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  • Marina Abramovic
  • Ulay

Breathing in - Breathing out

1977
b/w photograph
18.5 inch x 23.62 inch
Schenkung aus Privatbesitz/donation from a private collection 2005
Inventory number: MG 48/0

The Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic makes the body itself into her medium. In 1975 she met Ulay, Frank Uwe Laysiepen, with whom she lived and worked until 1988. Together they plumbed the existential limits of the body. Ritualised processes and the aestheticisation of physical risks go hand in hand. The photos and videos of their work engender a strong field of tension between the viewer and the performers. At first glance "Breathing in-Breathing out", a performance that took place in Belgrade in April 1977, seems to be about watching an intimate situation, a couple kissing each other. However, the two artists continue sharing their breath until they are only exchanging carbon dioxide. At the same time microphones are taped to their throats. These allow us to hear their increasing physical effort until they finally break off the struggle and thus end the performance. In November 1977 a reverse version was performed - "Breathing out. Breathing in" in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. "I was never interested in shocking. My interest lay in experiencing the physical and mental limits of the human body and spirit. I wanted to experience that together with the public. I could never do it alone." (Marina Abramovic, 1990)