Ulay Interview: Advice to the Young

“If you want and need inspiration – go behind the central station.” The iconic performance artist – and self-proclaimed anarchist – Ulay here advises young artists to avoid art institutions and to make works that meet their own needs rather than that of the audience. 

The German artist, who has created works for almost half a century, has a very simple recipe for performance art: you need a location, a date, a time – and an audience: “You are terribly prepared and then you enter your own mental physical space, and you do what you have to do.” Collaborating with Marina Abramović (from 1976 to 1988), the two even promised each other that they would perform even if there were no audience, and Ulay goes on to comment that “if you have the pretension and the ambition to do something for an audience, then don’t kiss their asses.” When you perform, you must hold back at least 30 per cent in order to make the audience long for more.

“You cannot separate my life from art.” Ulay is furthermore grateful that he is able to communicate and pass on the common thread of his nearly 50 years of life and art experience to his audience, which consists mostly of young people.
Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen, b. 1943 – d. 2020) is a German artist, based in Amsterdam, Holland, and Ljubljana, Slovenia. Ulay received international recognition for his work as a photographer, mainly in Polaroid, from the late 1960s, and later as a performance artist, including his collaborative performances with Marina Abramović from 1976 to 1988. His work has continuously dealt with politics, identity and gender. In 2016 Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, held the first major retrospective show of his work ‘Ulay Life-Sized’. In recent years Ulay’s work has also been on show at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and GNYP Gallery in Berlin. Ulay’s work, as well as his collaborative work with Marina Abramović, is featured in many collections of major art institutions around the world such as Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London and Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Ulay was interviewed by Christian Lund in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in July 2017.

Cameras: Primoz Korosec
Edited by: Roxanne Bageshirin Lærkesen
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017
Supported by Nordea-fonden

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