Opening: 30.06.2017, 19h

Portikus is pleased to present the exhibition Teaxths and Angeruage by the British artist Michael Dean. Although sculpture is one of the central media of the sculptor, language and text form the basis of his individual works and sometimes of entire exhibitions. Using language as a fragment and an act, similar to an act of speech, which is not only a statement, but also an action, Michael Dean translates text fragments and typographies into physical experiences. His works, made of simple materials such as steel and concrete, refer to abstract bodies and thus orient themselves to physical proportions from the artist’s environment. Thus, Dean’s various works become placeholders for figurations as well as for gestures and phrases. Again and again, in his works we find casts of fists, crossed fingers or tongues, which cross the human component of the works with the typographic features.

His exhibition at Portikus now is about writing, words, and language, but at the same time about installation and representation. The title of the exhibition, Teaxths and Angeruage, is a portmanteau of the words text and death as well as anger and language, thus becoming an expression of the emotional force of Dean’s works: language as an expression, two words representing loss and anger, with the aspiration of expressing them in words and language. The artist has filled the Portikus exhibition space with large-format scaffolding structures that lean against the gallery and make the physical space look narrower. At the same time, they are open frames, covered with an almost transparent dust screen, which become exemplary, subsequently reworked pages in the room.

Dean always translates texts, or rather the use of language, into artist books that have accompanied exhibitions in the past, sometimes as a separate book, sometimes as an element of the sculptures and often as a material to expand the sculptures or to create shapes with the individual pages. At Portikus, the artist now uses pages from all the books that have been made over the last few years. They include books with text pages and books that use symbols to portray phrases. Among them are pages from a book that is reminiscent of a dictionary, but only uses the letters h and n:

Nnnnhhnnnnn hnn-hnhn ’n-nn, nn Nnnhhnnnn –nh, nhh hnhnnh
Nn nnn –nnhnnnhnh nnh nhhnnnhnn nhnh nh nhn nnnhn nn hnh
Nh Hnnnhnhn nn Hnnnnnh’n Nnnhnhn.

And a book that recalls a play and consists only of the letters used in the sentence I love you:

LLLLL. Vey ouil?
LLLL. You?
MMMMMMM. Il! O’v youi loveyo.
LLLLL. Uil’ov y ouil. Oveyo il ov eyo uilo.
MMMMMMM. V eyo ui lo.
LLLLL. V eyou il ov.

Contrasting – or complimenting – this is the play made up of the letters from the phrase You fuck you fucking:

KING FUCKY. Oufuc? Kin gyouf’u ckin gyoufu cking.
YO FUCKY. Oufu cking y?
OUF UCKYOU. Fuck, ingy ouf’ cky ou fucki?
NGYOUGU. Ckyo ufuckin G?
YOU FUCKYO. Ufu cking yo ufuc.

Michael Dean uses language in a reductive manner, where one phrase becomes the message of an entire book, corrupted but recognizable. He now tears individual pages from the books, folds them, crushes them, or plunges them into printing inks, and applies them to the white nets with glue. Similar to his sculptures, these new shapes made of book pages generate deformed letters. This is not about readable words, but rather about the visible presence of possibilities to recognize ideas or words. The exhibition Teaxths and Angeruage is also an intimate perspective by the artist on his own dealings with text and form, a disclosure of the personal. He thus attributes importance to the installation at Portikus, but ultimately retreats and leaves it to the reader/viewer to generate a new meaning or idea. Dean removes himself, while his work remains a typographical and at the same time sculptural occupation with oneself.

Photos: Diana Pfammatter