In 1973, Abramovic carried out her first performance, Rhythm 10, which explored themes of ritual and gesture through the act of repeatedly jabbing a knife in the spaces between her splayed fingers. This was the first in a series of challenging and often physically brutal performances, culminating in Rhythm 0 during which, among other obloquies, an audience member pointed a loaded gun at the artist’s head.
Three years after Rhythm 10, Marina Abramovic met and began a 12 year collaboration with the West German performance artist, Uwe Laysiepen, or simply, Ulay. For Abramovic, this partnership was vital as she noted that “If I hadn't met Ulay, [her performances] would have destroyed my body." (From Annaela Daneri, et. al. eds., Marina Abramovic, Milan, 2002)
The Great China Wall Walk was the last, and perhaps the most emotionally intense performance of Abramovic’ oeuvre. Conceived in a dream, the present work documents Abramovic’ and Ulay’s journey, beginning at opposite ends of the Great Wall, toward a final meeting in the middle. As the artist reflects, “that walk became a complete personal drama. Ulay started from the Gobi desert and I from the Yellow Sea. After each of us walked 2500 km, we met in the middle and said good-bye.” (Ibid.)