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Marina Abramovic
courtesy of the Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu, Torun

Catholics protest in silent prayer at Marina Abramović’s show

The Polish group are demonstrating against the artist’s long-debunked ‘Satanic vernissage’

Marina Abramović’s retrospective has been travelling the world and has just opened in Poland, where staunchly right-wing Catholics are protesting against it – they claim the Serbian performance artist worships Satan.

Marina Abramović: Do Czysta/The Cleaner is on show at the Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun, Poland. A Catholic group called Zawierzam Maryi (‘I Entrust to Mary’, in English) has been urging people to demonstrate outside the exhibition. As reported by artnet News, around 40 people turned up to quietly pray outside at the opening, condemning her long-debunked ‘Satanic vernissage’.

The conspiracy theory surrounding Abramović and supposed devil worshipping first came about during the US presidential elections in 2016. John Podesta, the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman, had his email hacked and published on Wikileaks. In his inbox was an invitation from the Marina Abramović Institution to ‘Spirit Cooking with Marina Abramović’. At the time, mass hysteria spread among far-right media, splashing stories about ‘sex cults’ and occult rituals involving sacrifice. As Artsy reports, the far-right website Infowars described spirit cooking as a Satanist-founded practice which involves “menstrual blood, breast milk, urine and sperm are used to create a ‘painting’.” Of course, the event was just a fundraising dinner. The artist was forced to deny any affiliation with Satanism at the time, calling the allegations “absolutely outrageous and ridiculous”.

Leaving aside bizarre theories about devil worship, a very real issue stemming from the current exhibiton has come from the Polish dance community. As Hyperallergic reports, performers have voiced their concerns for the poor working conditions for dancers involved in reenacting the artist’s works. 

Back in January, an open letter outlining and condemning the show’s treatment of workers was signed by 100 Polish artists. “Did the curators tell you that in your re-performance you will use the bodies of quasi-slaves, of people lacking money who will agree to whatever remuneration they are offered, even if it’s demeaning?” the petition reads in part. 

Performers were offered 25 euro an hour, or 40 euro an hour for extended acts – average payments in Poland for similar work is reportedly double this. This also does not reflect the high cost of the exhibition. Others voiced issues about lack of clarity around scheduling, and little information about how they would be paid. 

Abramović’s company outsources the organisation and financial issues to galleries. Read more in the Hyperallergic report here.

Marina Abramović. Do czysta / The Cleaner continues at the Center of Contemporary Art “Znaki Czasu” in Toruń, curated by Lena Essling, Tine Colstrup, Susanne Kleine, Wacław Kuchma, through to August 11