Art Strategies

Class 6: Lovers – The Great Wall Walk

“We needed a certain form of ending, after this huge distance walking towards each other. It is very human. It is in a way more dramatic, more like a film ending … Because in the end you are really alone, whatever you do.”

—–Marina Abramovic

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In 1988, Marina Abramovic and her ex lover Ulay made a spiritual journey in Great Wall of China would end their relationship.  They started from two opposite ends of Great Wall, one from  Gobi Desert and one from Shanhai Guan, and then walk toward each other,  each of them walked 2500km, meeting in the middle, to say goodbye.

She is walking toward him.

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She is walking toward him.

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She is walking toward him.

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Then they met.screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-10-54-27-pm
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No doubt that this is a very emotional yet touching piece, I like strategy Marina used in this art work, that to use the human foot, using the body to do something that are not not so “human”(to walk the long Great Wall) yet, it is such a long journey yet just to say goodbye to the old lover. It is such a heavy effort yet to say a simple goodbye. The contrast is beautifully made.

Personally, the whole idea is very heartbreaking yet poetic. And it reminds me of the idea from Ang Lee’s film Life of Pi , life is about letting go, but please take a moment to say goodbye. ..  this idea is also applied in Japanese mortuary. The make up for the past one is not for the one, but for the friends and family of the past one, to say a proper and last goodbye.

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It also reminds me of how the relationship between everyone, not just lovers, but family, friends, classmates,strangers etc. We came from different background, we walk our own road for miles, meet each other, we held hand, walk for a while, and somehow, one day, eventually, say the goodbye.

 

Update Oct.27 2016:

“…why the Wall of China? Should they have done it in their homeland, that they said goodbye to so long ago? Of course, that wouldn’t have been so romantic (so… exotic), so impossible. and using fortress walls meant to keep enemies out, a way of being closed, to do something so… generous, personal, to appropriate the wall for one’s own purposes.

I’m also asking students to make connections – how was this like and not like her other works? How is walking used by others as an art form, and how does this talk with those works and also use that strategy differently?”

 

Thank you Marina for the comment, it really reminds me of what I’ve been missing..I hope it is not to late.

To me that , the choice of Great Wall of China is indeed an interesting choice as well, I think the reason might be that, first of all, it is famous for being really long (AKA, spacey?). Actually there is the saying in China that you can’t call yourself a real man unless you’ve walked the great wall. Walking along the Great Wall was indeed a challenge for anyone, the hardness resemble the toughness in life, in relationship, while they struggled it together toward each other. I am not sure about the “keep enemies out” part, and it does make sense too, which is the important part between the lovers, the “exclusiveness”. But as far as I know, Ulay was having an affair with his Chinese translator during the project…so…

Besides, in a new place one can be more sensitive about surrounding and emotion. And indeed it is more “romantic”. Great place to break up.

Personally I think a lot of Marina Abramovic’s  earlier work, are super intense. And more on the interactive side, such as Rhythm 0 is very intense and to me that it is more on to portrait the inside of the audience rather than herself’s. She serve as an object, an mirror to reflect the audience. And also the work with Ulay together, it seems that they gave each other no space, they are either connected up by tangled hair, sitting face to face slapping each other, or standing naked toward each other, created this intension for people even walking between them.

But this time, they gave each other space and time.

However, to me that, The Great Wall Walk is less crazy less intense, and more on oneself’s exploration than the interactive part- relationship.

 

One thought on “Class 6: Lovers – The Great Wall Walk

  1. I am moved by this piece as well. Especially taking the time to say goodbye, being alone, reflecting on that parting. And yet, yet, I also ask myself – why the Wall of China? Should they have done it in their homeland, that they said goodbye to so long ago? Of course, that wouldn’t have been so romantic (so… exotic), so impossible. and using fortress walls meant to keep enemies out, a way of being closed, to do something so… generous, personal, to appropriate the wall for one’s own purposes.

    I’m also asking students to make connections – how was this like and not like her other works? How is walking used by others as an art form, and how does this talk with those works and also use that strategy differently?

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