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

Since the end of the nineteenth century, the Statue of Liberty has stood before the coast of New York guarding over freedom and its observance in the nation. The colossal statue was shipped in pieces from Europe to America. Both the Statue of Liberty and the written Constitution of the eighteenth century, which Lady Liberty holds in her hand, embody and symbolize a Western concept of freedom that remains valid today. This also encompasses the constitutionally safeguarded freedom of individuals to express their own opinions in words and images. In Germany, freedom of expression is anchored in Article 5 of the Basic Law. Nowadays more than ever, this is an essential right that demands protection, but is constantly being stretched to its limits.

Danh Vo, WE THE PEOPLE, 2011, Copper, 223 × 155 × 107 cm, Kadist collection, Photo: Helena Schlichting



Peaceful debate and dialogue between people with opposing opinions is an important feature of a democratic society. In recent years, however, there are political tendencies that noticeably restrict freedom of expression. This is happening in European democracies, but political voices that speak up against tolerant societies are growing stronger all over the world. For example, there are clear restrictions to press freedom in Turkey. Government-critical Turkish journalists are being imprisoned and freedom of expression seems no longer possible.

Yet open and critical dialogue and tolerance towards contrary opinions are essential for our coexistence. This dialogue can be initiated and held by the media or with the means of art. Danh Vo, who fled with his family at the age of four from Vietnam to Denmark, shows parts of the Statue of Liberty in his work WE THE PEOPLE.

Danh Vo reconstructs individual elements of the statue, which was once shipped in individual parts, and never shows them as a whole, but in fragments. The artist produced 225 elements of copper in an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty. The monumental sculpture is thereby abstracted; the symbol for which she stands seems broken.

Danh Vo’s assessment of the Statue of Liberty and its significance takes place on different levels in his WE THE PEOPLE. On the one hand, the artist takes up one of the symbols of freedom directly; on the other hand, the title of the work refers to the first three words of the preamble of the American Constitution from the 18th century. With WE THE PEOPLE, Danh Vo reflects in a simple manner on the concept of freedom and, with the unassembled details, shows how fragile freedom is and that although we regard it as self-evident, it must be protected and preserved.

Danh Vo, WE THE PEOPLE, 2011, Copper, 223 × 155 × 107 cm, Kadist collection, Photo: Helena Schlichting



Freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly are among the fundamental pillars of a democratic society. In her book Notes toward a performative theory of assembly, the American philosopher Judith Butler writes that freedom of assembly is a decisive feature of a nation’s sovereignty.1 According to the Butler, the right to assemble freely as a group is a basic prerequisite for politics that must not be restricted by governments. 2

The people must have the right to assemble freely at any time. The phrase “We the people,” both the title of Danh Vo’s work as well as the introductory words of the U.S. Constitution, is repeatedly taken up by assembled groups. However, according to Judith Butler an assembled group claiming to be “We the people” cannot exist because it can only represent a certain section of a population. Likewise, the parts of Danh Vo’s WE THE PEOPLE, which are never put together to form a whole but are presented only as individual pieces in exhibitions, stand for a larger whole and at the same time for the many different people and groups in our society.

1 Butler, Judith (2016). Anmerkungen zu einer performativen Theorie der Versammlung, Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2016, p. 222. (German edition of Butler, Judith (2015). Notes toward a performative theory of assembly. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press)
2 Cf. ibid, p. 208.

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