|The end of a romantic relationship is often associated with negative feelings, such as sadness, anger, or grief. But what if we could also use it as a time to positively celebrate and contemplate the journey two people took together and the growth they brought to each other’s lives?
Renowned performance artist Marina Abramović did exactly this through her 1988 piece The Lovers. In a powerful and heartfelt performance, she explored the emotions, challenges, and ultimately the shared adventure that a romantic relationship brings. The piece involved Abramović and her former partner Ulay walking towards each other from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China.
She headed west from Shan Hai Guan while Ulay made his way east from Jaiyuguan. The monumental trek, covering over 1,500 miles, spanned 90 days, culminating in their meeting at Er Lang Shan in Shen Mu, Shaanxi province. There they embraced, exchanged personal items, and said their goodbyes, symbolizing the end of their romantic relationship. The vast historic wall became a poignant backdrop for this emotional separation, emphasizing their love even in parting.
Abramović came up with the concept in a dream, deeming it a fitting romantic conclusion to their relationship: the symbolic walk represented an emotionally charged ending to a shared life-changing journey. As Valentine’s Day approaches, a time when love is celebrated, Abramović’s piece invites us to contemplate the realities of a romantic relationship, which is not always sunshine and roses. The performance captures the essence of love as a journey, marked by both shared moments and, sometimes, goodbyes.
Abramović’s work makes us reflect on the transient nature of emotions. Love, like the journey along the Great Wall, has its highs and lows, its meetings and partings. It’s a reminder that love is a moving force, subject to change and evolution. It’s a thought-provoking and relevant piece to ponder this Valentine’s Day.