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.

In the Mood for Bengawan Solo

Paula Kommoss, Arin Rungjang
2018-09-17

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

"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

What might a minor history of Portikus told through video look like? Helke Bayrle’s Portikus Under Construction (1992-Present) gives this history its images, building an institutional memory and body of artworks out of what is almost always erased and obfuscated: work left outside of finalized and public-facing installations within the main gallery. Though the artworks in this screening program are by no means minor in and of themselves, they work outside of the limits of these artists’ previous contributions to the exhibitionary legacy of Portikus. Almost none of these films and videos have been shown within Portikus before, yet they provide a vehicle for reflection through their addition and deviation. In an effort to let these relations permeate the methods of this program, groupings of films and videos will together assert the value of lack, the uncertain, the secondary, the obscured, the forgotten, and the unclassifiable. Inspired by Bayrle, this project attempts to build a minor history of Portikus from these foggy positions.

Program:

19.07.2017
1. Filming Lack
-Martha Rosler, Secrets From the Street: No Disclosure (1980)
-Thirteen Black Cats, Corpse Cleaner (2016)

26.07.2017
2. Dara Friedman
-Dara Friedman, Dancer (2011)
Dancer was presented at Portikus in conjunction with the installation of segments of the video at the Frankfurt Airport on the occasion of Portikus XXX, curated by Fabian Schöneich and Franz Hempel.

02.08.2017
3. Procession/Parade
-Dieter Roth, Dot (1960) and Pop 1 (1957-1961)
-Josef Strau, Untitled (slide projection) (2012)
-Nina Könnemann, Pleasure Beach (2001)
-Mike Kelley, Bridge Visitor (Legend-Trip) (2004)
-Jimmie Durham, Smashing (2004)

09.08.2017
4. Sound Bleed
-Minouk Lim, New Town Ghost (2005)
-Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Collapse (2009)
-Lawrence Abu Hamdan, The All Hearing (2014)
-Dan Graham, Minor Threat (1983)
-Dan Graham & Glenn Branca, Performance and Stage-Set Utilizing Two-Way Mirror and Video Time Delay (1983)

16.08.2017
5. Non-work
-Frances Stark, Cat videos (1999-Present)
At Home 1999/1999 (w/ Stephen Prina’s The Achiever) (1999)
Thinking About Writing (w/ Joan Didion interview on public radio) (2001)
At My Desk (w/ Björk’s “Pluto”, circa 1997) (2002)
-Helke Bayrle, Portikus Under Construction (1992-Present)
Frances Stark (2008)
Morgan Fisher (2009)
-Morgan Fisher, Standard Gauge (1984)


A book of Mike Kelley’s writings bears the title Minor Histories: Statements, Conversations, Proposals.1 These texts are secondary works in that they did not feature as the central objects of display within his exhibitions. They are more of a textual infrastructure for art objects and videos. If Kelley’s sculptures and videos are given primacy within the space of exhibitions where the presence of text is reduced or rendered totally absent, then these texts could be said to be secondary (or made secondary) even if they might be integral to Kelley’s art making. Forced into the periphery of one’s consideration, that which is secondary in these ways is also minor. The minor is what is comparatively lesser in significance when held against a major event; an exhibition of artworks in this case. But one might reconsider the significance of major works through the framework laid by minor materials. Kelley’s Minor Histories inflects the perception of his major works through texts that affect his works in retrospect by providing a previously inaccessible supplement. This move – from major to minor, from macro to micro – is also characteristic of “microhistory” as a method of historical research. In a preface to the Italian edition of The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (a founding work of what has come to be known as micro-history), the Italian scholar Carlo Ginzburg writes this:

In the past historians could be accused of wanting to know only about “the great deeds of kings,” but today this is certainly no longer true. More and more they are turning toward what their predecessors passed over in silence, discarded, or simply ignored. “Who built Thebes of the seven gates?” Bertold [sic] Brecht’s “literate worker” was already asking. The sources tell us nothing about these anonymous masons, but the question retains all its significance.2

This is the ethos of micro-history and also that of Minor Histories and this screening program, built up through the centralization of the minor and the secondary and the modes of historical re-assessment that they enable.

In continuing to use the terms “minor” and “secondary,” I do not mean for these nominative classifications to reassert a hierarchy of value that makes such materials as subservient to a main event, whatever that might be. This screening program intends to think through the value of working with/in the secondary or minor, making them the central subjects and methods of inquiry, despite the denigration of materials categorized as such. These terms are always relative anyway.

In the context of this screening series, galleried exhibitions at Portikus and the specific artworks they contain become the “main event.” That which rests outside of this (e.g. the artists’ other artworks, art programming that occurs elsewhere in the institution’s architecture, and presentations that sit out of line with the normal temporal constraints of the exhibition) becomes minor or secondary.

