Amalia Ulman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1989 and was raised in Gijón, in the Spanish province of Asturias, after emigrating with her family. In 2009, she left Spain to study at Central Saint Martins in London, where she graduated in 2011. In 2013, she was in a serious Greyhound bus accident that left her with a permanent disability.
In April 2013, she presented her first video essay Buyer, Walker, Rover as a Skype lecture at the Regional State Archives in Gothenburg.
In 2014, she presented two solo shows in LA, CA, Used & New at ltd Los Angeles and Delicious Works at Smart Objects, also in LA. She also presented a solo show, Baby Footprints Crow’s Feet, at Ellis King, in Dublin.
The same year Ulman started “Excellences & Perfections”, a four-month performance on her Instagram account. Through her posts, Ulman fabricated a fictional character whose story unfolded in three different episodes presenting her acting as three different personas: a 'cute girl', then a 'sugar babe' and finally a 'life goddess'. "The idea was to bring fiction to a platform that has been designed for supposedly “authentic” behavior, interactions and content. The intention was to prove how easy an audience can be manipulated through the use of mainstream archetypes and characters they’ve seen before."[n 1] Ulman's Instagram selfies were mainly taken sneaking into hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles and posted as if they documented her real life.
Ulman’s exhibition “Excellences and Perfections,” throughout the process was met with dissatisfied feedback. Ulman’s exhibition which was meant to show the presence of gender and sex politics on social media, caused outcries with many critics saying that Ulman was throwing her career away.It was not until after the exhibition was over, signaled with a Instagram post of a black and white image of a rose captioned “the end,” that Ulman began receiving positive feedback on her work in this exhibition. Excellences and Perfections was later chosen to be a part of the Electronic Superhighway Exhibiton at Whitechapel Gallery in 2016.
In October 2014, during Frieze Art Fair, Ulman presented a solo show The Destruction of Experience at Evelyn Yard in London. For the show Ulman made "The Future Ahead", a video essay about Justin Bieber's "growth from angelic teenager to hetero-normative white male".
In January 2015, she presented Stock Images of War, her first solo show in New York City at James Fuentes Gallery. It consisted of an immersive installation composed of twelve simple wire-frame sculptures, each one being after a different month of the year – i.e. "War in January", "War in February", etc.
Towards the end of the same year, Ulman started Privilege, her second Instagram performance, which would last until over a year until shortly after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As opposed to Excellences & Perfections, where Ulman enacted an entirely fictitious character, Privilege saw the artist become an exaggerated version of herself and the multiplicities of her real identity, enacted mostly in the setting of a corporate office. Throughout the performance, Ulman created a diverse array of visual materials from New Yorker-style cartoons exploring ideas of class and taste to short memetic videos and images derived from office culture and the cultural climate of the time. Central to the performance were notions of ambiguity and expectations, primarily exemplified by the build-up of Ulman's fictional pregnancy as well as the introduction of an enigmatic pigeon named "Bob", who veered between real and fake animal, hobby and obsession of the artist, and between performance companion and protagonist to sidekick.
In 2016 "Excellences and Perfections" was selected to be included in the group exhibition Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern, London (18 February — 12 June 2016). The exhibition, which examined the relationship between photography and performance, brought together over 500 works spanning 150 years from the invention of photography in the 19th century to the selfie-culture of today. Through Ulman's Instagram-based project, social media was examined in the historical context of photographic performances. The installation was also part of the exhibition Electronic Highway at Whitechapel Gallery in London. Ulman has thus been described as the first social network-based artist to enter top institutional galleries.
- Promise a Future, Marbriers 4, Geneva
- Moist Forever, Future Gallery, Berlin
- Ethira, Arcadia Missa, London
- Used & New, Ltd, Los Angeles
- Delicious Works, Smart Objects, Los Angeles
- Babyfootprints Crow's Feet, Ellis King, Dublin
- The Destruction of Experience, Evelyn Yard Gallery, London
- Stock Images of War, James Fuentes Gallery, New York City
- International House Of Cozy, Showroom MAMA, Rotterdam
- Dignity, James Fuentes Gallery, New York City
- Intolerance, BARRO, Buenos Aires
- Monday Cartoons, Deborah Schamoni, Munich
- Atchoum!, Galerie Sympa, Figeac
- New World 1717, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
- The narrative which unfolded over the course of the performance “Excellences & Perfections” was presented as follows: "The provincial girl moves to the big city, wants to be a model, wants money, splits up with her high-school boyfriend, wants to change her lifestyle, enjoys singledom, runs out of money because she doesn’t have a job, because she is too self-absorbed in her narcissism, she starts going on seeking-arrangement dates, gets a sugar daddy, gets depressed, starts doing more drugs, gets a boob job because her sugar daddy makes her feel insecure about her body, and also he pays for it, she goes through a breakdown, redemption takes place, the crazy bitch apologizes, the dumb blonde turns brunette and goes back home. Probably goes to rehab, then she is grounded at her family house."
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