World-renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic has come under fire after a passage from her upcoming memoir emerged describing Aboriginal people as looking like “dinosaurs”.
“They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet they are not,” the memoir read.
It continued: “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.”
Aboriginal Australians took to social media to express outrage at the post, with critics rallying under the hashtag “#theracistispresent”.
The tag is a play on Ms Abramovic’s famous performance artwork where she sat in the atrium of the MoMA in New York City for 90 days, holding eye contact with visitors in a chair opposite.
The passage in the book came as a surprise to many familiar with the Yugoslav artist's history.
Ms Abramovic trekked out to visit Aboriginal people in Western Australia’s Little Sandy Desert after appearing at the Sydney Biennale in 1979. That initial meeting morphed into her spending the best part of a year living with Aboriginal people. She credits this time with greatly influencing her work.
She has since posted an explanation on her Facebook page, saying her time with the Pijantjatjara and Pintupi people was a “transformative experience”.
“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,” she wrote.
“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.”
The book will be released later this year.