In 1988 Abramović and Ulay trekked from opposite ends of the wall to meet in the middle, but this act of love and performance art was doomed from the start
From the moment in 1976 that Serbian and German performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen, who died last month aged 76) clapped eyes on each other they were inseparable. Ulay found Abramović witchy and otherworldly; she found him wild and exciting. Even their initial encounter was propitious: they met in Amsterdam on their shared birthday of 30 November.
The pair began to perform together, describing themselves as a “two-headed body”. For years they lived a nomadic lifestyle, travelling across Europe in a corrugated iron van and performing in villages and towns. Their artistic collaborations matched their personalities: they focused on performances that put them in precarious and physically demanding situations, to see how they and their audience would respond. In one, called Relation in Time, they remained tied together by their hair for 17 hours. They explored conflict, taking their ideas to extremes: running full pelt into each other, naked, and slapping each other’s faces until they could take no more.