Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) (b. 1943)
With Marina Abramoviç
9 Performances: Relation Work (1976-1980)
Modus Vivendi (1979-1986)
Continental Videoseries 1983-1986
The Lovers (The Great Wall: Lovers at the Brink) (1988)
China Ring (1988)
Action in 14 predetermined Sequences: There is a Criminal Touch to Art (1975)
Ulay (stage name), real name Frank Uwe Laysiepen (German: [fʁaŋk ˈuːvə laɪˈziːpn̩]; born November 30, 1943), is a performance artist of the late 60s and the 70s. Ulay is based in Ljubljana, although his work takes him over the globe.
In all his works the central content is the relationship of body, space and society. During his life he travelled to different countries to collaborate with local artists, among others the Netherlands, Central Australia, China, Germany, and the United States.
From 1976 to 1989 he worked together with Marina Abramović. The performances of this period are the best known of Ulay's work.
In 1988, Ulay and Abramović decided to make a spiritual journey which would 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 and said "good-bye".
At Abramović's 2010 MOMA retrospective, she performed ‘The Artist Is Present’, sharing a period of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay made a surprise appearance on opening night. It seems that Abramović experienced a strong emotional reaction upon seeing Ulay's arrival, reaching to him across the table between them.
Due to his education as a photographer, Ulay documented his performances constantly. One of his favorite media was and still is the Polaroid.
After 5 years as a professor for performance and media-art at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe (1999–2004) in Germany he moved back to Amsterdam but he still travels through the world. He still works with photography but performed for the last time 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
Marina Abramoviç in UbuWeb Film