12-year partnership produced one of the most influential
practices of the 20th century. The intensely physical body of work they built while living together in the confined space of a van explored the vicissitudes of human relationships and the endurance required to maintain them. For Relation in Space
, a performance piece unveiled at the 1976 Venice Biennale, the two lovers ran from opposite sides of the room, their naked bodies colliding over and over again in the middle. In AAA-AAA
, a video from 1978, they exchange violent screams until their voices go hoarse.
Later, they planned to cement their love in their most ambitious performance yet: each would walk from one side of the Great Wall of China, meeting at the center to wed. But by the time they made arrangements, Ulay’s infidelity had been revealed and their relationship disintegrated. In turn, the 1988 performance became symbolic of their parting, rather than their union. When they crossed paths at the Great Wall’s midpoint, the artists marked the end of their relationship.