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

"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

“Tails” by Levi Easterbrooks
“Heads” by Janique Préjet Vigier

Moyra Davey, Hell Notes (still), 1990/2017.



Tails:

What other commodities lose is their form; but this form is what gives them them their exchange value, while their use value consists in overcoming this form, in consuming it. With money, on the other hand, its substance, its materiality, is itself its form, in which it represents wealth. If money appears as the general commodity in all places, so also does it in all times. It maintains itself as wealth at all times. Its specific durability. It is the treasure which neither rust nor moths eat up.1

But what if money was gobbled up and, later, shit out still intact? Its value would remain, despite its abject denigration in human intestinal tubing. Conversely, its social value might plummet upon touching and moving through shit, and would remain a trigger for revulsion long after it became clean again.

This passage from mouth to anus, or from hand to hand or purse to register in more conventional usage, does allow subtle abrasions and erosions to accrue over time despite the impression of durability given by a coin’s metallic substance. Contra Marx, a copper penny is metallic money that oxidizes and rusts. Its movement also necessitates wear and the slow build up of dirt, slime, or other excremental substances that coat both city streets and the grasping fingers that disaffectedly drop them in tip jars or flick them into wishing wells. Though a penny’s surface may shine under light, metallic glow is not equivalent to the cleanly or the sanitary despite the frigid institutional affect produced by silver doors and turnstiles. The warm reflected light of copper can obscure a pock-marked surface with gashes and crags where dirt can hide in the marks of faltering durability. Without a macro-zoom or bacterial culture test, this filth goes largely unnoticed beneath a reflective copper sheen despite commonplace warnings of money’s filth. Generally, these moralistic warnings backhandedly revile sex workers and panhandlers. They are sites where small money passes between those designated as socially and physically unclean.

A high school friend once stuck a penny into their anus, removed it, and threw it into a group of friends on a couch who scattered immediately in disgust. Besides the comic hyperbole this gesture made of the link between coin money and the anal, it also demonstrated why money maintains its value in the process of its fecal abjection and slow decomposition in exchange. “We value money because we value our shit.”2 Like feces, coin money is detachable from the human body, able to float untethered through channels of exchange and value transformation that exceed single persons. Its malleability and shifting nature are what is necessary to money for it to function as currency accepted in the purchase of commodities of different types. A few coins equals a trip to a train station toilet as well as a bar of chocolate or butter.

Moyra Davey, excerpt of Hell Notes, 1990/2017, Super-8 film with sound transferred to HD video, 26 min. 16 sec.



Heads:

Like every child who put pennies on their tongue, which is to say every child, I remember the taste of pennies; they tasted exactly like blood. This act was inspired by a kind of boredom, but also a tentative understanding of knowledge: to know something would be to take it all in. To take the coin like communion was a means of making something public private, a secret thing. Ultimately, I knew this was filthy, and felt ambivalently drawn to this newfound play, both impressed and disgusted with myself. Rolling coins around my mouth was a way to learn what I would spend years forgetting: money is the dirtiest thing. That doesn’t stop people from wanting it.

Whenever she learned, Moyra Davey hasn’t forgotten. Since the early 90s, the artist has steadily been making work related to the psychology of money and its Freudian transformative properties: shit-to-gold, a fairy-tale fantasy. Her 1990 video Hell Notes performs the correlation between money and desire. Recently digitized and presented for the first time since its 1991 screening at the Collective for Living Cinema, the video fragments the spatial relations between the construction of New York, the manual work of the unconscious, alongside discussions of money and shit, excess and expenditure.

Desire being a form of hunger, eating and excrement are never far from money. In her 2014 text on appetites and cravings, thinness and productivity, Walking with Nandita, Davey writes “I am trying to think “language or hunger,” but I inevitably supplant hunger with eating, not eating, and shitting, all of which differ from hunger.”3 Will rather than necessity grounds the vortex-like relationship between eating, hunger and transformation. Hell Notes concludes with the artist unwrapping pennies wrapped in lard and cooking them on a cast iron grill, fat gurgling around the coins. Circuitously, accidentally, serendipitously looping back on itself, as Davey’s work often does, her 2006 video Fifty Minutes begins with the artist considering her relation to the shifting contents of her fridge. “I get an unmistakable pleasure out of seeing the contents of the fridge diminish, out of seeing the spaces between the food items get larger and better defined […] That is my aim with the fridge: to be able to open it and see as much of its clean, white, empty walls as possible.”4

I’m convinced that somewhere in this work of emptying out there’s a link to decreation, the name the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil gave to her project of undoing the self. “Decreation,” a neologism, is defined with most clarity in Gravity and Grace: "Decreation: to make something created pass into the uncreated. Destruction: to make something created pass into nothingness. A blameworthy substitute for decreation."5 This extended not only a philosophy, but to a daily bodily regime. Weil limited her food consumption to what she believed German-occupied French residents were then eating, and died of starvation. Language or hunger. “The body is a lever for salvation,” Weil wrote in Gravity and Grace. But in what way? What is the right way to use it?

Exhibition: Moyra Davey, Hell Notes

1 Karl Marx, Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicolaus (London: Penguin Classics, 1993), 231.
2 Moyra Davey, Hell Notes (1990/2017).
3 Moyra Davey, “Walking with Nandita,” documenta14, 2017, http://www.documenta14.de/en/south/892_walking_with_nandita.
4 Moyra Davey, Fifty Minutes (2006).
5 Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, trans. Emma Crawford and Mario von de Ruhr (New York: Routledge Classics, 2002), 32.