In not-so-shocking news, it looks like Trump supporters really don’t get performance art. The quite subtle headline on the front page of the Drudge Report today reads “WIKI WICCAN: PODESTA PRACTICES OCCULT MAGIC,” referring to Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta.
The truth, however, is not that Podesta worships the dark forces of the underworld, but that he is somewhat chummy with the Grandmother of Performance Art herself, Marina Abramović.
Come on, alt-right, have you even heard of “The Artist Is Present”?
To backtrack a bit, Podesta’s email account was hacked and its contents are slowly but surely being published on Wikileaks. A recent document reveals a 2015 email conversation between John Podesta and his brother Tony, a lobbyist and big time contemporary art collector. The email in question reads:
Are you in NYC Thursday July 9
Marina wants you to come to dinner
That Marina would be Abramović, the Serbian performance artist (born in the former Yugoslavia) who can bring mere mortals to tears just by staring them in the face in the halls of the Museum of Modern Art.
The original email from Marina herself, inviting Tony to one of her Spirit Cooking dinners, reads:
I am so looking forward to the Spirit Cooking dinner at my place. Do you think you will be able to let me know if your brother is joining?
All my love, Marina
Now, you may be thinking, “What is a Spirit Cooking dinner? And how can I get to one ASAP?”
A little history: Abramović did, in 1996, create a series of 12 etchings called “Spirit Cooking,” which contained Yoko Ono-esque “recipes” like “sitting on a copper chair / comb your hair / with a clear quartz crystal brush / until your memory is released.” Spin also uncovered a YouTube video called “Spirit Cooking,” in which Abramović paints paranormal messages in pig’s blood on the wall, including, “Mix fresh breast milk with fresh sperm milk / Drink on earthquake nights.”
As far as Marina’s art goes, it’s pretty tame stuff.
Although Abramović created uncanny artworks under the label of “Spirit Cooking” in the past, the dinner in question was simply that ― dinner.
Specifically, it was a reward for donors who had given the largest amount, $10,000 or more, to a Kickstarter campaign that Abramović launched to fund a new art institute in New York’s Hudson Valley. (The Kickstarter page promised that Abramović would teach donors “how to cook a series of traditional soups,” followed by a Tibetan dessert.)
Abramović told The Huffington Post in a statement that she’s never met John Podesta and that he didn’t attend her dinner. “Tony Podesta is a longstanding friend of mine. These comments relating to his brother John are absurd,” she said. “I am astonished and appalled that references to my work are being misrepresented in this way to use for political capital.”
Well there you have it. “Spirit Cooking” is most certainly not, as pro-Trump websites are alleging, proof that Clinton’s campaign chairman is “into spooky occult rituals involving menstrual blood and semen.” Or that he took part in rituals embraced by “Satanist Aleister Crowley.”
In fact, Podesta didn’t even respond to his brother’s message, proving, if anything, he doesn’t know a good invite when he sees one.
Trump supporters, we know performance art can get super weird. Sometimes it involves blood, and semen, and even, yes, breast milk. Sometimes it pushes the boundaries of acceptable behavior and delves into the dark terrain of the mystical unknown. At least Podesta wasn’t talking up the Orgy Mystery Theatre ― it’s hard to imagine what Infowars would make of that.
But even Abramović’s most gruesome performance is nowhere near as terrifying as the real-life horror show that has been the Republican presidential candidate’s hate-fueled campaign. We’re hoping #SpiritCooking becomes the new #NastyWomen.
This article features additional reporting from Nico Pitney and has been updated to include a statement from Marina Abramović.