With the closing today of performance artist Marina Abramović's (born 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia) important retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, it seems only fitting to point out one of her performance works which took place on the Great Wall of China. From 1976-1988, Abramović collaborated on many thought-provoking performance works with her then-partner, Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen, born 1943 in Solingen, Germany). Their final collaboration simultaneously marked the end of their relationship. "The Lovers: Great Wall Walk" was staged only after extensive negotiation with Chinese authorities. Abramović began walking at the eastern end of the Great Wall, from the Yellow Sea not far from Beijing, and Ulay began his walk from the western end, at Jiayuguan in Gansu Province. After walking for 90 days, the two met in the middle to embrace and say farewell. Their performance was recorded by Murray Grigor for the BBC and turned into a documentary titled "The Great Wall: Lovers at the Brink."
Marina Abramović's statement about their final performance follows:
The earth is small and blue. I am a small crevice in it.
Huang Xiang, 2nd century
Confessions of the Great Wall
From up here, the earth looks small and blue.
Yuri Gagarin, first cosmonaut
Ulay and I end our relations with this project. The concept is to approach each other from the two ends of the Great Wall of China. He begins in the Gobi Desert and I begin at the Yellow Sea; we meet halfway in between. We each walked 2000 kilometers to say good-bye.
Duration: 90 days. Last meeting on June 3, 1988.
This performance was also the subject of a 1999 Ph.D. dissertation by Samantha Krukowski at the University of Texas-Austin titled Performing History: Walking Along Ulay and Abramovic's The Lovers:
Information about the Museum of Modern Art retrospective "Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present" and a link to the exhibition site may be found here:
Along with live re-enactments by actors of some of her earlier performance pieces, Abramović performed a new work in the Marron Atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in which she sat wordlessly opposite museum-goers. This piece, which ended at 5pm EST today, is her longest performance, beginning each day before the museum opened and ending after it closed, lasting over 700 hours in all.
When the piece was ongoing, a live feed was available on the Museum of Modern Art website. A Flickr set of the museum-goers who sat opposite the artist may be viewed here:
And an article about it can be found here:
During the opening reception, Ulay sat across from Abramović, their first performance together since 1988:
These two works of Marina Abramović, from the Great Wall of China to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, explore themes of human encounter and farewell - the profundity of the space that exists between two people.
Photograph of Marina and Ulay's meeting and farewell on the Great Wall: