Ouray: the most free and pioneering artist

Sweet Water Salt Water, 2012, Original Polaroid, Polaroid Studio New York, 70 x 55 cm? The artist, courtesy of ULAY Foundation

Daughter Luna remembers strolling along the Ganges River in India with her father Ulay when she was a child, and she saw that people covered white lists on the remains of loved ones, surrounded by flowers and incense. Wu Lei told her daughter that this is how people look after death, beautiful and peaceful.

On March 2, local time, pioneer artist U Lei died in his sleep of complications caused by cancer treatment at the age of 76.

His former lover, partner, Marina Abramovi ?, known as the mother of performance art, posted a mourn on social platforms for the first time, “I am very sad my friend and former partner Ouray He passed away today. He is an outstanding artist, an outstanding person, and we will miss him deeply. ”

Richard Saltoun, owner of Salton Gallery in London, who represents our work, said: “We are saddened by the death of Ouray. Ourey has the most free, pioneering and rebellious spirit. It is unique in art history. ”

Polaroid Trailblazer
Our real name is Frank Uwe Laysiepen, born in 1943 in an air-raid shelter in the small town of Solingen, Germany. Ouray’s father participated in two world wars and died at the age of 15 while his mother ran away from home. Ouray started living independently as a teenager. The issue of identity is his heart, which runs through his creative career. He wants to know who he is, but no one tells him.

At the age of 25, Uray came to Amsterdam to work in photography and was hired as a consultant to Polaroid. In addition to obtaining free cameras and negatives, he also had the opportunity to take official photos in cities such as London, Paris, and Rome.

In the early 1970s, Ouray was known as a photographer. He pioneered the art form of “performing photography”-recording his performances in front of the camera with a Polaroid camera, usually in a woman’s clothing. Wu Lei likes the Polaroid camera’s portable and snapshot style, which saves the darkroom printing process, which also means that he can take more private, experimental photos.

He started filming marginalized people on the streets of Amsterdam: homeless, addicts, prostitutes and transvestites. He was attracted to these people with similar experiences, and began to explore his identity.

During this period, Uray took hundreds of Polaroid selfies. He divided the body into two, while maintaining the male image, while transforming into a woman through makeup-hairstyle, dress and wearing jewelry. In 1974, these half-male and half-girl selfies shocked the art world when they were shown in an exhibition called “Renais Sense” (Rebirth). Art critics say they have pioneered a whole new way of shooting and themes. While exploring his self-identity with images, Wu Lei also started to think about gender issues in social construction.

Ourot’s other exhibition, Fototot (1976), is also influential. He made nine large photos without the use of fixers and hung them in the gallery. The gallery is dimly lit, and only two yellow-green lights guide the audience. After all the audience entered the hall, Uray turned on the ceiling lights. The audience saw the gradually fading image in the photo in a short period of time until the photo completely turned black. Ouray captured the audience’s response. In this way he explained the meaning of disappearance.

Jonas Stampe, a well-known international curator of performance art, senior curator and senior researcher of the Red Brick Art Museum, has been studying Uray and his artistic creation in recent years. He believes that Uray ’s works have been from the beginning It is pioneering, experimental and creative. “He’s always looking for innovation and is clearly different from those of his contemporaries.”

11.30 + 11.30
After completing a series of Polaroid photography, Uray concluded that “photography can only stay on the surface of things. To find your own genetic code, you must go beyond the surface and enter the skin.” Uray began to create Cut and pierce your body and challenge the limits of your body. He recorded his cut abdomen with a Polaroid camera, pinned a cheap airplane brooch inlaid with jewellery to the bare chest, and blood flowed along his body.

Regarding pain, Uray said in an interview, “People always ask with mercy, ‘Are you hurting yourself? Do you feel any pain, but you know that pain does not exist.” He later Abramovich ’s partner and collaborator is more intuitive about the pain. “It ’s like having an operation, they cut you a mouth, but at the same time, this operation is good. When I reach the limit, I just It feels vibrant. ”

The two painless performance artists met in 1975. The same family background, destined to be born on the same date-November 30, they were deeply attracted to each other, and eventually came together. In the following 12 years, the intimate couples inspired each other, and jointly created a series of performance art works that explored the meaning of gender and the concept of time and space, and opened the creative peak that belongs to them.

