The journal on 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.

Mutant Creature Making Books

Manuel Cirauqui, María Mur Deán

Online Conversation

Angela Lühning, Carl Haarnack, Oliver Hardt & Willem de Rooij

L'Esprit—Absolventenausstellung 2020

Louisa Behr und Johanna Weiß

Tails & Heads

Levi Easterbrooks, Janique Préjet Vigier

Portikus XXX Summer Screening Program

Levi Easterbrooks

WE THE PEOPLE – Upholding Liberty

Cosima Anna Grosser

"Oh my god, this is another kind of code language!"

Amy Sillman, Bernard Vienat

A Narrative for the Body: Shahryar Nashat’s Present Sore

Isla Leaver-Yap, Shahryar Nashat, Fabian Schöneich

Fermented Present

Franciska Nowel Camino

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, 'Inflorescence', Installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 2023, photo: Jens Gerber

In 1956, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda dedicated an ode to the corn plant. In this solemn poem form, he praised the metamorphoses of the grain and its influence on the human condition. The “green lance”, later covered by “golden corn”, is a symbol of the salient and precious plant, but also a reference to the changes in corn culture due to colonization: a weapon always means defense and pain – and gold awakens greed. From the 16th century onward, Spanish chroniclers reported supposed landscapes of gold in their accounts of Central and South America. But they had misunderstood the pre-colonial narrations, whose description referred not to the precious metal, but to cornfields. Even today, graffiti murals in Bogotá’s urban landscape address this misunderstanding of the golden landscapes, illustrating that wealth as a monetary value is based on Western world views and thus deviates strongly from Andean ideologies.

Already in the second paragraph of his Ode to Maize, Neruda formulated a temporal reversal when he admonishes himself to emphasize the “simple grain in the kitchens” instead of the “history in the shroud.” In Inflorescence, her exhibition at Portikus, the artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca (*1980, Lima) starts precisely there, in the kitchens, the everyday, and carries out a change of perspective that already resonates with Neruda. Over the two floors at Portikus, the cultural significance of corn plants can be traced from different perspectives. In doing so, the artist emphasizes how Central and South America, the regions of origin of corn culture, were often not given enough consideration in history and works against the tendency, dominant in colonial chronicles, to overlook the history of development of local plants and thus devalue the agricultural skills and achievements of indigenous cultures.

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, 'Inflorescence', Installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 2023, photo: Jens Gerber

The flowering period of corn plants in Central Europe lasts from July to September. The grasses and cobs are harvested until late October. For her exhibition at Portikus, Garrido-Lecca responds to the local conditions of the crop plant, exhibiting it in a variety of forms. Whether plants standing upright in bundles or leaning against the wall, corn cobs sturdily set in metal frames that serve as seating, or a wall box filled with dried cobs, corn is the main motif and material of Inflorescence and thus serves as a means for the artist to reflect on the mutual influence of man and nature. The sculptures of bundled corn plants are topped by antennas, as they are known from telecommunications. Sticking out of the bundles, it appears as if they were part of the drying process themselves. Technology and nature can no longer be separated, but rather merge into one another. The challenges resulting from this neo-colonial entanglement are likewise discussed by the many voices that are part of the radio broadcasts accompanying the exhibition, and deepened with ecological, social, biological as well as political aspects: The desire for diversity of varieties and ecological cultivation measures on the one hand, and the ever-growing spread of genetically modified corn1 on the other hand, is a paradox whose magnitude becomes tangible as one listens. The antennas thus symbolically stand not only for global networking, far-reaching communication, and knowledge transfer, but, in their relationship to corn, also for clinging ambivalences. Partly radiant, sometimes lattice-like, their shimmering rods suggest an anthropological imbalance and from a material point of view it is evident that the aluminum will outlast the plant.

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, 'Inflorescence', Installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 2023, photo: Max Creasy

The displaced temporality of nature and technology in capitalism also becomes clear in relation to the traditional use of corn in everyday life. Five thousand years ago, Mexico and Peru were the first countries and regions in which corn was domesticated. Since then, it has been deeply inscribed in the cultural history and culinary culture of both countries: Mexico, for example, is known for its corn tortillas, Peru for the nutritious cold drink chicha de jora, made from fermented corn. Aspects of these processes are materialized in Inflorescence through a millstone, or bowls, plates, vats, and jugs scattered throughout the floors. These utilitarian objects represent an ongoing practice of corn processing and incorporation as part of a present in which Latin American farmers are politically engaged in preserving their communities’ traditions, seed diversity, and the right to food sovereignty. Communal forms of organization, which have increased in recent decades, are resisting oppressive dynamics.

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, 'Inflorescence', Installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 2023, photo: Max Creasy

Germany, on the other hand, cannot claim a tradition of maize cultivation. Only since the 1970s has corn been grown there on a large scale – mainly as a raw material, e.g., for animal feed, bioethanol, or glue. By detaching the corn from northern Hesse from precisely these processing methods for her sculptures, Garrido-Lecca links local and global aspects of the exhibition site, such as transport routes or seasonal conditions, and highlights the immense cultural and historical differences in the use of natural resources.

The geographical and temporal lens of Inflorescence helps navigate the postcolonial discourses surrounding corn. These include the question of territories and claims of ownership, but also the appropriation of cultural and culinary traditions built on corn as food. The artist’s arranging and staging of the plants and cobs is thus centered around the transhistorical and transcultural meaning of corn, which is largely ignored or not listened to in everyday life in Central Europe. This is one of the reasons why Garrido-Lecca equips the North Hessian corn plants with megaphones that acoustically occupy Portikus with a constant boom. As evidence of the millennia-old corn culture and its affiliation, a steady Morse code sparks a narrative from the Mexican Mayan culture into the exhibition space, stating that humans are descended from corn. But for the content to be identifiable as such, a key to understanding is needed, otherwise the morse content remains merely a background noise.

Ximena Garrido-Lecca, 'Inflorescence', Installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 2023, photo: Max Creasy

Franciska Nowel Camino is an art historian and currently a research assistant and doctoral candidate at the HfBK Dresden. Her research focuses on the postcolonial reception history of Andean textile techniques. She studied art history, Romance languages and literature, and archaeology at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and worked in the Städel Museum’s Graphic and Digital Collection as well as at Frankfurt’ Curatorial Studies - Theory - History - Criticism program. Her texts have previously appeared in anthologies, exhibition catalogs, online magazines, and AKL.

1 The free trade agreement (NAFTA) between the USA, Canada and Latin America, which came into force in 1994, favored the cultivation of North American genetically modified corn in Mexico through the dismantling of customs tariffs. The resulting impact on local corn cultivation has since led, among other things, to the irreversible destruction of local corn varieties.

Log Diversion

Liberty Adrien, Carina Bukuts, Rand Elarabi, Nils Fock, Maria Guhr, Rabika Hussain, Mary Bom Kahama, Blaykyi Kenyah, Hanna Launikovich, Nelli Lorenson, Hemansingh Lutchmun, francisco m.v., Hilda Stammarnas, Elsa Stanyer, Amina Szecsödy, Yuxiu Xiong

In the Mood for Bengawan Solo

Paula Kommoss, Arin Rungjang

In Obscurity

Carina Bukuts

Textile as a medium of contemporary art

Olga Inozemtceva

Between Standstill and Movement

Malina Lauterbach, Maximilian Wahlich

The Body, the Pedestal

Marina Rüdiger

H[gun shot]ow c[gun shot]an I f[gun shot]orget?

Lawrence Abu Hamdan