Anima Mundi (Bangkok), 1983
Anima Mundi consists of frozen moments, recorded as photographs. Both ‘actions’ took place in Bangkok, in the open air, and are seen here from a bird’s-eye perspective. In the first image, Ulay stands at the top of the steps while Marina looks up at him from below. They are still, lifting their arms outstretched to each other. Holding this position, they remain out of each other’s reach. With their arms, that together form a circle, they seem to be wanting to embrace the world. Meanwhile, Abramovic’s shadow climbs the steps but ultimately also falls too short to touch Ulay. In the second image, they find each other. Abramovic now sits on the step, her red gown spread out around her. Ulay, dressed all in white, lies motionless on her lap. Both the artists’ pose as well as the color use make the association with a pièta – the weeping Virgin Mary who receives her son after being taken down from the cross – inevitable. Abramovic as the virgin, the female symbol of nature and the soul of the world, holds her son in her lap. He returns to her. Anima Mundi is part of the second series of performances from Abramovic and Ulay. Here, universal themes are the central focus, as in this case, with the man-woman relationship as motif. With Anima Mundi, the performances are frozen: the artists move in no plane, something that makes the images contemplative but also dramatic.