Back in 2005 I was fascinated by a photograph at the National Gallery in Melbourne. It depicted 72 items on a table – a rose, a bottle of oil, a chain, razor blades, bread, grapes, a gun, a bullet. It was from a performance piece in Milan in 1972 where the visitor to the gallery was invited to use any of the items in their interaction with the performance artist in the room. The artist was Marina Abramovic and the short bio at the side of the photograph intrigued me. Ever since then I’ve been pursuing a novel that captures both Marina’s history, but also the impact her work has on the people who see it. In 2010 Marina gave me permission to use her as a character in the novel.
The pursuit of this story has taken me to New York for The Artist is Present at MoMA in 2010 – and lately to Sydney with John Kaldor to discuss the new novel but also to participate in the Marina Abramovic In Residence experience. Later in 2016 Jane Palfreyman at Allen & Unwin will be publishing the new novel.
In June this year I had the opportunity to meet Marina for the first time, in rather unlikely circumstances. At the invitation of David Walsh, I read an extract of the novel to her during her conversation with David in Hobart at The Odeon. David has been the most extraordinary supporter of this novel. I found back in 2008, by a little stroke of serendipity, that Marina’s work was collected by David – and his personal library housed every book published about Marina. For a few months I read those books in a cupboard at the back of the warehouse that then housed the MoNA collection. After MoNA was built, David gave me a room at MoNA to work through 2012 – 13. (My thanks also to two wonderful women of MoNA – Mary Linzjad and Delia Nichols for being pivotal in making this happen).
David has read drafts and given insightful and generous feedback. For a long while he was the only person who had read the final draft. So while I may not yet have decided on the novel’s title yet – I do know to whom it is dedicated.
This video shows the complete (and fascinating) interview with David and Marina in Hobart as part of Dark MOFO. At about the 44 minute mark David segues to the reading. But enjoy the interview!