Just before the weekend, Los Angeles’ MOCA found itself embroiled in something of a battle between it and famous choreographer, Yvonne Rainer. The latter had come out publicly against the museum’s plans for this past Saturday’s annual fundraising gala, which was to be created by Marina Abramovic and would involve hired performers sitting on lazy susans under each table, with just their heads poking out, serving as an ever-rotating human centerpiece (here’s a photo from the LA Times). Hearing from an auditioning performer about what Abramovic had planned (and by extension, what controversy-courting museum director Jeffrey Deitch had give the okay to), and learning that the artist had demanded the the performers remain in “character” no matter if party attendees tried to feed them, get them to drink, “fondle us under the table,” etc., that was enough for Rainer, who fired off a letter to Deitch, labeling the event as “public humiliation at the hands of a bunch of frolicking donors” and “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.” In response, the museum offered to have Rainer come to the rehearsals, which she did. While the choreographer found the scene, with hundreds of rotating live heads sitting atop tables both “touching and somewhat comic” and admitted that she herself has “never been averse to occasional epatering of the bourgeoisie,” it didn’t seem to change her opinion at all. Rainer updated her letter to Deitch, adding 50 fellow supporters names to it, and called the event a “grotesque spectacle” that “promises to be truly embarrassing.”
So that was all leading up to Saturday’s event. How did it all go over? The Daily Beast‘s Isabel Wilkinson has the first on-site report we’ve seen published, wherein the rotating heads are but just a slight bit of the weirdness Abramovic had ready for the evening. It’s worth reading Wilkinson’s report in full, so we won’t spoil it here, but we will say it involves famous women being hacked up with machetes, members of the crowd chanting “violence against women!” and a woman being quoted as saying, “This is misogyny at its finest.” All in all, at least for publicity’s sake, it sounds like yet another triumphant success for both Abramovic and Deitch.