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.

"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

The Body, the Pedestal

Marina Rüdiger
2016-05-31

Skin covers the surface of the human body, shrinking or expanding as the body moves and bearing the marks of its actions and the impacts it has suffered. Objects that cling to the skin, that are used or worn by the body, influence its posture and the way it moves and conversely adapt (or are adapted) to its characteristic movements. Clothes, shoes, furniture, and prostheses add to the body’s repertoire of forms and functions. They endow it with abilities that, in and of itself, it possesses only to a degree; for example, they enable it to withstand cold without feeling it, to sit elevated above the floor, or to walk with a single leg. Even when they are not in use, these objects evince the traces of their application: they are virtual images of their wearer.

The pedestal is a body in space. When it appears in the context of an art exhibition and supports an object, that is a choice made by third parties (artists/curators). This choice stands for the duration of its presentation. It prompts contact between two bodies, the supporting body and the one being supported. The pedestal adds several functions to the object to be supported: it sets it apart from the space around it and elevates it; the floor on which the beholder stands is no longer the ground on which the object rests, this provokes a distance that brings the perception of its surface into focus. That distance elevates the object both in fact and in the idea. Things reduced to the purpose of being beheld become (virtually) untouchable and no longer belong to the realm of objects of utility.

Edgar Degas, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans, 1878/1881, by M.T. Abraham Center - Provided by copyright owner of both photograph and artwork, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons



How present may a pedestal be in the framework of a presentation? It depends on how self-contained the work of art it supports is, or in other words, how strongly it insists, by virtue of its facture, on the difference that sets it apart from the space around it. When object and pedestal make their presence felt with equal force, the pedestal becomes part of the work of art.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Vetrina-Specchio, 1966



However, there are art objects that do not rest on a pedestal and nonetheless engender the distance from the beholder required to be perceived as untouchable works of art. A higher degree of autonomy is attributed to works that produce this effect by dint of their own constitution rather than by virtue of their being installed on pedestals. When their surface is in direct contact with the floor they share with the beholder, they do not require any support.

John McCracken, Minnesota, 1989



The body of the pedestal can manifest itself in a variety of ways. The more “normal” it is—the more its form follows its function as a humble support—the more it will tend to become invisible. The further it deviates from this subjective standard, the more its presence will be felt. Factors that play into its visibility or invisibility include its proportions, form, materiality, and surface. When a pedestal does not support an object, its surface becomes a projection screen. The more it departs with regard to these traits from what we are used to perceiving as pedestals, the more it will become an autonomous sculpture. An object of utility then metamorphoses into an object of contemplation. The distinction is not clear-cut. Transitional phenomena range from a sort of phantom pain making the absence of an object on the pedestal so keenly felt that its likeness seems almost graspable, to the sense of formal saturation evoked by the appearance of the pedestal itself.

Shahryar Nashat, Chômage Technique (A,B,C,D,F,G,H), 2016



Shahryar Nashat’s work Chômage Technique consists of pedestals painted in a rose color and installed on chair-like stands, where they seem to be basking in the pink light filling the Portikus. They face Nashat’s video Present Sore, which shows bodies in action as well as rigid poses in brief but intense sequences. The camera pans over flawless or bruised skin surfaces, focusing on the points where they come into contact with apparel, bandages, and prostheses. Then the video gingerly approaches one of Paul Thek’s Meat Pieces, with cables and hoses protruding from it; it is repeatedly interrupted by a rendering of a pink-dappled menhir that lingers on the screen longer and longer. The small pedestals dispassionately observe the goings-on in the realm of things: relieved of their function, they shall not be made to support any of it.

Translation: Gerrit Jackson

To the exhibiton by Shahryar Nashat

Marina Rüdiger, Master of Fine Arts & Bachelor of Art History (Kunsthochschule Kassel), currently studies curatorial studies, a master’s programme at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule and Goethe University Frankfurt and works for Galerie Bärbel Grässlin in Frankfurt.

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