Journal

The journal on portikus.de operates as an extension of the exhibitions at Portikus themselves. A wide spectrum of contributions including essays, interviews, fictional writing or photo- and video-contributions provide a closer look on artistic interests and reflect on topics that concern our society, politics and culture.

The Body, the Pedestal

Marina Rüdiger
2016-05-31

H[gun shot]ow c[gun shot]an I f[gun shot]orget?

Lawrence Abu Hamdan
2016-04-19

Between Standstill and Movement

Malina Lauterbach, Maximilian Wahlich
2017-01-29

Textile as a medium of contemporary art

Olga Inozemtceva
2017-05-18

In Obscurity

Carina Bukuts
2017-12-21

From time immemorial, one of humankind’s most important missions has been to preserve knowledge. We do so not only by passing on oral traditions to subsequent generations, but above all with memory institutions. This collective term unites all those institutions whose goal is to preserve and convey knowledge. While libraries and archives may come to mind first, they also include museums. They are places that administer bits of contemporary evidence and seek to protect what constitutes the identity of a society: its cultural heritage.

Sirah Foighel Brutman & Eitan Efrat, Printed Matter, Installation view, Slide show, 29.04.–11.06.2017, Portikus. Photo: Helena Schlichting.



All of these institutions do their part to ensure that we do not forget. Indeed, they function as a collective memory. But like personal, individual memories, there are events that we like to think back on in pride as well as unpleasant events that we tend to forget. Psychoanalysis refers to this process as repression. While the ordinary act of forgetting unconsciously stores irrelevant information in favor of the more important, with repression content is deliberately excluded from memory in order to avoid unpleasant emotions. Repression is thus a natural self-defense mechanism. But what happens when memory institutions also make use of this strategy? When those institutions in particular repress inconvenient truths that nevertheless are regarded as the guarantor of truth per se?

Michel Foucault robbed the archive of its innocence in the late 1960s. He pointed out that this place does not collect truths, but constructs them. Under the guise of objectivity, facts are first produced in such a way that each archived document implies a multitude of others that have not been included in the selection.1 If institutions such as archives and museums serve to administer both history and the present, we must be made aware that power structures within these institutions are ultimately responsible for which contents are rated as valuable and which are pushed into the cultural subconscious. Hence, cultural memory is no more than a canon.

Sirah Foighel Brutman & Eitan Efrat, Printed Matter (Still), 2011.



Those who are inscribed in this canon will not be forgotten. They are remembered. Just as Hanne Foighel remembers her partner André Brutmann. In the video Printed Matter (2011) by Sirah Foighel Brutmann and Eitan Efrat, contact prints are placed on a light box while a friendly female voice comments on the negatives. The images belong to the artist’s father, the voice is that of her mother. Until his death in 2002, André Brutmann was a sought-after press photographer who followed the Israel-Palestine conflict in particular for decades with his camera. Yet the contact prints show not only pictures of abandoned cities and rebellions, but also pictures of his family. Brutmann’s archive is not just that of a photographer, but also of a father. The same rolls of film contain images of heads of state, funerals and children’s birthday parties. While the artist’s mother gets nostalgic when looking at the family photos – commenting on pictures of herself in a bathing suit by laughing, “this doesn’t belong here at all” – her voice often drops when she sees the photographs that Brutmann shot for the public.

Uneasiness accompanies these photographs. The memory of these moments produces silence. The manner in which Foighel talks about the pictures seems not only to provide information about the past, but also about the present. The memories of the political conflicts in the 1990s seem to dissolve mostly in silence because today there is still no solution for them in sight. Rather, the photographs seem to be a historical narrative of our present in that they remind the viewer of conflicts whose traces are still visible today.

“The photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been. This distinction is decisive. In front of a photograph, our consciousness does not necessarily take the nostalgic path of memory (...), [but] the path of certainty: the photograph’s essence is to ratify what it represents.” 2 In photography, Roland Barthes sees only the image of a present that has already occurred, which can say nothing about a before or an after. In the same way, Sirah Foighel Brutmann and Eitan Efrat seem to argue with Printed Matter not only by showing visual material, but having a contemporary witness comment and reflect it on the auditory level. They thus inscribe the archive of André Brutmann into the present rather than leaving it to remain in the past.

Sirah Foighel Brutman & Eitan Efrat, Printed Matter (Excerpt), 2011.



But unlike photography, memory is imprecise. It remains a fragment that can never be pieced together as one overall picture.3 Memory can muddle up data; it can confuse places and people. It can only remember significant events and even those can once again be forgotten. Moreover, it can repress. For this reason, it is especially the interplay of testimony and witness that can generate meaning at all. This connection precedes what we call truth and even then, it must always be verified.

Translation by Faith Ann Gibson

1 Cf. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, New York, 1972 (L’archéologie du savoir, Paris 1969)
2 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography, New York, 1981, p. 85, (La chambre claire, Paris 1980)
3 Cf. Siegfried Cracauer, “Memory Images,” 1927, MEMORY, Documents of Contemporary Art, London 2012: “Memory images appear to be fragments – but only because photography does not encompass the meaning to which they refer and in relation to which they cease to be fragments.”

"Oh my god, this is another kind of code language!"

Amy Sillman, Bernard Vienat
2016-08-17

A Narrative for the Body: Shahryar Nashat’s Present Sore

Isla Leaver-Yap, Shahryar Nashat, Fabian Schöneich
2016-04-22

WE THE PEOPLE – Upholding Liberty

Cosima Anna Grosser
2017-04-25

Portikus XXX Summer Screening Program

Levi Easterbrooks
2017-09-25

Tails & Heads

Levi Easterbrooks, Janique Préjet Vigier
2018-02-06