Depart Foundation presents Ulay: The Animist, its first solo exhibition and the first West Coast presentation for German artist Frank Uwe Laysiepen, known by his pseudonym – Ulay (b.1943).
This landmark exhibition highlights key features of his oeuvre, unfolding the main trajectories that draw on his performances and photographic works. A pioneer of body art, performance art and Polaroid photography, Ulay is well known for Relation Works – his collaborative period with Marina Abramović, between the years 1976 and 1988. Recently, Ulay’s individual work achieved newfound attention, culminating with the 2016 retrospective exhibitions at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Nederlandse Fotomuseum, Rotterdam and GNYP Gallery Berlin.
The Animist unfolds Ulay’s individual oeuvre by exploring the hidden connections between seemingly disparate aspects of his work and his passionate life. The exhibition traces the genealogy of Ulay’s self-performative Polaroid photography from the early 1970s to the life size experiments he conducted with large format Polaroid technique in the 1990s. This presentation also includes photographic documentations of his travels throughout China and Australia, bringing together a body of works that truly reflects the artist’s underlying preoccupation with the expression of reality in its most immediate and intense form.
The show takes its title from a 1995 performance of the same name, in which Ulay tests the boundaries of perception and public participation through a subversive combination of sounds and ritual gestures. Considering the metaphor of “the animist” as the most appropriate expression of the core of Ulay’s work – a figure that joins together and reconfigures the relation between the spiritual and material world – the exhibition invites viewers to discover the artist’s intense experiences and insights into what constitutes reality.
Ulay’s commitment to showing life in its most basic, raw, and truthful form poses an existential and ethical dimension, where the Polaroid is the preferred medium to embody his take on reality by capturing the image’s process of becoming. At a retrospective glance, these images stand out through a personal aesthetic purged of emotion and stylistic artifices. They go beyond the crust of conventional thought in order to penetrate at the heart of what constitutes subjective reality, thus encouraging us to fundamentally reconsider our relationship with ourselves and with the world.
Exhibition curated by Maria Rus Bojan.