Ulay’s Mysterious New Performance Takes a Dig at Marina Abramović

The artist returns to the room that he performed in with Abramović in 1977.

In 1977, long before artists Ulay and Marina Abramović would become deeply estranged (Ulay filed a lawsuit against Abramović in 2015), the pair performed Balance Proof, which found the naked artists balancing a double-sided mirror between them. The seminal performance was held at the Musée d’art et d’histoire in Geneva, Switzerland. Nearly 40 years later, Ulay will be revisiting the very same room of this museum to enact a performance of his own.

The German artist was invited by curator Adelina von Fürstenberg to celebrate ART for the World‘s year-long 20th anniversary this April. As a non-government organization associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI), ART for the World enlists artists from across the globe for exhibitions and events.

“For ART for the World, I asked the museum for the same room as his performance with Marina Abramović in the ’70s,” Von Fürstenberg told artnet News in a phone conversation. “Ulay accepted my invitation and he will be doing another performance with a mirror, but this time he will be alone.”

Ulay.<br>Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

According to Von Fürstenberg, a video camera will be mounted on the ceiling to record the performance, which is intriguingly titled Invisible Opponent. The mirror, which will be placed on the floor, will be pink, which von Fürstenberg described as a deliberate artistic decision.

“The mirror is in the color pink because he did this monograph about his work last year,” she explained. “Some pages of this book are in pink and totally empty because these pages were his performances with Marina, and she did not give him permission to use these images. In a way, the color pink represents the problems between them.”

Ulay’s symbolic use of pink is confirmed by his 2014 interview with the Guardian, commenting that the pink squares in the pages of his book “must have pissed her off.”

Ulay, <em>Code of Conduct</em> (2015).<br>Photo: Courtesy of Thessaloniki Lena Pislak.

Ulay, Code of Conduct (2015).
Photo: Courtesy of Thessaloniki Lena Pislak.

Beyond the mirror, little else is known about Ulay’s upcoming performance—even on Von Fürstenberg’s part. “It will be interesting because I don’t want to know,” she said. “It’s important to have this element of surprise, not to know exactly what it will be.”

Ulay’s performance Invisible Opponent will be held at the Musée d’art et d’histoire of Geneva on April 5. Ulay will be screening his film and hosting his Q&A the day before on April 4.

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