adolescents at the hands of a bunch of post-war fascists. Reluctant as I am to dignify Abramović by mentioning Pasolini in the same breath, the latter at least had a socially credible justification tied to the cause of anti-fascism. Abramović and MOCA have no such credibility, only a flimsy personal rationale about eye contact. Subjecting her performers to public humiliation at the hands of a bunch of frolicking donors is yet another example of the Museum’s callousness and greed and Ms Abramovic’s obliviousness to differences in context and some of the implications of transposing her own powerful performances to the bodies of others. An exhibition is one thing — this is not a critique of Abramović’s work in general — but titillation for wealthy donor/diners as a means of raising money is another.”

Everything for the donors? At a museum? Unheard of! </sarcasm> Rainer goes on to write [emphasis ours]:

“Abramovic is so wedded to her original vision that she – and by extension, the Museum director and curators — doesn’t see the egregious associations for the performers, who, though willing, will be exploited nonetheless.”

This performance may indeed cross the line and raises questions, including if this was not done in the name of art would any of this be allowed? And what kind of conditions have we created in the art world that pressures volunteer performers into potentially abusive and inhumane conditions?

Rainer goes on to ask:

“Must we re-name MOCA ‘MODFR’ or the Museum of Degenerate Fund Raising”

After being read the letter, Abramović told Artinfo:

“Wow … I hope the performance itself will bring some kind of dignity, serenity, and concentration to the normal situation of a gala, and actually change the energy of the space and bring the performance into an everyday life situation … All these accusations, you can’t have them before you actually experience the situation and see how I can change the atmosphere, that’s my main purpose … I really respect Yvonne.”

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