Marina Abramović’s transformative and symbolic performance along the Great Wall of China, entitled ‘The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk’, was a profound artistic endeavor that required meticulous planning, endurance and a deep commitment to exploring human connections.
The performance, performed in collaboration with her artistic and life partner Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen), lasted no less than 90 days and covered a distance of approximately 2,500 kilometers.
The epic journey along the Great Wall of China, started in 1988, marked a pivotal moment in the artistic careers of Abramović and Ulay. The performance was not only a physical performance, but also a conceptual exploration of the complexity inherent in human relationships, both personal and cultural.
The decision to undertake this ambitious endeavor was deeply rooted in their desire to push the boundaries of performance art and create a profound and symbolic gesture.
The duration of 90 days was a conscious choice, symbolizing the gestation period of a human life and reinforcing the thematic resonance of love, separation and reunion explored in the performance.
The artists began their respective walks from opposite ends of the Great Wall, with Abramović starting from the east and Ulay from the west, converging in the center for a brief meeting before parting again.
During the 90 days, Abramović and Ulay adhered to a strict regimen, walking an average of about 30 kilometers per day. The journey required not only physical endurance, but also mental resilience, as the artists reflected deeply on their own relationship, the cultural significance of the Great Wall and the broader themes of love, separation and the passage of time.
“The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk” concluded with a poignant reunion and subsequent separation, symbolizing the ephemerality of human connection and the inevitability of parting. The ninety-day performance, which reflects the time it takes for new life to form, captured the essence of the artist’s exploration of love, loss and the cyclical nature of human relationships.
Marina Abramović’s Great Wall walk remains a testament to the transformative power of endurance art, challenging not only the physical limits of the human body, but also the limits of artistic expression.