Relation in Time (1977)
Sitting quietly for seventeen hours, Abramović and Ulay were connected to each other by means of their hair. They spent the first sixteen hours doing this alone, but visitors were allowed in to witness the final hour. The form of the performance ‘Relation in Time’ is sober, while the content is complex, a fusion of many ideas. Ulay and Abramovic are sitting in front of a white wall, their backs turned towards each other. Abramovic’s hair, pulled back tightly into a ponytail, is tied to Ulay’s (‘Hair is a kind of antenna, like air roots of trees’). The spectator sees them in profile, each looking in a different direction. At the start of the seventeen-hour marathon, they are sitting up straight. Later, when fatigue sets in, Abramovic in particular begins to slump a little, so that their hair, which was tied together tightly, begins to become looser. The process makes heavy demands on both the physical and mental stamina of the artists. In a very simple way, the artists try to reach a state of harmony between body and mind. Ulay and Abramovic have to rely on their mental strength to be able to sit still for seventeen hours, without speaking. This process of the submission of the body to the mind is a central element in ancient eastern meditation.