Get to know BKB member Asli Uludag, a Turkish Chicago-based artist and climber. She recently worked with our resident artist Caleb Freese on a new mural and we catch up with her on climbing and what she’s working on.
Who are you and how did you get to Brooklyn Boulders?
I am a sculptor and a performance artist based in Chicago. I moved here from Istanbul, Turkey for college, then decided to stay after graduation.
How did you start climbing?
I started climbing about 2 years ago when I was visiting a friend in LA. She had just started bouldering and took me to her gym out there. I immediately fell in love with it. It was great timing because BKB was getting built in Chicago right around then. So I went in and got a hard hat tour; the south building wasn’t even open when I got my membership.
What impact has climbing had on your life?
Where to start…
Climbing, unlike any of the other sports I have experience with, has taught me a complete new way of living and thinking.
Before I started climbing, aside from skiing trips and vacations out on the sea, I had very limited experience with the outdoors. My first outdoor climbing trip was last year, it was actually also my first ever camping trip. I was so blown away by it that I went back the next weekend… and the one after that, and the one after that.
I find that climbing is a very unique way of experiencing nature. It is still so incredible to me that I can talk about a tiny little crimp on a specific line at a crag in some part of the world, and another climber who has been there knows exactly what part of the huge rock I am talking about, and we will both have a strong connection with that piece of rock.
Another aspect that sets it aside from other sports for me is how involved it is. When I am on the wall, I am there physically, mentally and emotionally. It is a challenge in all frontiers which allows me to discover my limits and work on them. I honestly did not know myself and my body before I started climbing as I do now. Who knew I was such a weak, scared chicken!.. Which brings me to how humbling it is. It teaches to get excited about improvement rather than getting frustrated by failure… sometimes by beating you in the head with it…
I also highly value the community climbing has introduced me to. It brings like minded people from different walks of life together and it provides a very strong common ground. I’ve made very close friends in a surprisingly short amount of time, met inspiring people, even found talented collaborators for creative projects.
Climbing has quickly become a passion for me. It is a challenge, a way of meditation and self discovery, a way to meet people, a brand new reason to travel and always a work in progress.
Yes! That is so awesome. What are your current biggest projects, on and off the wall?
I recently had a string of injuries which kept me from climbing for a little while but also have taught me how important rest days, proper training and physical therapy are, especially for climbers who have been introduced to it later in life. Getting back into climbing, I’m trying to figure out what my body needs to avoid injury and get stronger while I also try to detect and fix bad movement that puts too much stress on my joints and tendons that has become habitual and leads to injuries.
Off the wall, I am working on a performance art piece on refugee camps and the social transformations caused by refuge that I hope to exhibit in Istanbul in the fall of 2018.
A large amount of my recent work has been about refugees and their journey, and following that, I have decided to start a business called PORT that will hopefully have a more direct effect on the crisis. I have created products that aim to spread information about refugees, concentrating on individual stories. A certain percentage of the sales is going to go to charities, and if everything goes well I hope to plan events that share projects that are being done on the subject such as art exhibitions, documentary showings, lectures etc. and also help people carry their new ideas into reality. The BKB community has been amazing in supporting this project. There are a huge amount of creative people that I have talked to who want to be a part of this, and I am very thankful for having that.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by history, especially past civilizations, their stories and beliefs, and how they have transformed to create our values and customs today. Everything that we do or think today has grown from something else in the past and that makes things all the more interesting. For instance, recently I learned about the burial tradition of the Miao tribe in Guizhou, China where certain individuals in the community called “spider men” by locals would climb cliffs without any gear, carrying coffins to leave them in the rock faces. Today the tradition has died out but they still climb to collect herbs that only grow in the rocks. Stories like this give things that we view as regular a whole different dimension that I find very inspiring.
Asli Uludag was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She studied sculpture and performance art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. To see more of her artwork, go to her website , check her out on or say hi to her next time you’re at BKB Chicago!