Oh honey, no. Just no. Legendary performance artist (and mentor to both Lady Gaga and James Franco) Marina Abramović reeeeeeeally stepped in it when a passage from her upcoming memoirs Walk Through Walls was leaked. The passage was about a 1979 trip to Australia where she encountered members of the Pijantjatjara and Pintupi tribes and, uh, let’s just say her description was sliiiiiiightly un-PC.
Aborigines are not just the oldest race in Australia; they are the oldest race on the planet. They look like dinosaurs. They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet, they are not.
But at the same time, when you first meet them, you have to put effort into it. For one thing, to Western eyes they look terrible. Their faces are like no other faces on earth; they have big torsos (just one bad result of their encounter with Western civilisation is a high-sugar diet that bloats their bodies) and sticklike legs.
Online condemnation was swift and appropriately cutting. PAPER magazine called the passage “condescending” “pseudo-anthropological” and “blatantly racist” and said it only “reaffirms how toxic a focus on Eurocentric beauty standards can be.”
OhNoTheyDidnt commenters had a field day:
“Yikes at this display of benevolent superiority.”
“No this Elmer’s Glue looking crocodile did fucking not!!!!!”
“bitch is you serious
with your dinosaur looking face
why does she look so greasy”
Within hours, the hashtag #TheRacistIsPresent was trending (a reference to her iconic New York show at MoMA, The Artist Is Present).
— Lauren Martin (@codeinedrums) August 16, 2016
Since the uproar, publishers The Crown Publishing Group have confirmed that the passage will not appear in the final version of the book.
And Marina just released a statement saying that her words were taken out of context:
“The description contained in an early, uncorrected proof of my forthcoming book is taken from my diaries and reflects my initial reaction to these people when I encountered them for the very first time way back in 1979. It does not represent the understanding and appreciation of Aborigines that I subsequently acquired through immersion in their world and carry in my heart today.”
So… all’s well that ends well?