During her stay at a 5-star hotel and spa just a stone’s throw from Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, Amalia Ulman instagrammed several images of the basilica’s iconic dome and minarets – one right from her window. Over this period of a few days, when she wasn’t being photographed in the bath or taking selfies with new outfits and handbags, the artist took time out to blow an air kiss to her followers, prompting comments such as ‘Please stay here in Istanbul, Istanbul is prettier when you are here.’ The six photographs Ulman produced in Istanbul comprise the finale of the artist’s Instagram-based performance ‘Excellences & Perfections’. The first of its kind on the platform, the project was also the first to be archived by Colloq, publisher Rhizome’s new tool for preservation of digital artworks.
‘It’s the story of a provincial girl with the dream of becoming a model, who’s scouted by a photographer and ends up doing just that and living in LA. She’s running out of money and splitting up with her boyfriend, and falls into this loophole of becoming a sugar baby but feeling ok because she has money. Then things turn darker and she starts taking drugs, she goes to rehab, and eventually she goes back to her family.’
Courtesy the artist
The project began 6 months earlier with a post that read simply ‘Part 1.’ In character and following a tightly scripted storyline, the artist is shown shopping and dining out, browsing online for her dream kitchen, taking revealing selfies in bed and in front of the mirror, undergoing a nose job and breast implants, and experiencing moments of pride and remorse including a two week hiatus resulting from a complete break down. Interspersed with memes such as ‘do not compare yourself to others’, the project echoes many of the gendered sentiments and transformations charted in the artist’s ‘The Future Ahead’, 2014 a digital slideshow and spoken word work focussing on the masculinization of the prepubescent Justin Bieber.
As a result of her project’s narrative basis, Ulman’s time in Istanbul looked much more like a holiday than an artistic residency – enthusing over simple pleasures (‘Yummy! coffee coffee coffee!’) and new experiences (‘There is so much beauty in this world’ 🙏) her production appeared effortless. In this creative hybrid of the contingent and the fantastic the artist aligned the expectations placed on artists to self-promote with the normalizing self-design of social media.
Amalia Ulman is an airport based artist with an office in downtown Los Angeles. Born in Argentina but raised in Spain, she received her BA in Fine Arts from Central Saint Martins, London. Her works are primarily voiced in the first person, often blurring the distinction between the artist and object of study. In a multidisciplinary manner, she explores the relationship between consumerism and identity, class imitation and social deception, altruism and empathy. Selected solo exhibitions and projects include ltd los angeles, Los Angeles, 2016; Arcadia Missa, London, 2016; New Galerie, Paris, 2016; James Fuentes at Four Six One Nine, Los Angeles, 2016; Showroom Mama, Rotterdam, 2015; James Fuentes, New York, 2015; Evelyn Yard, London, 2014; Ellis King, Dublin, 2014; Smart Objects, Los Angeles, 2014. Recent group shows include 9th Berlin Biennial, 2016; Tate Modern, London, 2016; Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2016; International Center of Photography, New York, 2016; Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 2016; Jewish Museum, New York; Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2015; ACL Partners, Paris, 2014; Swiss Institute, New York, 2014; Balice Hertling, New York, 2014; Spazio Cabinet, Milan, 2014; Alte Münze Berlin, 2014; Weekends, Paris, 2014; Redbull Studios, New York, 2014; LUMA Foundation, Zurich, 2014; High Art, Paris, 2014.
In 2016 Ulman presented performances at the annual Evening of Performances at DRAF, London and as part of The New Museum’s online performance program ‘Real Live Online’. Her work ‘Excellences & Perfections’, a performance in social media, has been archived by Rhizome, The New Museum, New York.