16 Things We Learned From Marina Abramovic’s Reddit AMA

Performance art giant Marina Abramovic made an appearance on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything today, in which she answered questions about her work, the evolution of art, and her contemporaries. The AMA was supposed to revolve primarily around the Kickstarter-funded Marina Abramovic Institute in Hudson, NY, but many commenters took the questionnaire as a chance to ask Abramovic about her growing celebrity. There were questions about Jay Z, Lady Gaga, and The Artist Is Present, the now-iconic MoMA performance that earned her so much public attention and, most recently, imitation. It’s not one of the most revealing AMAs; most of her answers aren’t very long, and some of them are things she’s said before. A few people asked if the AMA itself was a performance, but Abramovic didn’t reply. Here are a few topics she did choose to open up about:

1. She’s not profiting from her Kickstarter. “The MAI institute is not a personal project. MAI is for everybody. I donate the whole building which I bought on my birthday for $950,000 to the non-profit organization and I don’t own it. I also paid another half a million for the master plan of Rem Koolhaas from my own money and the office budget for five months. So this does not belong to me anymore, it belongs to anybody. If this kind of concept is something our society needs, they have to join me to create it… Also, I had a difficult life, and only since the last ten years I earned money, and most of the money I spent on supporting this institute… The idea of institute is an original one — Kickstarter is a young and original idea of fundraising through social media. I think it is appropriate for institute not to make it elitarian but rather for everyone to found the institute who wants to.”

2. She respects Jay Z. “I do. He comes from really troubled background. He make his own way from the really difficult childhood and struggle to being rapper royalty and that’s not easy. I respect that.”

3. She disagrees with Hyperallergic’s accusation that “Picasso Baby” killed performance art. “Performance art never dies. It’s like a phoenix, always giving birth out of its own ashes.”

4. She’s aware that some critics find her work sensationalist, but it doesn’t bother her. “In art, there is always such a risk [of sensationalism]. But the most important is the attitude of the artist himself. How this sensationalism affects him. If the artist understands this is just a side effect and not the main aim of his work, then he can handle it. Otherwise, the sensationalism can destroy himself and the art.”

5. She’s into Damien Hirst. “Good artist, incredible business man.”

6. She thinks the Internet can be a spiritual place. “If you just see one of the rewards on the Kickstarter from Pippin Barr, you can see that computers can be used as a tool for meditation tools. We will definitely have technology chamber in the institute because I think we can’t deny technology and its effects on humanity today. Again, context is everything.”

7. Her seemingly stillborn project with David Blaine might happen at some point. “I still like to do it. Maybe in another context, maybe in a different way. It’s going to be surprise. But my retrospective was not proper place for this.”

8. Her decision to not have children has helped her career. “I never wanted to have children. I never had the biological clock running like other women. I always wanted to be an artist and I knew that I could not divide this energy into anything else. Looking back, I think it was the right decision.”

9. Her mother tongue of Serbian contributes to her frequent use of male pronouns. “[Everybody] knows that I am the woman. In Serbian, my native language, art and artist are male noun and adjectives, so it is a matter of translation. I don’t put importance to this. It doesn’t matter who is making art, male or female, what matters is good or bad art.”

10. She’s still not saying a word about her collaboration with Lady Gaga. “It’s a secret at the moment. But we are both excited.”

11. How does she look so young in her 60s? Crazy good genes. “I will soon post the photos of my grandmother who was 103 and her mother who was 116 to prove that Montenegro people live long and never age.”

12. She would never die for her art. “Never. The killing of yourself is against my principal.”

13. She used some really intense techniques to keep herself still during The Artist Is Present. “Yes, that many times happen that I have to sneeze. But I also developed technique with the breathing that you can repress it. It’s not easy but worked.”

14. Personal experience and art history led her to keep other artists out of her romantic life. “I have [fallen in love with other artists] three times and each time I had the heart broke. This comes from my own personal experience. It’s very competitive situation, and it’s a very complicated story I cannot answer in a few words. It’s a matter of longer conversation… But the best is to look history of artists living together form the past to now and see how many tragic ends are there.”

15. While she’s critical of her own work, she’s never doubted it. “[I’ve had doubts in] my emotional life. Never in my artistic…I am my worst critic. I am also perfectionist. Before I start performance, I have to have everything in place. I am obsessive about details. But once I start, I let it go. Whatever unexpected thing happens in that time is a part of the piece.”

16. It’s been a long, hard road to success. “Before you start to be an artist, you have to be sure that this is what you want. And then you have to be ready to sacrifice everything and be ready to be alone. It’s not easy life, but when you succeed with your ideas, reward is wonderful. Maybe I became idol to the young people because I never compromised. I never see myself like idol, but I can’t prevent public to see me that way.