Last week, word got out that Marina Abramović was going to plop skeleton-hugging nudes on the MOCA gala tables and pay $150 for aspiring performance artists to poke their heads through them — spinning, detached, dead-faced between dishes while art stars and celebs munched their $2,500-$100,000 dinners. Yvonne Rainer condemned it as “grotesque,” “verging on economic exploitation.” We thought it sounded kinky. Was it? Here’s a peep at Saturday night’s party. Just because there was no [overtly apparent] sexual fondling going on, doesn’t mean it wasn’t obscene.

Each photo from the big gala is a punch in the head and the crotch to anyone who spent their formative art-learnin’ years crushing on Abramović, but no, it’s not shocking. Rainer’s Salò (this!) comparison was a hyperbole — no one was sexually tortured and sadistically destroyed (Abramović did the cutting, beating, bleeding, slicing, slapping of herself in her own works), but gosh, well, this is just awkward stuff. (Explanation below the visuals.)

At least one celebrity guest — Will Ferrel — looks noticeably uneasy with the stoic rotating head centerpieces looking at him eat. We feel you, Will. The rest? Well… that’s that.

A wrapped Debbie Harry was carried out by bare-chested boy slaves on a gurney. Then, there was the finale cutting of the nude, marzipan, Marina-shaped cake (I believe she was planning that particular bit for her funeral? What gives?). A glitter-crotched Debbie Harry cake bled red stuffing. Apparently, someone in the crowd started jeering this as misogynist, insensitive to actual violence against women. Marina’s intimate artist manifesto that had so moved me when she read it at MoMA before embarking on The Artist Is Present — “An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist. An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist. An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist.” — was now a big red backdrop for Gwen Stefani to vamp in front of in a borrowed lab coat.

Abramović’s point was, allegedly, to transform the “everyday life situation” of the gala with the “dignity, serenity, and concentration” of the injected performances, but — I say this as an outsider — it looks like the opposite. The work originally imbued with depth and death is recontextualizes as entertainment. The heads look tacky. Perhaps this is meant to be funny. If you’ve seen all her work and never laughed, you don’t get it. But are we in on this joke?

These images haven’t quite beaten out this blogger’s artistic affections for Abramović completely, but that whole “economic exploitation” bit comes back to mind, sharply, and it feels ethically awkward, especially now, mid-Occupy. I won’t rage. I want to chuckle. I’m wishing this was really, really kinky instead. (Photos: Getty/Yahoo)