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It was widely publicized in 2013, when JAY Z took over New York’s Pace Gallery to film A Performance Art Film, a project aligned with the Magna Carta Holy Grail track “Picasso Baby.” Inspired by Marina Abramović’s “The Artist Is Present,” the video featured Jay performing the song for six straight hours as spectators and celebrities stood in attendance. The results were eventually premiered on HBO.
However, the relationship is not well following the collaboration. In a new interview with Spike Art Magazine via Pitchfork, Abramović recaps her experiences that day, who reveals her disappointment in Hov. The rap mogul had initially promised to assist with the Marina Abramović Institute, in exchange for her appearance in the video and the use of her “The Artist Is Present” concept. However, two years later, the artist discloses she still hasn’t received a monetary donation, claiming it was a “one-way-transaction.”
Read the excerpt and view a clip of the performance below.
How did you feel when JAY Z told you that he would be adapting “The Artist is Present” for his music video “Picasso Baby” in 2013?
I didn’t feel much. There are hundreds of people adapting my work. I have young pop groups who adapt my work. Just now, somebody’s made a porno movie called “Zadie is present”, have you seen that? [laughs] It’s insane!
But the difference with JAY Z was that you yourself took part in his video shoot.
Yes, but there was one reason for this that I can’t talk about. I am very pissed by this, since he adapted my work only under one condition: that he would help my institute. Which he didn’t.
You did plan the shoot and your appearance together?
The day before, he came to my office and I gave him an entire power point presentation and said: okay, you can help me, because I really need help to build this thing. Then he just completely used me. And that wasn’t fair. This is very different from Lady Gaga, for example, who has done great work for me. Just by having 45 million followers, she brought all these young kids into my public.
Do you regret having supported JAY Z?
I don’t look at things this way. Right now in my life, things happen. I don’t bother anymore. My life hasn’t been easy. There are very few performers from my generation even being considered. I’m a survivor. It’s very hard to be up there all the time. I could just do an exhibition at MoMA and go home, and it would be history. I didn’t need to kill myself with “The Artist is Present”. I also didn’t need to be here in São Paulo for two months doing workshops, doing eight lectures, working with this community. I do this because I believe in it. I feel responsible for performance in general.
JAY Z turned your structure into an economic model: everyone who showed up had been promised to be part of an exclusive event. You fed the one who held the attention capital.
And you were totally used and came out with nothing. It’s very unfair.
When you rubbed your forehead with JAY Z’s, it seemed like an economical transaction: I grant you the right to use my piece, but in reverse you have to provide a space for my brand within your campaign.
And in the end it was only a one-way transaction. I will never do it again, that I can say. Never. I was really naive in this kind of world. It was really new to me, and I had no idea that this would happen. It’s so cruel, it’s incredible. I will stay away from it for sure.