The far-right have dug up a 2016 conspiracy theory that accused the artist of engaging in occult sex rituals
Back in 2016, performance artist Marina Abramović found herself at the centre of a right-wing conspiracy that claimed she worshipped Satan. The accusations came after a leaked email about a “spirit cooking” dinner party was said to reference occult sex rituals – something completely fabricated by the far-right.
Now, Abramović is facing Satantic allegations again, following the publication of a Microsoft advert featuring the artist. The video – uploaded to YouTube on April 10 – was an ad for the company’s HoloLens 2, a headset that enables users to see digital imagery while maintaining the view of their IRL surroundings, and saw Abramović discussing her mixed-reality work, The Life.
Despite there being no mentions of Satanism in the video, it was picked up by Alex Jones’ right-wing site Infowars, which linked Microsoft’s ad to the 2016 allegations. The video subsequently received over 24,000 ‘downvotes’ on YouTube, and was later removed by Microsoft.
Abramović refuted claims that her work was in any way Satanic when the accusations first emerged four years ago, telling Artnews: “My work is really more about spirituality and not anything else. I’ve been doing my work for so long, and this is a misunderstanding. It’s absolutely outrageous and ridiculous… I mean, this world is really turning to hell.”
In March 2019, the artist faced protests at her travelling retrospective, when staunchly right-wing Catholics in Poland quietly prayed at the opening of the exhibition, condemning her long-debunked ‘Satanic vernissage’.
The conspiracy theory first emerged during the 2016 US presidential elections after John Podesta, the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman, had his email hacked and published on Wikileaks. Podesta’s invite to Abramović’s dinner party was made public, and led to Infowars describing spirit cooking as a Satanist-founded practice in which “menstrual blood, breast milk, urine, and sperm are used to create a ‘painting’”. Abramović said the name of the dinner was “taken completely out of my context”, adding: “It was just a normal dinner. It was actually just a normal menu, which I call spirit cooking. There was no blood, no anything else. We just call things funny names, that’s all.”
Satanism aside, this month, Abramović has seen her work recreated on Animal Crossing as those in lockdown search for projects to occupy their time. Illustration artist Shing Yin Khor recreated the artist’s career-defining performance piece, “The Artist Is Present”, where Khor’s avatar (dressed as Abramović) sat for an hour at a table across from an empty chair, inviting fellow users to join her.