Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt their relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle, and never seeing each other again. At her 2010 MOMA retrospective, Marina performed “The Artist is Present” as part of the show; a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing it, and this is what happened.
Carlos has clips of this video on his blog, but has separated them into parcels, and cut off the bit at the end that shows Marina trying to re-collect herself after Ulay walks away. I’m linking to the entire clip on youtube instead, even though that means you’ll have to sit through the part where Ulay is being photographed investigating the van in which they lived, and having to participate in part of the installation, which consists of a naked man and a naked women standing in a doorway so close together that anyone passing through can’t help but touch them. An interesting investigation of our reaction to privacy, nudity, personal space. I think it’s worth keeping, and watching. The exchange between the two of them is one of the most powerful and beautiful things I have ever witnessed.
And now for the burning question: how does this help me on my search for “Enlightenment”?
They see each other. They obviously loved each other. They obviously each still treasure the time they spent together. Who knows what sadness and regret and joy has come into their lives because of their relationship, its end, and whatever came next and since. They live it all in those few brief moments. It matters, and it doesn’t, at exactly the same time. (I notice that every time I watch it I change my mind about it just a little. I should probably stop watching it over and over so I can stop going back and re-editing this post.)
Notice, too, that at the end he speaks, but she does not. I wonder if that was hard for her. It bothered me that the onlookers applauded. Marina and Ulay didn’t seem to notice. Such a private, beautiful moment, and maybe even more powerful and beautiful because she didn’t say a word.
It reminds me to look, to love, to remember. And that sometimes it’s not necessary to say anything at all.