A skeleton lays supine on top of Marina Abramovic, who is nude. Both are filmed sideways; the living and dead body are almost perfectly aligned. The skull and Abramovic' head look to the same direction. The ribs of the skeleton press upon her chest. Her breathing is accentuated and amplified. The skeleton's spine, ribcage and head follow her movements while Abramovic inhales and exhales.
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Ulay, as the man born Frank Uwe Laysiepen was known, was an exceptionally influential photographer and performance artist. He will be mourned by the art world as one of the greats of the postmodern era. But I will miss him as a wonderful, kind friend who happened to be an ingenious artist as well. Like me, Ulay married a Slovenian woman and settled down in Ljubljana, on the sunny side of the Alps. He was one of a handful of living artists enshrined in most Introduction to Art History textbooks. In the late s and 80s, their work as a duo was seminal to the course of performance art though Ulay always preferred the German word aktion. Yet they were also great artists in their separate careers. He then called the authorities to come and retrieve it. This was art theft as artwork.
The Royal Academy of Arts is to recruit young men and women to stand naked in a doorway facing each other while total strangers squeeze through an uncomfortably narrow space between them. Will exhibition visitors breathe in and face the naked man, or the naked woman? Will they make eye contact? Will they avoid the experience altogether? That scenario is unlikely in , although similar levels of audience apprehension are on the cards. Some fairly charged through. A few went through a number of times, actually. In Bologna, the work was positioned at the entrance of the gallery as a living door. In London — the first time it has been performed in the UK — it is likely to be between two adjoining gallery rooms with space for people to go round if they choose.
We got in touch with one of the performance artist's final and controversial face-to-face guests, who until now has just been referred to as the streaker. Here's what she told us:. Marina's retrospective—the most thrilling museum exhibit I have ever experienced—transformed the way I think about my body, art, spirituality and, of course, how raw meat would smell during its third day in your lap. She works so hard to touch deep, frightening, transcendent parts of herself and humanity and to share that experience. I thought hard about how to thank her—write a letter, make a film and hand it to her when I sat with her? When I landed on the idea of sitting naked across from her, I knew that was it.