2023 ACC CONTEXT Walking, Wandering

Marina Abramović / Ulay

〈The Lovers, The Great Wall Walk〉, 1988/2010.

2-channel video, color, no sound, 15min. 45sec.
Based on the 1988 performance
90 Days, the Great Wall of China
Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives and LIMA.

Marina Abramović is one of the pioneering artists who established “performance” as a genre of modern art using the body as a material for expression. Her performance seeks mental enhancement, cognitive expansion, and spiritual change by pushing the body and spirit to the risk of pain, exhaustion and perils, or transforming everyday behavior into a special state of consciousness.
The Lovers, The Great Wall Walk is a video recording of a performance by Marina Abramović and Ulay, who were together for 12 years since 1976 as lovers and artistic collaborators. In 1988, after eight years of negotiations with the Chinese government, the performance is the final work of the two artists who decided to put an end to their relationship. Abramović and Ulay each began their walk on the Great Wall from the two opposite ends of the wall. After a 90-day walk from the height of spring to beginning of summer, the two artists met each other at the center point of the Great Wall. There, they embrace each other, bid farewell, then grew into distance in their separate ways. The artists conceived this journey, almost like a penance, based on the idea that the Great Wall is not just a means of defense, but a Milky Way reproduced on the ground, and a metaphysical structure that embodies the head, body and tail of a dragon as the sea, mountains and the desert. The short encounter and farewell, which finally took place after their walk, invite us to see this performance as an analogy to the lives of each individual walking alone on their own journey in the vast universe.


We walked the entire length of the Great Wall of China.
We started on 30 March, 1988.
I started walking at the eastern end of the Wall, at Shan Hai Guan, on the shores of the Yellow Sea, Gulf of Bohai, walking westward.
Ulay started walking at the western end of the Wall, at Jai Yu Guan, the south-western periphery of the Gobi Desert, walking eastward.
We walked until we met.
After we both continuously walked for 90 days, we met at Er Lang Shan, in Shen Mu, Shaanxi province.

Duration: 90 days
March-June, 1988
The Great Wall of China

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