Opening: 03.05.2019, 19h 

The Wolf and The Head on Fire is Dawn Kasper’s (*1977) first institutional solo exhibition in Germany. For over a decade the multidisciplinary artist has challenged the boundaries between art and life, the public and the private, as well as those between the studio and the exhibition space in her durational performances. With the exhibition for Portikus, she has developed a new chapter in her ongoing challenge to these dichotomies.

The Wolf and The Head on Fire draws on her six-month performance The Sun, The Stars, The Moon for the 2017 Venice Biennale, for which she developed a new variation of her series The Nomadic Studio Practice Experiment (2008-). The Nomadic Studio series are performance experiments in which the artist transforms the institution into her studio with her belongings and materials, where she works for the duration of the exhibition, collaborating and interacting with artists, friends, and visitors.

The Nomadic Studio Practice speaks of her personal challenges, as well as a contemporary, nomadic, precarious existence. It developed in 2008 when Dawn Kasper didn’t have a studio and thus performed from her pickup truck (Repeater, Or On Inertia and Anger, 2009) or relocated her studio into the exhibition space (This Could Be Something If I Let It, 2012). Kasper’s performances have become an artistic practice, quasi-institutionalized, challenging the perception of art and its exhibition space through their open, undirected structure. The themes of her performances are often general concepts such as life and death, human interaction, or mythologies. Concepts or hypotheses always underlie the sequences of her actions, which she performs in the exhibitions as a series of predetermined notations.

The subject matter and inspiration behind the exhibition at Portikus is Aesop’s fable The Wolf and the Kid, in which a kid goat saves himself from being eaten by a hungry wolf by distracting him, persuading the wolf to play a tune before the feast and thus dissuading him from his original intentions.

Dawn Kasper interprets this fable as an expanded allegory of poetic inspiration as well as the challenges and obstacles to artistic work, which she demonstrates in her daily Nomadic Studio practice. The artistic production of the works such as the sculptures, lamps, photographs, and musical instruments is thus included as a work in itself, so that the changing of the installation, becomes an element of the performance.

Interactions and conversations with visitors are also part of Dawn Kasper’s exploration of the venue, and allow the institution, with its pre-established codes of conduct, to become a place of actual exchange, without the usual asymmetry of unilateral perception.

For The Wolf and The Head on Fire, Dawn Kasper invited artist friends to create collaborative performances. These too form part of her practice, which rules out the hermeticism of a work or concept in favor of a collaborative exchange.

In this way, the exhibition becomes a place where the notation of Dawn Kasper’s performative routine is inscribed over the duration of the entire period—both visibly as a work and invisibly as stories that will be told.

Performance schedule:

11.05.2019, 21h: Nacht der Museen
24.05.2019, 19h: w/ James Krone
31.05.2019, 19h: w/ Jeff Preiss 
07.06.2019, 19h: w/ Zeena Parkins
14.06.2019, 19h: w/ Marc LeBlanc
21.06.2019, 19h: w/ Mariechen Danz
28.06.2019, 19h: w/ Andrew Lampert

Dawn Kasper (1977, Fairfax, Virginia) is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist working in performance, installation, sculpture, drawing, photography, video and sound. Recent solo exhibitions include: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR; Tang Museum, Skidmore College, NY; ADN Collection, Bolzano, Italy; CCS Bard College, NY; Issue Project Room, New York; and David Lewis. Recent group exhibitions include The Watermill Center, Watermill, NY; 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; American Academy in Rome, Italy; The 2012 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Pacific Standard Time Public and Performance Art, Los Angeles, CA; Public Art Fund, Art Basel Miami Beach, FL and The Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich.

The exhibition was made possible with the financial support of Hessische Kulturstiftung and the generous support of Städelschule Portikus e.V. and Lindsey & Patrick Collins.

Curated by Christina Lehnert

Photos: Diana Pfammatter