PRINT May/June 2020



Marina Abramović and Ulay, Amsterdam, 1981.

ULAY, MY FORMER PARTNER IN LOVE AND ART, died this year, and I lost a dear friend. He was an exceptional artist and human being who will be sorely missed by all who knew him and his work. We embarked on our private and professional journey together in Amsterdam in 1975. When we first met, on November 30, the date of birth we shared, in many ways we each felt as though we had found our other half. Our meeting was male and female energy coming together to create a third unified element we called “That Self.” The nickname we used for each other was Glue, which speaks to the way we viewed our relationship.

We spent many years living in an old Citroën van with our dog, Alba, driving across Europe from one performance to the next. When recalling those years, I think of the total freedom we had. They were some of the happiest years of my life. We made a manifesto representing our values for this period of time, which we called ART VITAL.

No fixed living place
Permanent movement
Direct contact
Local relation
Passing limitations
Taking risks
Mobil energy
No rehearsal
No predicted end
No repetition
Extended vulnerability
Exposure to chance
Primary reactions

As wildly compatible as we were, our relationship could also be extremely combustive. Yet, somehow, we managed to harness that energy and use it in our lives and work—work that I’ll remain proud of for as long as I live.

We reached the end of our path together on the Great Wall of China in 1988. We each began on one end and spent three months walking toward the other. We met in the middle to say goodbye, concluding our personal and professional journey.

Over the years that followed, we reappeared in each other’s lives frequently, and we remained friends until the end.

Ulay was a genuine artist. He never compromised and never shied away from the truth, however uncomfortable it might be. This was an ideology we had in common, and it brought us together in the first place.

He was as dedicated to his art as he was to the people close to him. We have had our share of clashes through the years, but all that remains today is love and gratitude. 

Marina Abramović is an artist based in New York.