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Portrait of Marina Abramović
Portrait of Marina Abramović, 2014Photography: © Nils Müller and Wertical.Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives and Sean Kelly, New York

Marina Abramović discusses how the art world can survive the pandemic

‘The coronavirus is not exactly a sexy thing to work with’

Marina Abramović has opened up about life in lockdown and the future of art and performance after the coronavirus pandemic.

In a recent audio interview with The Art Newspaper, the performance artist spoke about the importance of creating art that’s removed from current events and news cycles. “I always think it is very dangerous for artists when the immediate events of the day change their work or the way they think,” she said. “If we immediately make work about this, it is somehow like you are recycling the daily news and I don’t think art should be about that. Art should be disturbing, it should ask questions, and it should predict the future.”

She added: “I don’t like to deal with the coronavirus – I literally don’t have any ideas or inspiration at all. The coronavirus is not exactly a sexy thing to work with.”

When asked how she thinks performance art will have to adapt to social distancing, Abramović stated: “I really think that the coronavirus is not going to stay forever, there will be a vaccination and then we can have normal performance events.”

Until then, she suggests augmented reality as a potential solution “because you can capture the performer’s energy and have it in your living room, all just for you”.

The Serbian artist, whose 2019 performance “The Life” saw Abramović digitally present as a virtual avatar, is currently isolating in Austria. “In every circumstance, I work, and most of the time I work in isolation. So for me, this circumstance didn’t really change my way of living,” she said of her experiences in lockdown.

Speaking more generally on the pandemic, she added: “The really important problem right now is that people are living in fear because they love to organise their lives and to know everything that they are going to do from now until when they die. And in such an uncertain situation, this is not possible.”

“I love uncertainty as I think about the present time as the only actual reality that we have. The only thing that is certain is now,” she concluded.

Abramović has recently been accused of satanism by various right-wing internet figures – a conspiracy theory that first emerged in 2016 after the far-right claimed a leaked email about a “spirit cooking” dinner party Abramović was hosting referenced occult sex rituals.

She has since spoken about receiving death threats over email. Organisers of her shows – including a retrospective at London’s Royal Academy, scheduled for this year – have also been targeted. “I am personally afraid that any kind of lunatic with a gun will come and shoot me, because they think I’m a Satanist,” she said.

The artist recently penned a tribute to her former lover and collaborator, Ulay, who passed away earlier this year. “As wildly compatible as we were, our relationship could also be extremely combustive. Yet, somehow, we managed to harness that energy and use it in our lives and work – work that I’ll remain proud of for as long as I live,” she wrote.

Listen to the full The Art Newspaper interview here.