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MOCA Gala 2011: An Artist’s Life Manifesto

From Dancing in Museums: A Decade of Movement

This video is a placeholder for dancer and choreographer Sara Wookey’s 2011 “Open Letter to Artists,” a response to the event that the video documents: the annual gala of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Published on The Performance Club, a now-dormant online forum founded by the critic and poet Claudia La Rocco, Wookey’s letter generated vital conversation about the value of dancers’ labor, particularly in relation to the art world’s more affluent institutions. “If there is any group of cultural workers that deserves basic standards of labor, it is us performers working in museums, whose medium is our own bodies,” she wrote. [footnote See .]

Selected to perform in Marina Abramović’s production for the gala, Wookey learned that she would receive $150 for fifteen hours of rehearsal and for a performance that would entail lying naked under a skeleton (a reenactment of Abramović’s 2002 work Nude with Skeleton) as the decor on a dinner table “with seats priced up to $100,000 each.” She did not accept the offer. This video, which captures the decadence of the gala—and, in a few brief shots, the labor of the performers—underscores the legitimacy of her protest and her call for a union representing “fine and performing artists in Los Angeles and beyond.”

December 9, 2019

Curated by

Siobhan Burke