Marina Abramović and Ulay

One Soul

Marina Abramović and Ulay met in 1974 on their shared birthday of November 30th, and from that moment on, the two artists came together as both soul mates and lovers in an extraordinary way that yielded some of the most provocative performance art of the 20th century. Together, they explored concepts of trust and interdependency often in physically challenging or highly charged works such as Relation in Time, in which Abramović and Ulay were seated back to back, attached to each other by their inter-braided hair, for 17 hours. When examining their collective oeuvre though, Abramović remarked that the piece that truly encompassed their relationship was Rest Energy, where both she and Ulay held a bow and arrow pointed straight at Abramović’s heart while microphones recorded their breathing and heartbeats. “This piece is the shortest piece we ever did, 4 minutes and 20 seconds,... It seemed like a lifetime. This is a very symbolic work for us, based on total trust. What’s important in this piece is the tension. You can only do this work with total love and trust.” 

The collaboration between Abramović and Ulay spanned twelve years and saw a poignant end in their epic work, The Lovers. What was meant to be a monumental walk by each artist from one end of the Great Wall of China to its center, originally with the meeting culminating in their marriage, instead was amended over the intervening years, to see instead their break from one another. Although the years following their separation were at times contentious, towards the end of Ulay's life, the two artists found a way back to an amicable friendship and appreciation for what they had achieved together.