In 1976, Abramović met Ulay, a West German artist who would become her lover and collaborator for the next twelve years. The duo fell into an impersonal abyss, losing their selfhoods and attempting to become a single entity through arresting performances such as Breathing In/Breathing Out, where they locked mouths and breathed each other’s exhaled breath, eventually filling their lungs with carbon monoxide and falling unconscious. By 1988, their romance had run its course; in typically atypical fashion, the pair decided to part by walking from opposing ends of the Great Wall of China until they met in the middle, and then said goodbye.
On the opening night of Abramović’s retrospective in 2010, the erstwhile lovers were reunited. The video above shows Abramović, sitting and steeling herself for her next silent interlocutor. Ulay approaches, and Abramović, a veteran of such difficult performances, looks up to what may have been the single most unexpected sight of the night, jolting her dignified composure. Their reunion is a deeply tender scene.
“Love is the most complicated thing in the world. Artists are the most eccentric people. So when artists fall in love, the passion must be special, beautiful and somewhat melodramatic. With feelings so strong and minds dazed, we guess their love stories are the greatest.
Meet artists Marina Abramovic. In the 1970s, Marina and her then boyfriend names Ulay broke up. But even until the end of the relationship, they chose to do it in an interesting fashion, just like true artists. They went to opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and walk towards each other in the middle. When they finally met, they gave each other one last embrace and parted ways. They never saw each other again after that.
More than 30 years later, Marina held a live art performance. She spent one minute in silence with complete strangers. They just stared at each other, probably getting inspiration or energy of some sort. But one particular man seemed to have captured Marina’s attention in a more special way because her reaction was different from the others. It turned out that the man at 1:30 was Ulay. It was their first time to see each other after more than 30 years, and the moment was so emotional and beautiful.
Love is the most wonderful ting in the world and even if some relationships don’t last and the feelings fade, the memories still remain. We shall keep it in our hearts and minds forever. Even though Marina and Ulay just stood there without saying a word, we are sure that they were able to speak with each other through their hearts. This is such a beautiful story!”