Marina Abramovic is recognized as one of the leading international practitioners of performance art. From 1976 to 1988, Abramovic and her partner Ulay (F. Uwe Laysiepen) undertook a rigorous artistic collaboration, during which they produced works in performance, video and life-size Polaroid photography.
As seminal participants in the European body art/performance movement, Abramovic and Ulay began their collaboration in Amsterdam with Relation Work, a series of provocative, ritualistic performances that were often documented on video. In these highly charged, durational events, they investigated male and female energies as a dialogue of body and self, testing the limits of mental and physical endurance, risk, and identity: They sat motionless, back to back, hair tied together, for seventeen hours; screamed into each other's open mouths until hoarse; repeatedly ran at high speed and collided. As in later photographic works, their performance strategy was to use the body as art-making material, presenting themselves as art objects to explore and transcend the physical and psychological limitations of the self.
From 1981 to 1986, they presented Nightsea Crossing, an epic performance of motionless meditation and concentration, in ninety sites around the world. With City of Angels (1983), they began a series of ethnographic video works that extended the intensified vision and temporality of their metaphysical performances. Through symbolic renderings of time, place and people, they attempted to capture the mythic essence of specific cultures. "To have the most original moment of a culture presented as a living being," as Ulay stated, they created tableaux vivants, in a vivid translation of their performance principles to video.
In 1988, as their final artistic collaboration, they completed a walk along the Great Wall of China, with Ulay starting alone from its western end, Abramovic from the east. Meeting in the middle, they said goodbye to one another and have since pursued individual artistic projects.
Marina Abramovic was born in 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. Ulay (F. Uwe Laysiepen) was born in 1943 in Solingen, Germany. Their collaborative work is the subject of several publications, including Marina Abramovic and Ulay: Relation Work and Detour (1980). In 1986 they received the Polaroid Video Art Award. Their collaborative works have been widely exhibited internationally, at festivals and institutions including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Venice Biennale; Paris Biennale; Documentas 6 and 7, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; De Appel, Amsterdam; The Tate Gallery, London; Kunstmuseum, Dusseldorf; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., and The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.
For the first half of the 1990s, Abramovic taught at the Hochschule der Kunst, Berlin, Germany. She received the Golden Lion Award at 47th Venice Biennale, was honored at the Guggenheim International Gala in 2006, and received the AECA Gran Premio Award in Madrid, Spain the following year. Solo exhibitions have been mounted at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Galeries Contemporaines, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Documenta 9, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, United Kingdom; Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. Catalogues include The House with the Ocean View (2004); Balkan Epic (2006); Seven Easy Pieces (2007), and When Marina Abramovic Dies (2010).
In 2010 Abramovic was the subject of a major performance retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Entitled Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, the exhibition contained approximately fifty works in a range of media, including the re-performance of solo and collaborative pieces originally performed with Ulay.
Marina Abramovic lives and works in New York. Ulay is based in Amsterdam.