30 Under 35 2019

Amalia Ulman Toys with Authenticity

Elizabeth Karp-Evans

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

Amalia-Ulman
Amalia Ulman in front of the Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA in Los Angeles, 2018.

“I don’t like for art to become art objects, ornaments. Instead, I like to look at ideas under a different light completely, all the time,” Amalia Ulman reveals. “I’m a perpetual student with no goal of becoming a teacher.” Ulman is a pioneer in the ephemeral world of internet art as it functions across social networking platforms. Fundamentally, she is a thought-provoking multidisciplinary performance artist who examines the way people interact with each other. One of Ulman’s greatest strengths is taking the social temperature of Western culture and investigating how contemporary power structures influence the general public online, often by infiltrating the very top of said structures.

A single work of Ulman’s can span years on social media and translate into essays, lectures, installations, publications and video, to name a few mediums she works in. In her online performance Privilege (2015–16), she utilized tropes from silent cinema to create a comedic caricature of herself. Inspired by the political climate of the time, the project situates Ulman’s character in cis white male-dominant office culture in order to critique our understanding of power and austerity in everything from media to fashion marketing.

Excellences & Perfections (Instagram Update 6th July 2014), 2014.

Following the authenticity-bending Excellences & Perfections (2014), Privilege is Ulman’s final scripted work using Instagram as a platform—a publication documenting the performance launched in November in China. However, Ulman is still interested in engaging in long-term projects. “I’m excited to be working on my first feature film, both as an actress for another director in one project and as a director, screenwriter and actress in another,” says Ulman, “and I’m planning to start writing a novella that has been in my mind since 2013.”