Project Cancer
Damjan Kozole

Marina Abramovic, Ulay and director Damjan Kozole in Berlin, 2012, copyright Emil Kozole

Synopsis

with
Ulay / Marina Abramović / Chrissie Iles / Chris Dercon / Roselee Goldberg / Saskia Bos /
Charlemagne Palestine

and with

Vlado Kreslin / Chuck Close / Sean Kelly / Henk ''Hanky Panky'' Schiffmacher

synopsis
The camera follows Ulay, a radical conceptual artist from Amsterdam, for a whole year. Ulay was a pioneer of body art, performance art and polaroid art; he was a transvestite, a half man - half woman, a social activist ..., but he is most famous for his long year collaboration with Marina Abramović and their performances that have achieved iconic status. In 2009, Ulay moved to Ljubljana. When talks and plans on the film were already under way, Ulay was diagnosed with cancer, and all plans changed. The first scenes were shot in November 2011 at the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology, where Ulay was receiving chemotherapy. When his health slightly improved, he decided to visit his friends around the world and the camera followed him on this so called farewell journey: to Berlin for the premiere of Marina's film, then to New York and finally to »his« Amsterdam. Ulay treats this illness as his biggest and most important project ever, hence the title of the film Project: Cancer.


director's comment

In summer of 2011, Ulay and I started to talk about the film. In autumn, Ulay learned that he had cancer. He called me and said that our project was not going to happen, because under the circumstances it made no sense to start or plan anything. I insisted on starting the shooting as soon as possible. He said that he did not like short films and that I had promised him a feature-length documentary. I told him to stay alive and we would make a feature-length film.

In November 2011, we shot the first scenes at the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology, where Ulay was receiving his chemotherapy. He lost his hair and looked terrible. Then he began to travel around the world to (maybe for the last time) see his friends, from Ljubljana to Berlin to attend the premiere of the film on Marina (Abramović). Then to New York, where he made a series of large Polaroids in the 20x24 Studio in Tribeca and finally to Amsterdam, where he visited his best friends. The camera followed Ulay for one whole year, up to November 2012.

In all Ulay's works, sexual identity and human body have always been the main subject. The main theme of this film is also a human body. It is not Ulay, but his body. I wanted to make a film about Ulay, yet his body, which has been subjected to so many extreme trials in Ulay's performances throughout his creative span, took over the main role again.

Damjan Kozole
Director

about Ulay
Ulay is the pseudonym of Frank Uwe Laysiepen. He was born in 1943 in Solingen, Germany. Ulay was formally trained as a photographer, and between 1968 and 1971, he worked extensively as a consultant for Polaroid.

In the early period of his artistic activity (1968-1976) he undertook a thematic search for understandings of the notions of identity and the body on both the personal and communal levels, mainly through series of Polaroid photographs, aphorisms and intimate performances. At that time, Ulay's photographic approach was becoming increasingly performative and resulted in performative photography (Fototot, 1976). Later, in the late stage of his early work, performative tendencies within the medium of photography were transformed completely into the medium of performance and actions (There Is a Criminal Touch to Art, 1976). From 1976 to 1988, he collaborated with Marina Abramović on numerous performances; their work focused on questioning perceived masculine and feminine traits and pushing the physical limits of the body (Relation Works). After the break with Marina Abramović, Ulay focused on photography, addressing the position of the marginalized individual in contemporary society and re-examining the problem of nationalism and its symbols (Berlin Afterimages, 1994-1995). Nevertheless, although he was working primarily in photography, he remained connected to the question of the 'performative', which resulted in his constant 'provocation' of audiences through the realization of numerous performances, workshops and lecture-performances. In recent years, Ulay is mostly engaged in projects and artistic initiatives that raise awareness, enhance understanding and appreciation of, and respect for, water (Earth Water Catalogue, 2012). Ulay's work, as well as his collaborative work with Marina Abramović, is featured in many collections of major art institutions around the world such as: Stedejlik Museum Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art New York. 


