Ulay – A Skeleton in the Closet
15 Jan 2015

A new work by the internationally renowned performance artist Ulay.

Room 1.15, Stedelijk Museum
8 - 8:30 pm
Entrance price to the Stedelijk Museum + € 2.50
Sold out
Ulay, courtesy of the artist.
Ulay, courtesy of the artist.

The Public Program is delighted to welcome 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. The Stedelijk Museum is proud to present a new performance work by an artist who has played such a vital role in the history of performance art, and who continues to expand the field of performance today.

In A Skeleton in the Closet, Ulay examines the action of taking the temperature as a means to consider the atmosphere of a social setting. For Ulay, taking the temperature is closely related to both his own photographic practice, as temperature is an essential aspect of the technical (re)production of photographs, and the struggle with his own body since he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Performed at the heart of the collection galleries of the Stedelijk Museum, A Skeleton in the Closet creates an intimate setting that first and foremost serves as a social structure for the artist and audience to come together, yet Ulay takes that as a point of departure to venture into his own memory and lifelong connection with the social and artistic fabric of the city of Amsterdam.

More information about the artist

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.