The story of Marina Abramović and Frank Uwe Lysispen

The story of Marina Abramovic and Frank Uwe Laysiepen

Life sometimes has more twists and turns than any playwright and the story of Marina Abramovic and Frank Uwe Laysiepen is a vivid confirmation of that. In 2010, the artist held an art performance 'Eyes - Mirror of the Soul' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The idea of the performance was that Marina would share a moment of silence with any person sitting in front of her while looking into her eyes. During the entire performance (which was more than 716 hours), the artist looked into the eyes of 1,500 visitors. And then a man she hadn't seen in over 30 years sat on the chair in front of her...

In April 1988, Marina Abramovic and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) staged a performance of Lovers, one of the most epic works in the history of performance art. Set at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, the famous creative couple set out to walk some 5,995 kilometres of the wall and meet at Erlang Sheng, Shenmu, a Buddhist temple in Shaanxi province, where they were to be married. But things did not work out as they had planned.

They chose the Wall because it is the only man-made creation visible from space, and they realised that this scale and scope made it the ideal place to create a work of art. It took eight years to get permission; the Chinese government was very reluctant for foreigners to be the first to pass the Wall. During the waiting period, their relationship deteriorated. Still, they did not give up on the idea.

Their grandiose romantic gesture showed just how hard their relationship had become as Abramović began to wade through piles of rubble on the wall. She was accompanied by an interpreter who had been sent with her as punishment for creating an underground photo book about American breakdancers. For the first two months they hardly spoke - while whole villages came out to see a woman walking alone along the Wall.

The story of Marina Abramovic and Frank Uwe Laysiepen
Performance piece 'Relationships in Time' (1977)

On 27 June, Marina and Ulai finally met. And then he blurted out the terrible news. "He told me that his interpreter is pregnant by him. He asked me what to do. I told him he should marry her," Maria Abramovic told The Art Newspaper. They hugged and said goodbye.

"It was very difficult for her to go on alone. It was unthinkable for me to go on alone at all," Ulay told Christian Lund for the 2017 film The Marina Abramovic and Ulay Story. "If love is broken, it turns into hate. She hated me."

They hadn't spoken for more than 30 years when Frank made a surprise appearance at The Artist Is Present, Abramović's 2010 performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. For two and a half months Abramović sat at a table, inviting the audience to take a chair opposite and engage in a silent conversation in front of a live audience.

The story of Marina Abramović and Frank Uwe Laysiepen. Meeting

Such meetings opened up spheres of emotional, psychological, physiological and spiritual space, with each meeting representing a non-verbal exchange of curiosity, feeling and understanding. When Frank Uwe Laysiepen appeared, Abramović looked shocked, then smiled modestly. He shook his head and her eyes filled with tears. During their brief meeting they had shared so much without uttering a word, the intensity of their past embraced the present and spilled over into the future.

At the end of their meeting, Marina stretched her arms across the table to Ulai, who squeezed them and leaned forward to say a few words that no one could hear. The audience erupted in applause, completely overwhelmed by the intensity of the moment. Frank then left, and another spectator appeared while Abramović struggled to come to his senses and continue speaking.

Their reunion was not easy: Ulay, who left the art world after breaking up their relationship in 1988, sued Marina in 2015 and won; the verdict read that Abramovic must pay Ulay €250,000 in royalties. It wasn't until 2017 that they finally reconciled, producing a film detailing the story of two artists in love who gave everything to each other - until there was nothing left. And in March 2020, one of the characters in the story passed away Frank Uwe Laysiepen.

The story of Marina Abramović and Frank Uwe Lysispen
5 1 voice
Article Rating
Notify the
Intertextual Feedback
View all comments
AriA - a home for everyone Would you like to be notified when someone sends you a private message?
Allow Notifications