Friday, August 13, 2010

Marina and Ulay

I've been reading When Marina Abramovic Dies, a biography by James Wescott that was published in March during her residence at MoMa. Ever since I saw The Artist is Present, I wanted to know more about Abramovic's personal life. Wescott worked with Marina on the book, and it's undoubtedly slanted a bit in her favor - however, if you're looking for a biography with a balanced look at her work and her private life I highly recommend it. Unfortunately it's more of an "art book" so it's not great for subway rides. I just keep it by my bed and read a little of it every night before I go to sleep.

Marina and Ulay's relationship is the center of the book and of Marina's life - they were together for nearly twelve years, living and working together in intense intimacy. They had originally planned to walk towards each other from the opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, meet in the middle, and get married. When they actually did it ten years later they walked to each other over the course of ninety days, embraced, and went their separate ways. Ulay married his translator from the trip shortly thereafter, and Marina returned to New York. I can't imagine the heartbreak she must have felt (not to mention the exhaustion) on that plane ride home. As she wept when they met on the Wall Ulay told her, "Don't cry; we have accomplished so much." And Marina would go on to accomplish much more without Ulay. I think her incredibly lucky: it was possible for her to do the work. And it has sustained her. At 64 years old she glows.

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