Marina Abramović's Recipe for Fire Food

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Marina Abramovic's Spirit Cooking 3
Spirit Cooking© Marina Abramović

The performance artist's controversial Spirit Cooking recipes feature in The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, a new publication featuring 76 food-related stories from contemporary creatives

The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook brings together the favourite recipes and culinary secrets of an eclectic group of creatives. Each person has responded in a different way, resulting in a diverse range that stretches between stories, memories, poetry and an excellent recipe for spaghetti carbonara. Ed Ruscha serves up a cactus omelette, Paul Muldoon provides a “recipe for disaster”, Francesca Lia Block gives instructions for how to fall in love, Marina Abramović’s “selections from Spirit Cooking with essential aphrodisiac recipes” has prescriptions for 'pain’ and ‘fire food’. It is thoughtful and intriguing – a cocktail of the literal and the poetic.

However, we have just seen the end of 2016 – the year that truth was rebranded as flexible. Everyone lost out, but one of the more unlikely victims was Abramović, whose ‘spirit cooking’ was swept up into the electoral hurricane of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. Her innocuous email to Tony Podesta inviting him and his brother John to a Spirit Cooking Supper was part of a cache released by Wikileaks,and was translated by unscrupulous media outlets into proof that Podesta, Abramović and Clinton were part of a satanic cult that sacrificed children. 

Originally Spirit Cooking was the name of a series of performances that Abramovic debuted in the mid-90s, which included absurdist, poetic recipes which the artist daubed onto walls using various materials, including pigs blood. However, in 2016, the term referred to both a page of poetics in a literary cookbook and a small dinner for high rolling donors to Abramović’s art institution, offering “a night with Marina during which she will teach you… how to cook a series of traditional soups”. 

As is so often the case, the reality was banal, but the lie – swollen into ‘truth’ by the wildfire speed of social media and the bitterness of the rivalry between the two sides – was swiftly absorbed into the arsenal of unscrupulous news outlets. The artist was linked with the occultist Aleister Crowley and the dinner described as ‘black magic’.  Abramović was outraged: “this is taken completely out of my context,” she said. “It was just a normal dinner… just a normal menu, which I call spirit cooking. There was no blood, no anything else. We just call things funny names, that’s all.”

It was one of many mad moments in an electoral race defined by its detours away from conventions. In a world where truth no longer mattered, anything – even old artworks from the 1990s – could be wrenched from its moorings and given menacing intent. But in this book we find the right place for Spirit Cooking – set in its rightful context, weaving non-literal ingredients and human stories to make a point about living. 


in time of doubt
keep a small meteorite
in your mouth

to be consumed on a solar eclipse

take 13 leaves of uncut
green cabbage with
13,000 grams of jealousy
steam for a long time in a
deep iron pot
until all the water
eat just before attack

essence drink

mix fresh breast milk
fresh sperm milk
drink on earthquake nights

fire food

on top of a volcano
open your mouth
wait until your tongue
becomes flame
close your mouth
take a deep breath

The Artists’ & Writers’ Cookbook, edited by Natalie Eve Garrett, is out now published by PowerHouse Books