A Resource for Performing Artists, Scholars and Audiences.
"One Way or Another" (2012)
performance date: 08 March 12, Los Angeles
International Women's Day
Lighting and projection: Luis Guizar / Flor de Luz
On Saturday, 12 November 2011, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), held its annual fundraising gala. MOCA invited Marina Abramović -- the self-defined "grandmother of performance art" -- to art direct the event. The projected video imagery is taken from a MOCA promotional video documenting scenes from the gala, including the event's musical guest, Blondie's Deborah Harry.
"The gala, attended by more than 750 guests, raised $2.5 million for the museum, and began at MOCA Grand Avenue with red carpet arrivals of Hollywood celebrities including Pamela Anderson, Ellen Barkin, Minnie Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Lisa Edelstein, Will Ferrell, Miranda July, Jaime King, Jonny Lee Miller, Rose McGowan, Nicole Richie, Gwen Stefani, Tilda Swinton, and Dita Von Teese; California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor and MOCA Ex Officio Trustee Antonio Villaraigosa; art world luminaries from Los Angeles, New York and beyond; fashion icons; and renowned Los Angeles artists including Doug Aitken, John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Shepard Fairey, and Ed Ruscha." – MOCA press release
Under Abramović’s direction, approximately 80 performers played various performative roles during the gala dinner, including a chorus who accompanied Abramović in the recitation of her "An Artist's Life Manifesto" and the heads of silent performers poking up through dining tables as human centerpieces.
Referencing one of her own performance pieces (“Nude with Skeleton” (2002, 2005, 2010)), Abramović intended to stage naked women and men on large turntables who would remain motionless under replicas of human skeletons, as additional table centerpieces where gala attendees dined. MOCA, under the directorship of Jeffrey Deitch, explicitly forbade Abramović from using naked men – but had no problem with her using naked women.
Although Abramović announced to dinner guests that MOCA forbade her from using naked men as centerpieces, only women, she complied with their illogical and sexist rule. Her compliance not only served to underscore an imbalance in the way bodies are consumed for pleasure but also the power of who gets to make these decisions for others. Further, MOCA’s ban precluded those who attended the dinner to think for themselves.
A contemporary art museum. In Los Angeles, California. In 2011.
"…guests sat down to a reenactment of Abramović’s "Nude with Skeleton" (2002, 2005, 2010) work in which female performers were situated under skeletons on rotating platforms at the center of round dinner tables." - MOCA press release
There is no mention in the press release of MOCA's explicit ban on male performers for this role.
From the same press release:
"Founded in 1979, MOCA’s mission is to be the defining museum of contemporary art. "
After much critical discussion arose online pertaining to the gala, artist and performance art curator Dino Dinco organized an open forum at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) focusing on performance and ethics, citing the MOCA gala as an example. Dinco moderated the panel with UC Riverside professor Jennifer Doyle and CalArts faculty member and artist, Matias Viegener.
MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch arrived close to the end of the 3-hour panel discussion. He agreed to answer a few questions from those in attendance, including MOCA's reasoning to allow nude female performers yet forbid nude male performers.
Deitch boasted that he took "the flack" for this decision and offered as an explanation / excuse that many of the MOCA funders were "businessmen" and that MOCA had "subjected them to a lot already."