After four decades of living and working in Amsterdam, several long-term artistic projects in India, Australia and China, and a professorship of Performance and New Media Art at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe in Germany, Ulay currently lives and works in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

about the director
DAMJAN KOZOLE

Born in 1964, Brežice, Slovenia (then Yugoslavia); is one of the most recognized Slovenian filmmakers.
In his films “some of the most raffish, funky and even sordid characters discover their own humanity” (Alissa Simon, Variety).
Sight & Sound ranked his Spare Parts (2003) among 10 most important films of the New Europe. In 2005, his retrospective took part in the US and Canada, hosted by American Film Institute. Spare Parts tells a story of Slovenian human traffickers who transport illegal migrants from Croatia on to the Western Europe for a hefty fee. After Berlinale Competition premiere, film won many awards on more than 50 festivals where it has screened. Released in more than 20 countries, it received one of the best reviews of the year from Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw who said “Kozole has given us one of the most powerful and provocative movies of the year”.
His Labour Equals Freedom (2005) premiered at Locarno IFF and was awarded Grand Prix and Best Director Award in Valencia. It tells a story about depressed middle-age man who finds new joy in life through working for the common good. Variety’s Eddie Cockrell pointed “Kozole creates a mood of affectionate cynicism with shrewd subtexts tallying foibles of contempo society”.
His Forever (2008) premiered at Rotterdam IFF 2008, while his latest feature Slovenian Girl (2009) opened in Sarajevo, Toronto and Pusan in 2009, received Grand Prix and best director award at Girona (Spain), three best actress awards and has been released in more than 30 countries (incl. France, USA, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico and UK).

Feature films:
The Fatal Telephone (1987), drama
Remington (1988), road movie
Stereotype (1997), black comedy
Porn Film (2000), comedy, eng.emotionfilm.si/pornofilm
Spare Parts (2003), drama, eng.emotionfilm.si/rd
Visions of Europe: 25 European Directors. 25 Visions. 1 Film (2004), Slovenian episode, short feature – Europe (5 min), www.visionsofeurope.dk
Labour Equals Freedom (2005), black comedy, eng.emotionfilm.si/delo
Forever (2008), drama, eng.emotionfilm.si/forever
Slovenian Girl (2009), drama, www.slovenka.si
Long Vacation (2012), feature documentary, www.emotionfilm.si/filmi/dolge-pocitnice/
Ulay (2013), feature documentary, www.ulay.si

director's statement

director's comment
In summer of 2011, Ulay and I started to talk about the film. In autumn, Ulay learned that he had cancer. He called me and said that our project was not going to happen, because under the circumstances it made no sense to start or plan anything. I insisted on starting the shooting as soon as possible. He said that he did not like short films and that I had promised him a feature-length documentary. I told him to stay alive and we would make a feature-length film.

In November 2011, we shot the first scenes at the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology, where Ulay was receiving his chemotherapy. He lost his hair and looked terrible. Then he began to travel around the world to (maybe for the last time) see his friends, from Ljubljana to Berlin to attend the premiere of the film on Marina (Abramović). Then to New York, where he made a series of large Polaroids in the 20x24 Studio in Tribeca and finally to Amsterdam, where he visited his best friends. The camera followed Ulay for one whole year, up to November 2012.

In all Ulay's works, sexual identity and human body have always been the main subject. The main theme of this film is also a human body. It is not Ulay, but his body. I wanted to make a film about Ulay, yet his body, which has been subjected to so many extreme trials in Ulay's performances throughout his creative span, took over the main role again.

Damjan Kozole
Director

Crew

Director
screenwriter
director of photography
editor
music by
sound designer
producer

Actors

Ulay
Marina
Marina Abramović

Data

Year
2013
Genre
documentary
Film format 
Sony EX3 HD 
Video format 
DCP / HDCAM 
Lenght 24fps 
94'49'' 
Length 25fps 
91'02'' 
Sound 
Dolby Digital SR-D 5.1 
aspect ratio 
16:9 
color 
barvni / čb 
language 
english, slovensko 
translation 
slovenski, english 
 
 

produced by

Vertigo

Kersnikova 4, SI - 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenija
Tel.: +386 1 439 7080
Fax: + 386 1 430 3530
E-mail: info@vertigo.si


financed by

Slovenski filmski center

Miklošičeva 38
SI - 1000 Ljubljana
Slovenija / Slovenia

T: +386 (0)1 23 43 200
F: +386 (0)1 23 43 219
info@film-center.si


Program MEDIA

Ustvarjalna Evropa / Cretive Europe


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