In 1988, after 12 years of love and collaboration, the notorious performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay decided to take a spiritual journey that would culminate in the ending of their relationship. The project was called “The Lovers: the Great Wall Walk.”
Starting from the two opposite ends, each of them walked half the length of the Great Wall of China. After three months, they met in the middle, and ended their relationship.
The performance was recorded by Murray Grigor for the BBC (16mm film, transferred to video), which resulted in the documentary The Great Wall: Lovers at the Brink.
Twenty two years later, they reunited for one minute.
In 2010, as part of her MoMA retrospective, Abramović sat in a chair under bright spotlights opposite an empty chair, where members of the public could sit as long as they wanted, gazing into her eyes. A seemingly endless number of people lined up for the opportunity to sit with her, many sitting multiple times on different days, several for as long as ten hours, some even after waiting all night.
Unannounced, Ulay showed up.
One of Marina's "most daring and notorious performances (named Rhythm 0) was to test the limits of the relationship between a performer and his/hers audience. Abramović placed on a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions." At the end, she stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation (via).
In 2015, Marina Abramović, the world’s best-known performance artist, was sued by her former collaborator and romantic partner, the German artist Ulay, in a dispute over works they created jointly (via).
This frustrates the hell out of me, because it taints and smears the idea of Love. Two people, equally passionate about life and expression and beauty of humanity, and neither can get beyond their own skin and fully love another more than themselves.
What's the point of it all? Of the walks and exhibits if, at the root of it all, is self?
It seems empty, and fully unfulfilling. As is most things that begin and end with thy self.
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