Marina Abramović and Ulay, Death Self, 1977
To create this Death self, the two performers devised a piece in which they connected their mouths and took in each other’s exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen. Seventeen minutes after the beginning of the performance they both fell to the floor unconscious, their lungs having filled with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual’s ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it.
Ulay and Abramović collaborated together for over a decade, upholding an intense and intimate relationship. In 1988, the two began a spiritual journey to end their relationship; each started at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, walked 2500 km over a span of 90 days, met in the center, and said good-bye.