Helke Bayrle’s ongoing video project, Portikus Under Construction (1992-Present) operates through the staging of strange paradoxes in this schema. Her videos capture the pre-exhibition installations at Portikus, where scaffolding is erected and dismantled, artworks are crated in, and plans are carried through or changed to accommodate some unforeseen hiccup. Though these events and processes are foundational to the staging of exhibitions in the gallery, they are secondary to a finalized presentation of artworks. On Bayrle’s project, Kirsty Bell writes:

Helke Bayrle trains her eyes on peripheral details, on discreet gestures, on banal activities, in order to get at exactly these parts of the creative process: the things “taken for granted but not said.3

Helke Bayrle, Portikus Under Construction (Frances Stark), 2008.



But are these things really taken for granted because they are unquestionably banal and peripheral? What has pushed them away and into banality? The necessity of an action does not make it banal. There is still deviation within the supposedly normal. In most instances, pre-exhibition labor (the “banal” work in question) is obscured, despite its necessity, in a finalized product fit for a proper opening. I do not mean to imply that all art exhibitions seek to actively suppress the labor and laborers that construct them, but to note a rather typical lack of visibility given over to this (art?) work. Bayrle’s work provides a stage for what goes unseen to be given a new visibility, re-weaving these “secondary” actions into the primary artwork. The supposedly “banal” is not shrugged off or hidden. Its banality is challenged. The minor becomes the major.

With only one exception (Bayrle), these films and videos have never been shown in an exhibition at Portikus before; yet they have been assembled for a screening program to mark the 30th anniversary of the institution. It is an occasion that one might expect to be used to concretize an institutional history. What sort of history is constructed through an assembly of parts that bears only tangential relation to past programming? Might it be a minor one? It would be a bit overblown to present these films and videos within such a thematic frame if their non-exhibition was the only thing that marked them as minor or secondary.

However, it isn’t simply their non-inclusion from past programming that allows them to speak to and from these positions. Through formal methods that play with a tension between the hidden and the revealed, didactic notices of omission, and evasions of false clarity through excess or lack, these videos and films approach material from the bottom and the side as they re-appraise events made minor.

The first section of the screening program is titled Filming Lack. It gathers around the video Corpse Cleaner (2016), by the moving image collective Thirteen Black Cats.4 Corpse Cleaner gives visual traces to that which would otherwise go unseen: secret epistolary exchanges, the production of Hollywood films, and the atomic. All three are wound through each other with the atomic as their linchpin in a long take that snakes through a prop warehouse where the forgotten infrastructure of big-budget movie production resides. Thirteen Black Cats makes their video in the negative, using impressions and aftereffects to register the resistance of the atomic to clean and discrete images. Both form and content approach major events (i.e. the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States military) through the peripheral and the minor.

Thirteen Black Cats, Corpse Cleaner, 2016, Courtesy the artists.



The screening series concludes with Morgan Fisher’s film Standard Gauge (1984) as part of the event Non-work. Pulling his collection of 35mm film stock across a light box, Fisher comments on the content of each frame and the hidden histories of labor and production that result in the images we see burned into the film. His narration gives voice to that which is obscured in a finished Hollywood movie playing out on the silver screen, stripped of all its imperfections and messy origins. Lab technicians, projectionists, and anonymous women used to calibrate film color are all rewritten into a final product that typically relies on the erasure of any traces of their work.

Morgan Fisher, Standard Gauge, 1984, 16-mm, color, optical sound, 35', Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York.



Stretched between Standard Gauge and Corpse Cleaner, this summer screening series tries to keep faithful to its bookends and the drive towards a re-appraisal of the minor that Helke Bayrle plants at the core of an unfolding history of Portikus. On the occasion of the institution’s 30th anniversary, an event marked by city wide installations, events, and readings under the banner of Portikus XXX, the summer screening series will try to approach the marking of historical events from below and behind, from the secondary and the minor.

Click here for the complete Summer Screening Program (PDF)

1 Kelley showed at Portikus in 1992 and will feature in the Procession/Parade segment of the Portikus XXX Summer screening series. The video Bridge Visitor (Lengend-Trip) (2004) will be shown.
2 Carlo Ginzburg, The cheese and the worms: the cosmos of a sixteenth-century miller (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), xiii.
3 Kirsty Bell, “On Helke Bayrle’s Portikus Archive,” in Portikus Under Construction 1992-2016, ed. Fabian Schöneich (Berlin: Sternberg, 2017), 130.
4 Thirteen Black Cats is a collective whose members include Vic Brooks, Evan Calder Williams, and Lucy Raven. Raven’s exhibition Curtains was held at Portikus in 2014.

Tails & Heads

Levi Easterbrooks, Janique Préjet Vigier
2018-02-06