Just when it seemed this election could not get any more absurd, artist Marina Abramovic has been dragged into the mayhem.
Among the latest batch of emails released by Wikileaks, allegedly from the hacked account of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, is one from Abramovic, in which she invites Tony Podesta, a major art collector who is John’s brother, to “a Spirit Cooking dinner at my place,” and asks if John might want to join. Tony forwarded the email to his brother, which is how it ended up among the stolen emails.
Various right-wing websites seem to have done some cursory internet research on Abramovic over the past 12 hours, and they found a video of the artist painting with pigs’ blood in one of her Spirit Cooking (1997) performances, and they have gotten pretty riled up over the past 24 hours, even claiming that the artist is involved in Satanic rituals.
The Drudge Report led this morning with this headline: “WIKI WICCAN: PODESTA PRACTICES OCCULT MAGIC.” Infowars—run by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (the guy who recently said he’s heard that President Obama and Hillary Clinton smell of sulfur)—has linked Abramovic with Aleister Crowley and declared that the dinner included “black magic.” Danger & Play, the site run by Mike Cernovich, the alt-right commentator recently profiled by the New Yorker, has headlined its article, “Podesta emails reveal Clinton’s inner circle as sex cult with connections to human trafficking.”
“I’m outraged, because this is taken completely out of my context,” Abramovic told me by phone this afternoon. She was at Sean Kelly Gallery, her rep in New York. The dinner, she explained, was a reward for donors to a Kickstarter campaign she had run. Tony Podesta has collected her work since the 1990s, and he attended, but John couldn’t make it. In fact, she has never met John Podesta.
“It was just a normal dinner,” Abramovic said, adding that about 10 people attended. “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.” (The Kickstarter page advertised “traditional soups.”)
Spirit Cooking, Abramovic explained, was a performance she staged at a number of museums around the world in the ‘90s, painting graffiti with pigs’ blood. She also made a limited-edition book, which contains various recipes. That book is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other places.
And the Satanism charge? “Anybody who wants can read my memoirs and find out that [my work] is far away from Satanism,” she said. (The book was just released this week, she noted, and it’s doing well on Amazon.) “My work is really more about spirituality and not anything else,” she continued. “I’ve been doing my work for so long, and this is a misunderstanding.” She said of the right-wing attacks, “It’s absolutely outrageous and ridiculous.”
All things considered, Abramovic sounded in relatively good spirits—exasperated but maintaining a sense of humor about the whole thing. “I mean, this world is really turning to hell,” she said at one point, laughing. “I am completely amazed, something is taken out of context for the purpose of winning.”
“We are living in such a strange world,” she said.