7th September – 6th October 2013, Salon Dahlmann, Berlin,
Curator: Maria Rus Bojan
Text retrieved from Salon Dahlmann:
“A pioneer of Polaroid photography and one of the pivotal figures of European performance art of the 1970s and 1980s, Uwe Laysiepen, better known in the art world as Ulay, is a singular presence among the artists of his generation. His radically innovative past work in partnership with Marina Abramovic has lately reached the highest degrees of critical acclaim worldwide. At the age of 70 however, Ulay finally reveals his best kept secrets: a startling oeuvre, coherently rooted in a personal life philosophy guided by strong ethical principles. This inner moral coherence in his approach to art making is only one of the coordinates that distinguishes him from most of his contemporaries. His works assert his commitment to critical thinking, his rejection of any form of authority and the courage to distance himself from market-based criteria of artistic legitimization. After gaining international notoriety during the 1970s and 1980s, Ulay has pursued his artistic endeavors largely away from the limelight of the media. This exhibition searches for the directional threads that merge the seemingly disparate aspects of his work into an ensemble of passionate pursuits, stemming from a rigorous, inner necessity. What transpires is a life lived without compromises, luminous in its intensity, often intersecting major art and social movements without deviating from his own trajectory. Ich Bin Ich: Ulay on Ulay is not a monographic examination of Ulay’s work, but rather an attempt to explore the connective tissue between his life and work, through a series of selected works spanning several important decades in his creation. Generously hosted by Salon Dahlmann, this exhibition is put together by Marta Gnyp, a Berlin based art historian and art advisor and Maria Rus Bojan, an art historian and curator from Amsterdam who, for the past years has been working on Ulay’s first major monograph, to be published in November 2013 by Valiz Amsterdam.
Biography: Born in 1943, in a bomb shelter in Solingen, Germany, Ulay is a war child. His lifelong struggle with his sense of “Germanity” turned him into a modern nomad, a cosmopolitan free thinker whose identity has never been defined by nationality. In the early 1970s, as a young man, he moved to Amsterdam, attracted by the constructive anarchy of the Provo’s Movement, where he began a lifelong adventure in photography. Analogue photography, Polaroid in particular, became the chosen media for an idiosyncratic body of work spanning from early radical self-examinations (Auto-Polaroid , Photo-Aphorisms, anagrammatic collages) to life-size Polaroids and Polagrams, exploring what Andrè Bazin referred to as “the ontological in the photographic image”. His twelve-year partnership with Marina Abramovic, from 1976 to 1988, produced a radically innovative body of work that explored couple dynamics, pushing the boundaries of physical and mental endurance. Their performances, initially carried out in alternative spaces attracted the attention of museum curators and ushered Performance Art into critical and media attention. Ulay and Abramovic’s final act, the Great Wall Walk, during which they each walked 2000 Km on China’s Great Wall toward each other, epitomizes their wish to blur the separation between life and art. Since the 1980s his travels and encounters with different cultures from the Tibetan Buddhists to Australian Aborigines, have broadened the scope of his humanistic approach and his view of mankind as transcending national, geographic and cultural barriers. His latest interest, the concern with artists’ representations of water, further merges ethical principles with a redefinition of art’s contribution to society.”