11.3.11 | Marina Abramović – A Love Story

In honor of the most recent American Federation for the Arts’ 2011 Cultural Leadership Award recipient, I introduce: Marina Abramović – A Love Story.

Marina Abramović, also known as the “grandmother of performance art,”
b. November 30, 1946, Belgrade, PR Serbia.

Abramović and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen), b. November 30, 1943, Solingen, Germany.

The two artists met in Amsterdam in 1976 and spent over a decade together creating influential collaborative work. Their performances dealt with the creation of the collective being and the “other” phantom identity. At times, they chose to portray themselves as twins joined in a two-headed body; a hermaphrodite according to feminist critique.

Abramović and Ulay often developed tense interactive situations in which they pushed the limits of trust and physical and mental exertion, exploring themes of ego and identity.

In one performance, Abramović and Ulay shared a breathing experience for the duration of 17 minutes, at which point each artist’s lungs filled with carbon dioxide and both bodies collapsed from lack of oxygen. Their collaborative works often involved absorbing, changing, or destroying the life of another person.

In the 1977 Imponderabilia performance, the artists stood nude at either side of a doorway and forced viewers to make an important decision: which naked man or woman to face as they squeezed through the doorway. Here, the artists sought to involve their audiences in a highly experiential manner.

When Abramović and Ulay felt this intense and tumultuous relationship was nearing an end in 1988, the artists collaborated in a final performance along the Great Wall of China. This was a spiritual journey in which Ulay, beginning at the Gobi Desert, and Abramović, beginning at the Yellow Sea, each walked 2,500 kilometers to meet in the middle of the Great Wall for a final farewell embrace.

Abramović and Ulay were united once more at the opening of Abramović’s major 2010 MoMA New York retrospective, The Artist is Present.

Just for fun: Abramović shares words of wisdom at the launch of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Credit to ArtInfo.

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