If there’s one thing we’ve learned by now it’s that Lady Gaga doesn’t do anything halfway. Whether it’s wearing ankle-hobbling footwear or, literally, performing until she almost breaks her hip, Mother Monster is nothing if not committed to her art.
So, when Gaga took a trip upstate last week to study with legendary performance artist Marina Abramović — known for her endurance-testing works — it stands to reason that the singer didn’t pull up short when Abramović put her through the paces for more than 20 hours of training in the rigorous Abramović Method. A sliver of the results can be seen in a NSFW video posted by the Abramović Institute on Wednesday.
Abramović told MTV News that she had never heard of Gaga before the singer showed up to her “The Artist Is Present” MoMA show in 2010. “I was not aware she was there,” Abramović said. But after the singer visited, Twitter blew up with activity and, all of a sudden, the young audience for the show “exploded.”
They never ended up meeting, but when Abramović recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for an institute she is building in upstate New York, she called Gaga, and got a buzz back from the star a few minutes later. “Three minutes later she sent us an amazing cake,” Abramović said. “I was very impressed with how humble and how incredibly determined and hardcore this kid is. She said, ‘I want you to teach me. I want to be your student.’ ”
Fast-forward a few months to last week, when Gaga spent three days at Abramović’s studio in Hudson, New York, completely immersing herself in the artist’s rigorous, challenging method in a way Abramović said she’s rarely seen in any of her students.
For one of the Gaga video’s most provocative scenes, in which the pop star is seen walking through the woods blindfolded while totally nude, Abramović said Mother Monster went even further than anyone expected. “She is a hardcore student,” Abramović said. “I had to blindfold her and she was in the forest for three hours, eaten by mosquitos and spiders, scratched by the bushes. It was quite incredible. Whatever I told her she met the exercise absolutely to the end, never complaining. And my exercises are pretty tough.”
Frankly, the scene did not ever require Gaga to be naked — Abramović had bought her a white nurse’s uniform for the concentration exercise — but the singer insisted on stripping down and doing a slow-motion walk without assistance in the woods for three hours until she found her “home.”
“She never said it was too much, she said, ‘I want more,’ every time,” Abramović said of her star student. Gaga was totally committed, giving up her cellphone and all outside communication to focus on the training.
“The idea was that artists, even blindfolded, have to have vision like a blind man,” she said. “To feel with their entire body … She was in the fields and then the forest and by her pure intuition she had to find her way back home … During this exercise, completely of her own initiative, she took off her clothes. She just wanted to be in nature and to feel the elements.” To be honest, Abramović said, she was worried about Gaga getting Lyme disease from the ticks in the area. At the same time, though, she was also blown away by how “fearless” and dedicated the singer was.
In the opening scene, Gaga is lying on the floor doing a lengthy vocalization meant to help create the right cleansing vibrations in the body by focusing on a certain part of the body. Gaga was focusing on the “A” sound, which comes from the heart and Abramović said Gaga seemingly had no blockage in that part of her body, producing what she described as an “eruption” of sound.
Gaga then is transported into a river, where she is still making sounds, while wearing Abramović’s patented “energy clothes,” including yellow horns that cover Gaga’s eyes, and, like the clothes, are fitted with magnets to help control the flow of energy in the body.
“I felt like she was my daughter,” Abramović said of the scene in which she and Gaga are seated, facing away from each other, in a river and taking in the natural beauty around them. “It was not about looking at each other, it was not about the forest. It was about being in the present. Two human beings.”
Abramović, who plans to release a longer cut of the video at some point, said she felt “so much of the spirit that I have in her,” heaping praise on Gaga for stripping away the trappings of fame and completely submitting herself to the Method.
“I respect no compromise … [she has] everything it takes to make it,” Abramović said of Gaga’s tenacity. “I found somebody who can really be a spokesman for something that means so much to me.”
Gaga’s video is part of the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Marina Abramović Institute, a $20 million living museum and workspace in Hudson, New York, that the artist plans to build to warehouse her works and foster new generations of artists. Since it kicked off in late July, the Kickstarter has raised more than $250,000 toward an initial $600,000 goal, with more than $70,000 of that coming in since the Gaga video went live on Wednesday.
Among the incentives Abramović is offering is a live hug from the artist at a TBA location for $1 and instructions on one of the methods, via livestream, for $25.