Marina Abramović, Ulay

Modus Vivendi


Werk - Modus Vivendi
Artist / Artist group
Marina Abramović, Ulay
Modus Vivendi
video, Analog video
Material / Technique
Betacam SP, color, mono
Dimensions / Duration
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

“Our interest is relation. With our ‘Relation work’ we cause a third existence, which carries ‘Vital Energy.’ This third energy existence conjured by us does not depend on us any longer, but has its own quality which we call That Self. Three as a number means nothing else but ‘That Self.’” [1]

The Serbian artist Marina Abramović and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) are considered pioneers of performance art. From 1976 to 1988 they worked together on highly body-centered performances.

»That Self« consists of various components: The 45-minute video work begins with three monochrome color fields – red, blue, and yellow. A standing sound can be heard, which increases its frequency from time to time. This is followed by four performances conceived for the video in which Abramović and Ulay artistically explore the theme of hypnosis: »Point of Contact«, »Rest Energy«, »Nature of Mind«, and »Timeless Point of View«.

»Rest Energy« is one of the most famous performances: Together they draw a large bow with an arrow for four minutes. Ulay aims the arrow on the taut bowstring at Marina Abramović’s heart. She holds his bow arm. Via a microphone her accelerated heartbeat is heard, as well as his irregular, agitated breathing. A wrong movement could be fatal. In addition to pushing the boundaries of physical exhaustion, the focus is on the power of concentration.

[1] Marina Abramović and Ulay in:

Author: Jenny Starick