The artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay reunited on stage and on screen at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art this summer. The artists' pioneering performances and nomadic life as a couple ended acrimoniously in 1988 after an epic walk towards each other along the Great Wall of China. At the opening of Abramovic’s retrospective at the Danish museum in late June, her former lover joined her on stage and shared the microphone at the end of a talk by Abramovic. Unlike their silent and tearful meeting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York towards the end of Abramovic’s durational performance The Art is Present in 2010, at Louisiana the pair embraced, relaxed and joked with each other.
Christian Lund, an editor of Louisiana Channel who interviewed the artists for the new video, The Story of Marina Abramovic & Ulay, is delighted to chronicle the latest, happy turning point in what was until their break-up “one of the great love stories of 20th century art”. He says that Ulay’s impromptu appearance at the lecture came as surprise to Abramovic, who coaxed her former partner on stage. This led to the video interviews days later.
He talked to Abramovic and Ulay separately but asked the artists the same questions. Abramovic reveals that she has given up “all the anger and all the hate”, she felt as recently as a year ago. Now, “the beautiful work that you leave is all that matters,” she says. Ulay tells Lund on film that he and Abramovic have become good friends again. “Every nasty, disagreeable or whatever from the past, has been dropped,” Ulay says, adding: “It’s a beautiful story.”
Lund says that the reconciled artists “are very happy with the video.” They shared photographs from their private collections that are featured, along with historic footage of performances. A highlight is the sequence when Abramovic and Ulay talk about the first performance of Imponderabilia in Bologna in 1977. Footage from a contemporary documentary shot by Italian TV shows the artists camping in their Citroën minivan in the museum carpark, and then performing the piece in the museum's internal doorway. Around 350 visitors squeezed past the naked couple before the police put a stop to the performance. Ulay recalls the risk they ran. Someone could have pulled a knife, he says. Abramovic describes her and Ulay as “living doors,” because “if there were no artists, there would be no museums, so we are living doors.”
Imponderabilia has been recreated during the Louisiana retrospective The Cleaner (until 22 October), which has been co-organised by the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, where it was shown from February until May this year.
Lund, who has interviewed Abramovic in the past several times, is now making a video with Ulay about his art, which is due to be released in September. Unlike Abramovic, the German-born artist who largely withdrew from the art market and museum world after the split with his high-profile partner but kept working. Last year, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, organised Ulay Life-Sized, the first major retrospective of his work.