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Thomas McEvilley

Thomas McEvilley participating in Marina Abramović’s The Artist Is Present, 2010, Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 9, 2010. Photo: © 2010 Marco Anelli.

MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ

IN THE EARLY 1980s, I read several articles by Thomas McEvilley about Yves Klein and James Lee Byars. They made a powerful impression on me and left me with a strong desire to meet him. But I didn’t tell anybody—it was a secret wish.

Then, in 1983, on the occasion of the annual Holland Festival, Ulay and I decided to present a very ambitious performance, which was to be staged there for the first time. It included people who had never acted in their lives, including ourselves. Ingrid Sischy, who was then the editor of Artforum, sent someone to report on the event: Tom McEvilley. That was a big surprise.

Right before the performance I became extremely sick with a high fever. The piece, titled Positive Zero, turned out to be the worst failure of Ulay’s and my careers. Tom witnessed all the drama, and he had such a deep understanding of our difficulties that Ulay and I soon became close friends of his.

When Ulay and I were at the end of our relationship and decided to walk the Great Wall, Tom came and walked one part of it with me and another part with Ulay. Tom had that quality—he was so faithful to his friends. In 1997, he accompanied James Lee Byars, who was ill with cancer, all the way to Egypt to take care of him until he died. Tom was a complex man. He was a tortured man. He was a wonderful man. I will miss him immensely.

Marina Abramović is an artist in New York.