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|Born||Frank Uwe Laysiepen
November 30, 1943
|Known for||Performance art|
Ulay (real name Frank Uwe Laysiepen German: [fʁaŋk ˈuːvə laɪˈziːpn̩]; born November 30, 1943 in Solingen, Germany), is an artist based in Amsterdam and Ljubljana, although his work takes him all over the globe.
The principal theme in all his works revolves around the relationship between body, space and society. Ulay has travelled to different countries over the years to collaborate with local artists, among others the Netherlands, Central Australia, China, Germany, and the United States. After a spell of five years as Professor for Performance and Media Art at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe (1999–2004), he moved back to Amsterdam.
From 1976 to 1989 he worked together with Marina Abramović. The performances of this period are some of the duo's best known work. In 1988, Ulay and Abramović decided to make a spiritual journey to end their relationship. Each of them walked the Great Wall of China, starting from the two opposite ends and meeting in the middle. Ulay started from the Gobi Desert and Abramović from the Yellow Sea. After each of them walked 2500 km, they met in the middle to bid good-bye.
At Abramović's 2010 MOMA retrospective, the duo briefly reunited when Ulay made a surprise appearance on the opening night and sat at the other end of the table when Abramovic was performing ‘The Artist Is Present’, a piece originally conceived in the mid-1980s when the two artists would sit silently in front of each other for an indefinite period of time.
Due to his education as a photographer, Ulay constantly documented his performances. One of his favorite media was and still is the Polaroid. He still works mostly with photography but recently performed at Mediamatic's "It's Happening Now" in Amsterdam on May 6, 2007. His current project WATERTOALL focuses on the Arab world and its water shortage in comparison with the sinking Netherlands.
In a 2011 interview, he stated:
Recently I decided that whenever I meet someone, I should introduce myself as “Water.” Think of it: our brains are about 90 percent water, our bodies about 68 percent. Not even Waterman, simply Water: it makes people curious, they say, “pardon?” and I say again “Water."
This immediately starts a conversation and creates an awareness about it. This new name conveys my deep concern about water.—Ulay, Brooklyn Rail Interview, May 2011
Prizes and awards
- 1984: The San Sebastian Video Award
- 1985: The Lucano Video Award
- 1986: The Polaroid Video Award
- 1986: Video Award – Kulturkreis im Verband der Deutschen Industrie