Marina Abramović Causes Outrage by Comparing Aborigines to Dinosaurs

People are now tweeting #theracistispresent.

Marina Abramovic Photo: Joe Schildhorn and Max Lakner / BFA.com.

Marina Abramov‘s upcoming memoir, out in October, is already causing a stir on social media for all the wrong reasons. The 384-page book, titled Walk Through Walls, is being heavily promoted, with the artist’s Facebook page also advertising the signed “chic and artistic” collector’s edition, which “comes with an uncoated cover enclosed in an elegant die-cut slipcase featuring black foil stamping on the spine.” (Readers may also compare the limited-edition cover to a high-priced version of Connect Four.)

The memoir is billed as “a vivid and powerful rendering of the unparalleled life of an extraordinary artist.”

But a photo of an excerpt from the book posted online is causing outrage due to a passage in which the durational performance artist says that Aboriginal Australians “look like dinosaurs,” and follows this statement with another passage that caused offense.

Collector's edition of Marina Abramovic's <i>Walk Thorough Walls</i> is out October 25. Courtesy Facebook

Collector’s edition of Marina Abramović’s Walk Thorough Walls is out October 25. Courtesy Facebook.

New York-based writer Rachel Wetzler put up a photo of a page from the upcoming book on Instagram, where the artist describes her time in the Northern Territory in the late 1970s, with then-collaborator and partner Ulay. The Instagram image has since been removed, but not before other users shared it.


“Aborigines are not just the oldest race in Australia; they are the oldest race on the planet. They look like dinosaurs,” the artist muses. “They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet, they are not.”

WTF??? Excerpt from Marina Ambrovic's upcoming memoirs: #theracistispresent

A photo posted by Erica McCalman (@emccalman) on

What follows is a truly jaw-dropping passage that contains pseudo-anthropological observations. “To Western eyes they look terrible,” she writes. “Their faces are like no other faces on earth; they have big torsos (just one bad result of their encounter with Western civilization is a high-sugar diet that bloats their bodies) and sticklike legs.”

According to the Daily Mail, Abramović, who had a survey show in David Walsh’s MONA Museum in Australia last year, claimed in an interview that the Australian desert was a major influence on her. “Australia is so much a part of me. It’s the beginning of all my best work,” she told the Australian in 2013.


The leaked passage was harshly criticized on social media, with commenters on Twitter taking aim at the artist, her publishers, and editors with hashtag #theracistispresent.

Meanwhile, indigenous Australians are posting pictures of dinosaurs, captioning them “self portrait.”

 artnet News reached out to the Marina Abramov Institute, her publisher, Crown Archetype, and her gallery, Sean Kelly, but did not receive immediate responses.

UPDATE: Crown Archetype sent us Marina’s statement:

I have the greatest respect for Aborigine people, to whom I owe everything. The time I spent with members of the Pijantjatjara and Pintupi tribes in Australia was a transformative experience for me, and one that has deeply and indelibly informed my entire life and art. 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. —Marina Abramovic


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