In 2014 Ulay said about these early works: “As soon as I began using the Polaroid camera, mainly pointing it at myself – a practice I called Auto-Polaroid – I immediately discovered its performative elements. Taking Polaroids was a performative act for me: I performed in front of the camera. These were intimate actions, carried out in the absence of a live audience.” *
The Auto-Polaroids are also characteristic of the earliest period of Ulay’s artistic activity in Amsterdam in the 1970s, both in technique and method (performative photography) and content (his research into his own gender identity). The title of the diptych, Soliloquy, refers to a dramatic monologue, an act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers. The Soliloquy diptych is part of the larger S'he series, one of Ulay’s most iconic works of this period: by presenting himself as half man, half woman, Ulay was attempting to destabilize the very concepts of gender and sexuality, challenging the viewer to rethink gender categories and to reconsider the normative ideal of identity.
ULAY Foundation: “To us, it is noteworthy that a work so close to Ulay, a somewhat lesser known, very subtle Polaroid diptych, is now in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum. As a gesture of support to the museum in this challenging time, the donation honours Ulay’s special bond not only with the city of Amsterdam but in particular with the Stedelijk Museum. As the exhibition was opened to the public only for a month, the ULAY Foundation finds comfort in knowing that the works of Ulay from the Stedelijk collection will be exhibited again, anew, and in various other contexts in years to come. We thank Director Rein Wolfs and the Stedelijk team for their efforts in the past two years.”
Rein Wolfs, director of the Stedelijk Museum: “It is an honour to celebrate the ground-breaking artist that Ulay was in the exhibition ULAY WAS HERE. We pay tribute to his memory and his personal relationship with Amsterdam, where he spent over forty years of his life. Ulay was a pioneer and one of the founders of performance art, and we are happy to have been able to acquire one of his first actions, the video Irritation – There is a Criminal Touch to Art from 1976. As a museum that has performance art in its core, it is with great gratitude that we accept this donation from the ULAY Foundation. These early Polaroids are a great addition to our collection and an inspiration for generations to come.”