Defining the Marina Abramovic Satanism Controversy 2022: Why Right-Wing Outlets Claim She Is in A Cult

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Marina Abramovi, a Serbian conceptual and performance artist, philanthropist, writer, and filmmaker, was born on November 30, 1946. Her work examines body art, endurance art, and feminist art, as well as the performer-audience interaction, the body’s boundaries, and the mind’s possibilities. Abramovi calls herself the “grandmother of performance art” because she has been working for over four decades. By including onlookers and focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical boundaries of the body,” she pioneered a new concept of identity. Marina Abramovi Institute (MAI) is a non-profit foundation for performance art that she formed in 2007.

Marina Abramovi has been accused as being part in a Satanist cult by a group of right-wing internet users and bloggers in one of the oddest art conflicts in recent memory. She has previously rejected the charges, but the accusations have persisted, and Microsoft recently said that a YouTube advertisement for a new work by her was removed after people targeted it. But where did the allegations originate in the first place? A timeline of the controversy is provided below.

Is Marina Abramovi a Satanist, then?

Not in the opinion of the artist. “Anyone who wants may read my memoirs and find out that [my work] is far removed from Satanism,” she told ARTnews in 2016, when the allegations first surfaced. My work focuses on spirituality rather than anything else. I’ve been doing my job for a long time, and this is a mistake.”

What do you mean by spirituality?

Abramovi’s work has included attempts to communicate with a world beyond this one on occasion. In a 2016 documentary called The Space in Between, she said, “Going in pursuit of the unknown is the most stimulating thing for an artist.” She says in the film to have tried ayahuasca in Brazil in the hopes of gaining enlightenment.

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So, where do the Satanism claims originate?

Right-wing media have focused on Abramovi’s 1987 act Spirit Cooking, in which he scribbled sentences in pig’s blood. She also published a cookbook in which readers were advised to perform violent actions as part of the cooking process. (According to James Westcott, Abramovi’s biographer, carrying out those deeds would be a severe misinterpretation of the artist’s intentions.) Spirit Cooking, on the other hand, is a relatively unknown work in Abramovi’s oeuvre.

What does her normal work entail?

She’s most known for long-form performances, many of which she did with the late artist Ulay in the 1970s and 1980s that require holding physically demanding stances for long periods of time. Some were re-performed for a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010, and documentation of the works was recently featured in a big-budget exhibition at the Belgrade Museum of Contemporary Art.

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How did Spirit Cooking end up in the hands of folks who had no ties to the art world?

Believe it or not, as part of a political debate in the United States. Wikileaks released a trove of emails from John Podesta’s hacked account in 2016 when he was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president of the United States. Communication from John’s brother, an art collector named Tony, inviting him to a reenactment of Spirit Cooking was among the emails revealed.

This took place four years ago. What caused the debate to resurface?

After Microsoft posted new advertising starring Abramovi, the far-right blog Infowars published a piece about her on Monday. The movie, which was uploaded to YouTube on April 10, was a commercial for Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 gadget, which allows users to view mixed reality pieces. The gadget looks like a headgear, but unlike virtual reality, it allows viewers to see their surroundings while wearing it. The Life, a new artwork by Abramovi that debuted in 2019 at London’s Serpentine Galleries and portrays the artist going about in the same attire she wore in her famous piece The Artist Is Present, is her new work. After receiving 24,000 “dislikes,” the ad, a two-minute film containing interviews regarding the art, was removed. A Google link to a project page on Microsoft’s website now leads to information about the company’s arts activities.

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