Ulay & Amelia Jones
9 Jan 2015

Keynote lecture by Amelia Jones, followed by a public conversation with artist Ulay. 

Teijin Auditorium, Stedelijk Museum
4 - 5:45 pm
Entrance price to the Stedelijk Museum + € 2.50


The Public Program is delighted to welcome the artist Ulay to the Stedelijk Museum for a series of events around his recent work and practice, including the new performance A Skeleton in the Closet on January 15, a book launch and public interview with performance scholar Amelia Jones on January 9, and a screening of the documentary Project Cancer (2013) on January 10. Perhaps best known for a series of intensely physical collaborations with Marina Abramović between 1976 and 1988, Ulay has spent five decades blazing a trail of unwavering vitality and unquestionable integrity. His independent work in photography as well as performance is among the most innovative and groundbreaking in 20th century and contemporary art. This stedelijk|forum afternoon, which is organized in collaboration with Valiz Publishers, is dedicated to the official launch of the publication Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, which offers a comprehensive overview of his oeuvre so far.

Whispers: Ulay on Ulay reveals an extremely innovative oeuvre that is coherently rooted in Ulay’s personal life philosophy, which is guided by strong ethical principles. The book attempts to uncover the threads that weave the seemingly disparate aspects of his work into a fabric of passionate pursuits, driven by a rigorous inner necessity. “I have produced a very bizarre body of work,” Ulay says of his artistic career. “I have experimented a lot. You have to if you are aiming at something that does not yet exist.” More information about Whispers: Ulay on Ulay.

For the official Amsterdam launch of Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, renowned art historian and performance scholar Amelia Jones will present a keynote lecture on the changing position of performance art. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s as a highly experimental art practice, taking place in small, independent art spaces, performance is now fully integrated in contemporary art practice: younger artists are engaging with performance in a way that is radically different from previous generations, museums are presenting ambitious and large-scale performance programs and even acquire them as “objects” for their collections, and performance is a common element of international art fairs and biennials. Jones will reflect on these developments, taking Ulay’s broad and diverse artistic practice as a point of departure. Maria Rus Bojan, curator and co-author of Whispers: Ulay on Ulay with Alessandro Cassin, will then introduce the publication and its research premises. The afternoon concludes with a conversation between Ulay and Amelia Jones, focusing more on his contemporary work. Ulay is also available for a book signing.

More information about the speakers

Amelia Jones, Robert A. Day Professor of Art and Design and Vice Dean of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California, is known as a feminist art historian, a scholar of performance studies, and a curator. Dr. Jones previously taught at McGill University (Montreal), University of Manchester (UK), and University of California, Riverside. Her recent publications include major essays on Marina Abramović (in TDR), books and essays on feminist art and curating [including the edited volume Feminism and Visual Culture Reader (new edition 2010)], and on performance art histories. Her book, Self Image: Technology, Representation, and the Contemporary Subject (2006) was followed in 2012 by Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts and her major volume, Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History, co-edited with Adrian Heathfield. Her exhibition Material Traces: Time and the Gesture in Contemporary Art took place in 2013 in Montreal and her edited volume Sexuality was released in 2014 in the Whitechapel "Documents" series. Her new projects address the confluence of "queer," "feminist," and "performance" in relation to the visual arts.

Ulay is the pseudonym of Frank Uwe Laysiepen. He was formally trained as a photographer, and between 1968 and 1971 he worked extensively as a consultant for Polaroid. In the early period of his artistic activity (1968-1976) he undertook a thematic search for understandings of the notions of identity and the body on both the personal and communal levels, mainly through series of Polaroid photographs, aphorisms, and intimate performances. At that time, Ulay's photographic approach was becoming increasingly performative and resulted in performative photography (Fototot, 1976). Later, performative tendencies within the medium of photography were transformed completely into the medium of performance and actions (There Is a Criminal Touch to Art, 1976). From 1976 to 1988, he collaborated with Marina Abramović on numerous performances; their work focused on questioning perceived masculine and feminine traits and pushing the physical limits of the body (Relation Works). After breaking with Abramović, Ulay focused on photography, addressing the position of the marginalized individual in contemporary society and re-examining the problem of nationalism and its symbols (Berlin Afterimages, 1994-1995). Nevertheless, although he was working primarily in photography, he remained connected to the question of the “performative,” which resulted in his constant “provocation” of audiences through the realization of numerous performances, workshops, and lecture-performances. In recent years, Ulay has been mostly engaged in projects and artistic initiatives that raise awareness and enhance understanding and appreciation of – and respect for – water (Earth Water Catalogue, 2012). Ulay's work, as well as his collaborative work with Abramović, is featured in the collections of many major art institutions around the world such as the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museum of Modern Art New York. After four decades of living and working in Amsterdam, and undertaking several long-term artistic projects in India, Australia, and China, and a professorship of Performance and New Media Art at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe in Germany. Ulay currently lives and works between Amsterdam and Ljubljana.

Maria Rus Bojan is a Romanian art critic and curator who lives and works in Amsterdam. She has been a curator at the Art Museum in Cluj, Romania, director of the Sindan Cultural Foundation Bucharest, and currently runs MB Art Agency, a professional platform for artistic promotion and exhibitions. Her curatorial activities include several international exhibitions in art institutions in Luxembourg, Linz, Belgrade, Paris, Berlin, New York, Beijing, and other cities. In 2005, she organized Ulay’s first major retrospective GEN.E.T.RATION ULTIMA RATIO in Centro Parraga, Murcia, Spain, followed by several other monographic exhibitions in Amsterdam in 2010 and in Berlin in 2014. In 2011, she was co-curator of Performing History, the Romanian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. In 2013 she became a member of Tate Modern Russian and East European Committee of Acquisitions.