Marina Abramopug Is the World’s Most Important Dog Performance Artist

Aug 21, 2014 at 1:06 PM ET

As hundreds of Marina Abramovic diehards lined up outside London’s Serpentine Gallery earlier this week for a chance to experience the legendary provocateur’s latest work, 512 Hours, they could feel greatness in their midst. A master was at work just a few feet away, and they were lucky enough to bear witness. For there, sitting regally atop a fleece cushion and plastic fold-out chair, was Marina Abramopug, the world’s greatest living pug performance artist, gazing firmly ahead, her glassy, bulbous eyes boring deep into the audience’s soul.

Dressed in her signature scarlet dress, with her hair woven into a slick black braid, Ms. Abramopug struck a remarkably similar figure to her human contemporary, though her work tends to be far more animalistic. In her current show, The Artist Is Present, she performs exclusively outdoors—and preferably in grassy areas where she can take a break to urinate in front of the audience.

Ms. Abramopug’s handler and “senior personal assistant,” comedian and performance artist Hannah Ballou, describes her boss’s recent work as a huge success, with audience reaction ranging from “joy and hilarity to outrage and tears…so many tears.” Much like Abramovic’s assistants, Ballou is unpaid, but she claims that working for Abramopug is an absolute honor with its own rewards. “Sometimes she makes us collect her feces in little plastic bags,” Ballous says. “It’s a performance art thing. It’s totally worth it, though.”

We were fortunate enough to be granted an interview with the 9-year-old artist before she retired for the evening to her London doggy bed. Below, Abramopug on the difficulties of sitting and staying, the philosophy of time and her ambitious plans for the future.

Where did you find the inspiration for your recent performance?

Marina Abramovic is an influence.

What kinds of questions and emotions do you hope to provoke in your audience?

What is true presence? Where lies empathy? Whoosagooddog?

Do you ever feel constrained by the fabric of time, like your human counterpart?

Artists like me live seven years for every one that ordinary people live. Think about that.

What are the hardest things about sitting still for hours as a bunch of people stare you down?

So many people are so full of pain. It wears me down. I take breaks to run around and play tug-of-war. It helps my concentration.

Why performance art instead of painting, sculpting and other mediums?

Have you tried painting without opposable thumbs? Next question.

Do you have any future plans or performances in the works?

I never discuss my upcoming work, but I am planning to open the Marina Abramopug Institute very soon, so I can train pugs from all over the world in the Abramopug Method. It is my legacy.