ULAY WAS HERE AS WELL. Members of DAI's extended family look back with tender emotions to its early days between 2003 and 2008 when Frank Uwe Laysiepen (1943–2020), known as Ulay, was a regular guest tutor, who generously contributed to our emergence as a space for research and study through (or on) performance. We remember him with gratitude. Please visit the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where the largest-ever retrospective and the first international posthumous exhibition, including many never before seen works, has opened in November 2020. ULAY WAS HERE can be visited till the 18th of April. While Ulay’s work with Marina Abramović is iconic, ULAY WAS HERE shows his impressive solo oeuvre as a pioneer of Polaroid photography and performance and body art: experimental and uncompromising.
Ulay’s complex artistic expression is rooted in photography. He developed a novel approach in both method and subject matter, using the camera to investigate his identity while exploring socially constructed issues of gender. Over time, Ulay’s handling of photography became increasingly performative. His own body became the medium, even to the point of endangering himself. His groundbreaking performances with Abramović had this same intensity and confrontational power. In Ulay’s later performances, his body remained the object of research.
Comprising approximately 200 works, ULAY WAS HERE encompasses four key themes: performance and the performative aspects of photography; (gender) identity and the body as a medium; engagement with social and political issues; and his relationship with Amsterdam, where Ulay lived for four decades. The exhibition includes photographs, Polaroids (from small to life-size), Polagrams, sculptures, projections, and documentary material. One gallery is reserved for a three-part project by de Appel arts center, which was co-founded by Ulay in 1975.
Stedelijk Director Rein Wolfs: “With its rich history and deep expertise in performance and time-based media art, the Stedelijk is the perfect museum for this exhibition. To strengthen this, the Stedelijk recently acquired Ulay’s seminal work Irritation, There Is a Criminal Touch to Art (1976), the registration of him stealing Spitzweg’s painting The Poor Poet from Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie and installing it in the home of an immigrant Turkish family. Central to the exhibition, it marks the end of his initial solo career before stepping into the twelve-year collaboration with Marina Abramović.”
On its YouTube channel, the Stedelijk presents several online tours of ULAY WAS HERE. The first tour with Rein Wolfs is already online: please click here. Tours with curator Hripsimé Visser, Hana Ostan Ožbolt of the ULAY Foundation, son Jurriaan Löwensteyn and Marina Abramović will follow in the upcoming weeks.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam