"Theater is something that as a performance artist you have to hate," on the grounds that acting is based on artifice while performance art hinges on its veracity and carnality, she said. "But I thought it would be a perfect way to get away from myself and free myself from the pain."
She surrendered "complete control" to Wilson, handing over old journals and diaries as fodder for his poetic staging of her biography.
The play, which stars Abramovic playing her authoritarian mother, and Willem Defoe of "The English Patient," was commissioned by the Manchester International Festival and Madrid's Teatro Real.
"I told him (Wilson) all these terrible stories about myself, about what my mother did to me, my big nose," she said. "Bob took something so personal and turned it into art."
Both the play and the documentary about the play begin with a staging of Abramovic's funeral, which she has said she wants to take place with simultaneous burials in the three cities where she has spent most her life: Belgrade, Amsterdam and New York. No one will be sure which of the three coffins actually contains her remains.
"You can't choreograph death, but you can choreograph your funeral," she said.
"When you get a retrospective or the kind of lifetime achievement awards I've been given recently, you're expected to die," she added, an impish grin spreading across her impeccably made up face. "I'm expecting to stick around a bit longer."
Given the sheer number of projects she is negotiating, Abramovic would have to stay a lot longer. In addition to a foundation in the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro to help foster the next generation of performance artists and a collaboration with actor James Franco, Abramovic says she's doing research for a piece that's to debut in Rio during the next World Cup, which Brazil is hosting.
"I'll be back in 2014," she said. "You won't be able to miss me."