The revelation that performance artist Marina Abramović plans to make her own funeral her last work shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Abramović, 68, detailed plans for her funeral during a speech in Sydney, Australia, as part of a 12-day residency for Kaldor Public Art Projects, the Guardian reported. She wants to have three bodies — two fake ones — buried in the cities she calls home: Belgrade, New York and Amsterdam. If her wishes are executed properly, no one will know where her real corpse is buried. She’s even written a script.
But it’s fair to say that anyone who’s seen the HBO documentary “The Artist is Present” knows that finality is especially meaningful to Abramović.
After 12 years together, as lovers, co-conspirators and co-creators, she and fellow artist Ulay crafted one of the most intense break-ups imaginable. They stationed themselves on opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, and for three months, they walked the wall until they met in the middle. Then they conscientiously decided to break up for good.
Decades later, a clip of Ulay showing up without warning at “The Artist is Present” went viral on social media. It was the first time they’d seen each other since their break-up trek.
The moment — part of the piece Abramović performed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art where she sat at a table and stared stoically and silently one-by-one into the eyes of those who came to see her — was billed as a moving example of undying romance and love. Even though the two hadn’t seen each other in decades, they teared up at the sight of each other.
Despite his infidelity and their artful last meeting in China, Abramović told the Guardian in an interview last month that “that moment, that guy sitting in front of me, my whole life went through my head. Never mind this is life, never mind this is performance. This is pure human emotion. And that’s why everyone reacting. It’s performance that break into life.”
So despite a preoccupation with endings — this summer she’s shooting “Seven Deaths,” a film reenacting the most well-known deaths in opera, with a different director for each death — Abramović leaves room for humanity and for joy. She’s many things, but she’s not morbid.
She wants those who attend her funeral to wear bright colors, despite her own predilection for all things black, and she wants her friend Antony Hegarty (the lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons) to sing “I Did it My Way.”
Abramović decided to plan her funeral after attending Susan Sontag’s 2004 funeral in Paris.
“It was the saddest funeral I’ve been to in my life and she is one of the greatest human beings I have ever met,” Abramović said. “She was full of life, curious and just an incredible writer. I went back to New York and went straight to the lawyer and said my funeral is going to be like this. And then I made an entire script.”
Said Abramović: “The funeral is the artist’s last piece before leaving.”