PHOTOGRAPHY SANTIAGO & MAURICIO
FASHION TONY IRVINE
TEXT SARAH CRISTOBAL
ACTRESS KIM CATTRALL AND PERFORMANCE ARTIST MARINA ABRAMOVIC MIGHT SEEM LIKE AN UNLIKELY PAIR, BUT THE TWO FRIENDS ARE UNITED BY THEIR HUMOR AND ADMIRATION FOR ONE ANOTHER
Having met under the auspices of their professions, performance artist Marina Abramović and actress Kim Cattrall were later formally introduced by MoMA chief curator at large Klaus Biesenbach, and they have since developed a sisterly bond that is something to behold. Though they hadn’t seen each other for some time, on the set of this shoot it was as if no time had passed at all. While Marina directed each setup with Polanski-like precision, Kim—quiet, reserved, happy—giggled, enjoying the spectacle of her friend calling the shots. As they reveal here over a laughter-filled phone call, humor, art, public perception, and passion for their respective careers are some of the ties that bind.
One of the things that piqued everyone’s interest about this story is that no one realizes you two are such good friends. When did you first meet?
Marina Abramovic´I first met Kim with the Sex and the City story when they asked if I would actually play a part or give permission to use the piece that I had just done in Sean Kelly Gallery called The House with the Ocean View. And I have to tell you, I came from Europe, I didn’t know the show. I said, “I can’t do this, I am not an actress,” but if they just want to use the artwork they could. I remember that I came back and my students said “What?! You’re not doing this? But this is the major thing! You’re crazy.” [Once I became familiar with the show] my favorite character was Kim, always. And then Klaus Biesenbach introduced us. That’s my version, what is yours?
Kim Cattrall It’s very similar. I’d heard of Marina before, but I completely connected with her through the show. And then it was through Klaus. I went to see Marina at the Guggenheim, but I didn’t dare speak to her. I was a little bit nervous. And then I got to meet her, and I was overwhelmed by her beauty and humor. She always is in this wonderful creative state of being very free. Her mind sees things in a very serious way, but she doesn’t. It removes every preconception that you might have about Marina Abramović. [laughs] The work that she’s done and her history, it’s just extraordinary. But it’s her humor that really draws us together. When we’re together we laugh a lot.
There are similarities to your professions. Do you ever consult each other?
MA We have so much to do that we really should. It was so great, the set, because I really was dying to see her and I am always running around and she’s always running around. So this set you organized for the shoot was wonderful. We have time when we have time, but mostly we never have time.
KC It’s true. The great thing about technology for friendships is that no matter where you are—I can send you an e-mail of me peeling shrimp in Baton Rouge while you’re in the rainforest in Costa Rica.
MA You’re calling from the South, what are you doing there?
KC I’m just touring around. I’m going to do a Tennessee Williams play, so I wanted to take a look and have a feel, and I wanted to get out of New York. I’ve never been to this part of the world. I’m looking for inspiration, but I’m also looking for history and people, I want to see the people of the place, which I don’t get to do when I’m working.
MA How is the actual public? There’s a big difference between the American public and the European public.
KC I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Europe, sometimes there’s a language barrier or an etiquette barrier. The feeling of seeing someone who they watch on television and is standing there…there’s awe to that. Yesterday, when I was learning how to peel the crawfish, I was immediately accepted into a family-like atmosphere, a lot of physical contact. A lot of hugs. In Europe it feels like it’s another world.
MA The people see you as a celebrity and they keep a nice distance. It’s so popular, the series, it’s just incredible.
KC Yeah. I wonder if it would be different if the character I played had been different. I think that’s part of it.
MA You were my favorite character. You don’t give a shit about anything. It’s so good.
Marina, do you think that you’re perceived differently in Europe versus the U.S.?
MA I think there’s a big difference between the audiences. I didn’t exist for Americans until I arrived, and now because I live here people really have actually a strong reaction to my work. In Europe it’s such a different attitude about media. You can be ten times on the cover of newspapers and magazines and then nobody even thinks about you. But here once you’re in the media you’re immediately on the spot. It’s such a big difference in culture. But the key problem in America is it’s so different. Publicly it’s open and moved, in much larger ways than I could have imagined in Europe. Maybe here isolation is stronger. Maybe people are more alienated by technology—people communicate through the Internet and text messages, and there’s not much contact, so when they show emotion, they really come and open themselves. A good friend, a critic, an American, says to me, “I hate your work.” I say, “Why?” He says, “Every time I see it I have to cry.”
There’s no one here doing anything like it, really. And they’re in awe of you.
MA It’s not easy. And the thing with America is also you’re very fast to use and throw it away, to the next thing. So you have to really keep your integrity, and you have to always go away and come back. Not just overwhelm with your presence. That’s really important, or you finish very fast. And they’re ruthless. They’re not emotional about disposing of you in the garbage.
Who are some of the artists you’re both admiring at the moment?
KC I really enjoyed the Cyprien Gaillard exhibit at PS 1—I’m thinking between bites of pancakes. In terms of women artists, I think we get into the circle of people that I know in New York. Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson. Laurie tours constantly. She’s just inspired by so many different places, people, things, books, films, dance. The pursuit of that, I just really admire. Anne Carson, the poet, I admire her greatly, Canadian poet.
MA Let’s talk more about me. Can I?
Go for it.
MA With Kim and me, it’s not necessary that we talk about the work. It’s not necessary that we advise each other. The kind of communication that we have is a strong appreciation for each other and what we are. And we enjoy when we meet. That’s really rare. When we meet, we have so little time to relax, so the communication is a very big part. We were in London and we went to the Meltdown Festival, and…what is the word for it, the big thing, when we went to London?
KC Oh, this was fantastic. We were at the Royal Festival Hall and Marina had done her lecture just for women, and I had introduced her, and afterward we were in the green room having a drink and looking out the window and there was this swing ride that went faster and flared out. I wanted to do it. And Marina goes, “No, no, no, I’m scared.” And I was too. But I really wanted to do it.
MA It was wonderful, we had so much fun. [It was as if] Kim was 14 and she was skipping there. But that’s the important thing, you know, this kind of friendship that is free from the pressure, free from the need to pretend to be something or do something, to be smarter than the other one or play power games or feel jealousy.
Could you ever collaborate together?
MA Not yet, but we would definitely fight, okay? [laughs] The collaboration has to come naturally. What will happen will happen.
ILLUSTRATION SANTIAGO & MAURICIO MAKEUP MAUD LACEPPE (STREETERS) HAIR DIEGO DA SILVA (TIM HOWARD MANAGEMENT) MANICURE DAWN STERLING (MELBOURNE ARTISTS MANAGEMENT) SET DESIGN AND PROP STYLING LIZZIE LANG DIGITAL TECHNICIAN NICK RAY MCCANN PHOTO ASSISTANTS ALESSANDRO ZOPPIS, JERRY BUTTLES, PAOLO STAGNARO STYLIST ASSISTANTS SUSAN WALSH AND JEFFREY BURGE MAKEUP ASSISTANT LISA CAMPOS HAIR ASSISTANT TAICHI SAITO VIDEOGRAPHER MINNIE BENNETT PRODUCTION CESAR LEON AND MARK DAY SET DESIGN ASSISTANTS FRANCIS CARDINALE AND JASON JENSEN RETOUCHING BLANK DIGITAL LOCATION SPLASHLIGHT SOHO CATERING MONTERONE SPECIAL THANKS GIULIANO ARGENZIANO, SIDNEY RUSSELL, ALLISON BRAINARD AT ABRAMOVIC LLC; SEAN KELLY GALLERY, NEW YORK