Ouray hopes to bring contemporary art, ethnicity and social issues into performance art. One of the most radical works is Irritation. There is a Criminal Touch to Art (1976). The artist stole Hitler’s favorite painting from the New National Gallery in Berlin, the oil painting “The Poor Poet” by the German romantic painter Carl Spitzweg. I ran into a closed community and hung this precious painting in the home of a Turkish immigrant. Abramovich recorded the performance art of her new lover with a camera, and the whole process made her feel exciting. This is the first collaboration between the two.

Relation in Space, 1976. Gelatin silver print, in seven parts.?ULAY. Courtesy of ULAY Foundation and Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

In the next collaboration, they either went naked and ran towards each other until they knocked each other to the ground (Relationship in Space, 1976); or they twisted each other’s hair back to back and sat still for 17 hours (《中 中(1977); or kneeling face-to-face and slapping each other’s face in a ferocious manner (“Light / Dark”, 1977); or Abramovich holds a bow and Uray leans backwards, using the body’s gravity Pull the bow full and point the arrow at her chest. As soon as she releases her finger, she will be killed (“Static Energy”, 1980).

They use their bodies to make the difference in gender and the emotional balance and conflict between men and women to the fullest. “I never rehearse performances,” Ouray said in an interview. “It’s about spontaneity-there are no rules, there is no time limit, there is no substitute.”

In order to realize the freedom of creation, they decided to return to the most basic material level, retired the apartment, bought a Citroen caravan as a mobile home, and began a three-year wandering life. Oury painted it black, and they drove around Europe while creating performance art. When planning to buy the caravan, the two drafted a manifesto, which they called the core of the art:

No fixed place of residence.

Always running.

contact directly.

Local relations.


Beyond the limits.

Challenge risk.

Moving energy.

Break up and reunion
According to Jonas Stamp, Ure and Abramovich’s performance art “is good at interpreting deep connotations in minimalist forms, such as gender relations, human survival and death,” and is therefore unique in contemporary art history. Among these works, “The Lovers · The Great Wall” (1988) is undoubtedly an important masterpiece and one of Staples’ most appreciated contemporary art works. “It covers almost all the elements involved in art: love , Drama, monumentality, minimalism, sustainability, life and change. ” In 2019, he brought “Lover · Long” to China for the first time, and the dual-channel color images and 36 photos recording the work were unveiled at an exhibition curated by him called “The Way of Watching”.

The plan to hike the Great Wall began in 1983, and Uray and Abramovich were attracted by the mystery of the Great Wall: The building that best represents the earth as a living thing is the Great Wall of China. It is like a mysterious dragon, representing the unity of two natural elements-land and sky. Their vision was that Abramovich and Uray set off from Shanhaiguan in the east of the Bohai Sea and Jiayuguan in the west, one westward and one eastward, and planned that the two would have a wedding when they met at the midpoint. For various reasons, this project was officially launched five years later, and the relationship between the two had changed.

On March 30, 1988, the two artists finally started the Great Wall journey. After three months of trekking, the distance was more than 4,000 kilometers. Eventually they met in Erlang Mountain, Shaanxi. When they reunited, they hugged each other. Abramovich shed tears, and Uray comforted her, “Don’t cry, we have achieved so much.” The originally planned wedding turned into a hug to end the 12-year relationship.

Since then, the two have parted ways, and when Abramovich ushered in the glory of his second career, Uray “completely disappeared from the radar system of the art world.” The two were on the same stage again, in 2010, 22 years later. At that time, Abramovich performed an exhibition called “The Artist is Present” at the New York Museum of Modern Art MOMA-she sat for more than 700 hours and faced 1,500 strangers, When Uray unexpectedly appeared, Abramovich, who was originally sculptural and peaceful, burst into tears, and the two men shook hands in public. The video recording this performance art was played millions of times on social networks in a short period of time.

Hermit artist
Ouray, who disappeared after the Great Wall project, returned to his family. He married in Beijing in December 1988, and the bride was a Chinese translator on the Great Wall. The following year, daughter Luna was born. He once remembered spending time with his daughter, “My greatest happiness is being able to accompany her during the first four years after her birth. Every day I will tell myself, listen carefully, now you have a second chance to learn what life is .I think of my daughter as a teacher. At that time, my career didn’t flourish, but I didn’t think it was important. The family made me feel comfortable and relaxed. ”

The three members of the Wulei family often travel together. Asia, Africa, and the Americas have all left their footprints. That is not travel in the general sense, but observation and discovery in the real world. They went to Disneyland together, experienced a sudden flood in India, and suffered a robbery in Kenya. Uray was pleased that little Luna was a calm and calm observer.

