Sophie Thun, Bijlmermeerstraat 2 (phone), 2024
Sophie Thun, Ulay: the uncontrolled aspect of rushing into position
May 8 – Jul 6, 2024
Sophie Tappeiner
Wien, Austria

the uncontrolled aspect of rushing into position brings together for the first time the performative-photographic practices of Sophie Thun (b. 1985) and Ulay (1943–2020). It also marks the first ever presentation of Ulay’s work in Vienna. Sophie Thun and Ulay never met in person. While Ulay was unlikely to have known about Sophie Thun, Thun was aware of Ulay’s existence. However, she never engaged with his work extensively. Given the proximity of form and content between both artistic practices, it seems as if they could have been in dialogue. Artists as lovers, artists as relatives, using a corresponding vocabulary, sometimes even a kindred grammar. (When we started working on this exhibition together with the Ulay Foundation, we joked that Ulay could have been Sophie’s grandfather.)

[ . . . ]

Ulay’s life and work have been marked by a certain fleeing – running away from his origins (only to return to himself again and again) and, at a certain point, withdrawing from the art world. Iconicised and overshadowed by his relationship and collaboration with Marina Abramović, his solo work remains largely unknown and somewhat untheorised; “the most-known unknown artist”, as he liked to call himself, was an organised and precise conservator, a careful archiver of his own past. “I’m a hideaway artist. I have done so many things that people don’t know about – they can’t know because they don’t have access to my archive,” he stated in his last printed interview in 2019. Ulay was comfortable alone, but he was also happy if people came looking (for him). With Sophie Tappeiner and Sophie Thun, we visited his storage in Amsterdam and in Ljubljana, entering the spaces he called home. The initial idea was to create a dialogue between the existing works of both artists. However, in an act of unplanned spontaneity, Thun also created new works. In the context of this exhibition and the posthumous engagement with a past artistic legacy, it seems essential to point out that the indirect, somewhat one-way exchange between Thun and Ulay is not a singularity in her practice, but rather an impulse that should be read as part of the ongoing, intimate, in-depth dialogues that Thun has already established with two other “archives”: that of Irène Codréano (1896–1985), a Romanian sculpture, and Zenta Dzividzinska (1944–2011), a Latvian photographer. In this respect, her art-making is also a way of building community through acts and gestures of care, through her active engagement with the hidden or marginalised histories of art. While addressing the ethical issues that underpin her revisiting of past narratives through a kind of appropriation, she builds kinships: be it with local spaces (whether Ljubljana or Riga), there-based institutions, where she spends weeks, sometimes months, with the people, hidden behind and in the archives, or with neglected artistic legacies per se. Her actions do not stay solely on the surface but have profound effects in the now.

Sophie Thun, Ulay:
the uncontrolled aspect of rushing into position
May 8 – Jul 6, 2024
Sophie Tappeiner
Wien, Austria

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