Ulay (born Frank Uwe Laysiepen German: [fʁaŋk ˈuːvə laɪˈziːpn̩]; November 30, 1943) is an artist based in Amsterdam and Ljubljana, Slovenia, who has received international recognition for his Polaroid art and collaborative performance art with longtime companion Marina Abramović.

Frank Uwe Laysiepen

(1943-11-30) November 30, 1943 (age 76)
Known forPerformance art

Early careerEdit

In the early 1970s, struggling with his sense of "Germanness,"[1] he moved to Amsterdam, where he began experimenting with the medium of Polaroid. Renais sense (1974), a series of self-reflective and autobiographical collages, depicted overt visual representations of a constructed gender[clarification needed] that were considered scandalous and controversial at the time.[2]

Later worksEdit

Ulay has experimented extensively with incorporating audience participation into his performance art. His installations Can’t Beat the Feeling: Long Playing Record (1991–1992) and Bread and Butter (1993) were openly critical of European Union expansion.[citation needed] In the Berlin Afterimages – EU Flags series, he exploited the phenomenon of retinal afterimages to depict reversed images of EU member nation flags.[citation needed] He produced The Delusion: An Event about Art and Psychiatry (2002) on the grounds of the Vincent van Gogh Psychiatric Institute in Venray, the Netherlands. Other projects that incorporated audience participation include Luxembourg Portraits[when?] and A Monument for the Future.[when?][citation needed]

Rendering reality as accurately as possible was the focus of Cursive and Radicals (2000), Johnny–The Ontological in the Photographic Image (2004),[3] and WE Emerge (2004), the last realized in collaboration with AoRTa art centre in Chișinău, Republic of Moldova.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1976 Ulay began a relationship with Marina Abramović, with whom he collaborated on a number of pieces of performance art. The couple expressed their commitment in their Relation Works (1976–1988) manifesto:

‘Art Vital: No fixed living place, permanent movement, direct contact, local relation, self-selection, passing limitations, taking risks, mobile energy.’

They separated in 1988, through a performance titled The Lovers. Starting from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, they walked towards each other and said goodbye after meeting in the middle.[4]

In 2013, director Damjan Kozole released the documentary Project Cancer: Ulay's journal from November to November about the artist's life, work and 2011 cancer diagnosis. The film follows Ulay's treatments, meetings with friends and travels, as well as his ongoing practice. He recovered from the lymphatic cancer in 2014.[5]

Prizes and awardsEdit

  • 1984: The San Sebastian Video Award
  • 1985: The Lucano Video Award
  • 1986: The Polaroid Video Award
  • 1986: Video Award – Kulturkreis im Verband der Deutschen Industrie


  • Modus Vivendi. Ulay & Marina Abramović 1980 -1985, ed. Jan Debbaut; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, 1985
  • Ulay - life sized, ed. Matthias Ulrich. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Spector Books, Leipzig, 2016; 978-3-95905-111-8 ; 3-95905-111-5
  • Ulay, Portraits 1970 - 1993, ed. Frido Troost; Basalt Publishers, Amsterdam, 1996; ISBN 978-90-75574-05-0
  • Ulay. Luxemburger Portrats, authors: Marita Ruiter, Lucien Kayser; Editions Clairefointaine, 1997; ISBN 2-919881-02-7
  • Ulay/Abramović. Performances 1976 -1988, authors: Ulay, Marina Abramović, Chrissie Iles, Paul Kokke; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, 1997; ISBN 90-70149-60-5
  • Ulay - Berlin/Photogene, ed. Ikuo Saito; The Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, Kameyama, 1997
  • Ulay / What is That Thing Called Photography, artist's book; Artists' Books Johan Deumens, Landgraaf, 2000; ISBN 90-73974-05-4
  • Ulay. WE EMERGE, authors: Thomas McEvilley, Irina Grabovan; Art Centre AoRTa, 2004; ISBN 9975-9804-1-4
  • ULAY. Nastati / Become, authors: Thomas McEvilley, Tevz Logar, Marina Abramović; Galerija Skuc, Ljubljana, 2010; ISBN 978-961-6751-27-8
  • Art, Love, Friendship: Marina Abramović and Ulay, Together & Apart; author: Thomas McEvilley; McPherson & Company, 2010; ISBN 978-0-929701-93-6
  • Marina Abramović. The Artist is Present, authors: Klaus Biesenbach, Jovana Stokić, Arthur C. Danto, Nancy Spector, Chrissie Iles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010; ISBN 978-0-87070-747-6
  • Glam! The Performance of Style, Tate Publishing, London, 2013; ISBN 978-1-849760-92-8
  • Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, authors: Maria Rus Bojan, Alessandro Cassin; Valiz, Amsterdam, 2014; ISBN 978-90-78088-72-1


  1. ^ Cassin, A. in conversation with Ulay. Finding Identity: Unlearning. In Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, authors: Maria Rus Bojan, Alessandro Cassin; Valiz, Amsterdam, 2014 (pp. 189-192); ISBN 978-90-78088-72-1
  2. ^ Bojan, M. R. Body: Threshold of Knowledge, Signifying Surface and Generator of Artistic Expression. In Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, authors: Maria Rus Bojan, Alessandro Cassin; Valiz, Amsterdam, 2014 (p. 25); ISBN 978-90-78088-72-1
  3. ^ Bojan, M. R. Performing Communities: Participatory Aesthetics. In Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, authors: Maria Rus Bojan, Alessandro Cassin; Valiz, Amsterdam, 2014 (p. 43); ISBN 978-90-78088-72-1
  4. ^ Cascone, Sarah. "Marina Abramović and Ulay, Whose Breakup Changed Performance Art Forever, Make Peace in a New Interview". Artnet News.
  5. ^ Sayej, Nadja (2016-05-06). "Marina Abramović's former partner Ulay returns to the stage". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-11-16.

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