Soon, Wu Lei returned to Polaroid photography. His series “Berlin Afterimages” (1994-95) focuses on the marginalized individuals and real life of German cities after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also tried to use the large Polaroid camera to take huge photos (Large) like the real thing.

Richard Salton Gallery has been representing our works since 2018. In January of the following year, Uray made a special performance in the gallery, which was his last public live performance. At that time, Wu Lei was extremely weak due to cancer, and almost canceled the event. But he did his best to give the audience a wonderful experience. During the performance, the entire room turned into a dark room. Uray was lying on a large piece of sensitive photo paper in a tortured side-lying position. The audience at the scene stretched his arms and leaned around him. When the photo paper was exposed, the silhouette of Uray and the clear-cut hands of the audience were left on the screen. The final work “Performing Light” is a photographic performance that is as big as the real thing. Richard Salton calls it “the artist’s lifelong focus-photography and performance-perfect Combination. ”

Richard Salton Art Director Niamh Coghlan commented that Uray’s contribution to photography and media such as Polaroids is inestimable. “As one of the few artists who has used Polaroid throughout his career, Ouray’s mastery of this medium is unparalleled. His giant Polaroid photo (approximately 2.5 meters high) shows his unique control over large format photography Ability. “According to Richard Salton, Urey’s works have a strong foundation for collections, from art galleries to individual collectors. His prices range from 2,000 euros to 200,000 euros. .

Contemporary art collector Wang Guang, the founder of the Guangshe Imaging Center, collected a giant Polaroid photo “Tuesday / Saturday” from a gallery in Germany in 2018. He believes that the collection value of video art should be considered from two aspects, one is the scarcity in the physical sense, and the other is the spiritual artistic value. This huge photo, created in 1986, undoubtedly has both of these points-considering the non-reproducibility of Polaroid imaging, all photos in this series are unique and designed by Polaroid’s top team of scientists Manufactured by the world’s largest Polaroid camera; in terms of artistic value, this photo is a creative practice of the two artists applying the concept of performance art to video, which is extremely collectible.

Performing light, 2019. Gelatin silver print on Baryta paper.? ULAY. Courtesy of ULAY Foundation and Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

Compared to “star artist” Abramovich, Urey after solo does not seem to reach another peak. Jonas Stamp believes this is related to Uray’s low-key personality. “He always maintains a critical position on the art market. He chose his own model of success instead of succumbing to society. Between career and life, he chose the latter. Our works will show its value in the history of art, and his commercial value will also be his death. Later, it gradually emerged. As an artist, making history is a top priority, and Urey did it, before cooperating with Abramovich. ”

Oury talked about the “hiddenness” of his character in an interview in 2019, saying, “Most artists, once their style is recognized, will stick to it. This is for the public, critics, collectors and the market It ’s easier and more convenient. But my ambition is just the opposite: every time I try something new, I choose a different motivation, a different technology, a different dimension. If my work is consistent and coherent It ’s boring for me. I do n’t do the same thing a second time. On the other hand, I ’m a reclusive artist. I ’ve done a lot of things that others do n’t know—the reason they do n’t know it is because of them. No access to my creative archives. Yes, I am a reclusive artist, but not an evasive artist, unless you think hiding means escaping. ”

The first retrospective exhibition of our works since the death of Ouray will be held at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam from November 2020 to April 2021. Rein Wolfs, the current curator, said, “As people become more interested in performance art, it is time to re-evaluate the history of this category and trace back the artists who have driven it. Since the 1970s , Uray is an outstanding artist in performance and body art, including his collaboration with Marina Abramovich. ”

As early as 2016, Ulay’s first major retrospective exhibition, Ulay Life-Sized, was held at the Schirn Kunsthalle Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. Curator Matthias Ulrich recalls the days when he worked with Uray, “It’s always so much fun, if I listen to the story behind every piece of work he tells, I’m afraid the exhibition won’t be held on time. We’re in Ouray, Amsterdam When I met in the small apartment, he couldn’t help laughing when I read his epigrams. Their style was clearly influenced by his favorite writer Samuel Beckett. Most of these epigrams are Oury printed it in German around 1968, when he was about to leave his home country to develop in Amsterdam, and one of the words was, ‘A bright future.’