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Artists,  Marina Abramovic and Ulay

Marina Abramovic and Ulay – The Great Wall Walk

Walking as Performance Art

Marina Abramović is one  of the world notorious performance artists who in the 70s basically invented so called “performance art”. She explored the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Fort that she is often described as the “grandmother of performance art.” Frank Uwe Laysiepen, has worked for more than 50 years as Ulay, was Marina’s partner in life and art from 1976 until 1988; the art they made together was passionate, pioneering and powerful and know as the most representative performance art.


Marina Abramovic - The-Lovers: The Great Wall Walk
Marina Abramovic – The-Lovers: The Great Wall Walk

The breakup on the wall

That walk became a complete personal drama. Ulay started from the Gobi Desert and I from the Yellow Sea. After each of us walked 2500km, we met in the middle and said good-bye

Marina Abramović and her partner Ulay ended 12-years of intense personal love and shocking art collaboration, in 1988, with an art stunt never seen before. It was named “The Lovers: the Great Wall Walk” in which they decided to make a spiritual journey that would end their relationship: each of them walked half the length of the Great Wall of China, starting from the two opposite ends and meeting in the middle. There they would end it all.


Marina Abramovic - The-Lovers: The Great Wall Walk
Marina and Ulay

Three months of walking

Abramovic started walking westward while Ulay walking eastward, from the eastern end of the Great Wall of China, at Shan Hai Guan to the opposite end at Jaiyuguan. It would take three months for the couple to meet in the middle, where they embraced each other and go to their separate ways, after covering 2500km each they would break up their relationship. After they both continuously walked for 90 says, covering 2500km each, they met at Er Lang Shan, in Shen Mu, Shaanxi province. Here, they embraced each other and said goodbye. From then on they would both go on with their life and work separately. Marina and Ulay ended their relationship with a walk: an intensive road along the Great Wall and inside them, because thank to the act of their body they have arrived to their life.


Marina Abramovic - The-Lovers: The Great Wall Walk
Marina Abramovic – The-Lovers: The Great Wall Walk


Abramović conceived this walk in a dream, and it provided what she thought was an appropriate, romantic ending to a relationship full of mysticism, energy, and attraction. She later described the process: “We needed a certain form of ending, after this huge distance walking towards each other. It is very human. It is in a way more dramatic, more like a film ending … Because in the end we both would be really alone, whatever we would do.”


But would that really be the last time they were performed together? Probably not

Marina Abramović walks China’s Great Wall only to break up › Performance