Marina Abramović & Ulay
Rest Energy, 1981
“Standing across from one another in slanted position. Looking each other in the eye. I hold a bow and Ulay holds the string with the arrow pointing directly to my heart. Microphones attached to both hearts recording the increasing number of heart beats.” - Marina Abramović
This polaroid photograph of Marina and Ulay is part of a series of joint performances, Relation Works [1976-1981]. Their relationship, personal and artistic, is the area of investigation here. Physical limits of exhaustion and pain are pushed to the extreme. The public’s presence is an integral component here. In the photograph we see how the artist-pair stood close, facing each other in the performance, slightly back on their heels. They look straight into one-another’s eyes. Marina holds the bow firmly in her grasp, Ulay the arrow and bowstring. The arrow is aimed right at Marina’s heart. Their respective weights tense the bow. Just one false move by Marina or Ulay could prove fatal. Marina surrenders herself – if Ulay lets the arrow loose, it’s over. The position of the woman seems subordinate to the man, while it’s the woman who is in the spotlight. The other striking feature is the fire-red arrow, in a photograph where use of colour is limited. Both artists were born on November 30th, and thus share the zodiac sign of Sagittarius, the Archer. Astrologically this means that they approach each other with the same weapons. Here, however, they forge into a single weapon, the bow and arrow. They confront each other’s energies and try to link with each other. Each needs the other to measure their strength against, but they will never be ‘one’. This performance was the shortest they ever gave [4 minutes and 12 seconds]. Microphones, placed over the heart, registered the acceleration of the beat. In addition to the polaroid photo from the performance, there is also a video, and the sound of their heartbeats is audible there.