'That bodies speak has been known for a long time.' This international group exhibition, whose title quotes the french philosopher Gilles Deleuze, emphasizes the languages of the body. The presentation concentrates on the body as the protagonist of both voluntary and involuntary actions, as the conveyor of contradictory messages, while at the same time highlighting its potential for resistance. In particular, the exhibition interrogates the influences and desires that affect gestic expression.
That bodies speak has been known for a long time.*
Artists: John Baldessari, Josef Dabernig, Thomas Eggerer, Michaela Grill/Martin Siewert, Maria Hahnenkamp, Ilse Haider, Daniel Herskowitz, Martha Jungwirth, Allan Kaprow, Mary Kelly, Ella Klaschka/Olivier Foulon, Robert Longo, Antje Majewski, Aernout Mik, Antoni Muntadas, Roman Ondak, Catherine Opie, Fiona Rukschcio, Deborah Schamoni/Ted Gaier, Meike Schmidt-Gleim, Rosemarie Trockel, Hannah Wilke, Francesca Woodman.
Curators: Hemma Schmutz, Tanja Widmann
This international group exhibition, whose title quotes the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, emphasizes the languages of the body. The presentation concentrates on the body as the protagonist of both voluntary and involuntary actions, as the conveyor of contradictory messages, while at the same time highlighting its potential for resistance. In particular, the exhibition interrogates the influences and desires that affect gestic expression.
The Deleuze quote, taken from his essay on the artist and writer Pierre Klossowski (1979), intimates the theme of the exhibition: the body in its linguisticality. It acts as a provocative appeal to discuss afresh familiar questions: how do bodies produce language, how are they themselves grasped and defined by it, and what possibilities for action are opened up?
The exhibition approaches the "speaking body" via its gestic potential, combining contemporary artistic works with the historical method used by the art historian Aby Warburg. In his study, the Mnemosyne Atlas (1925-29), made up of illustrated plates, Warburg demonstrates how the gesture is open to contradictory interpretations: the comparative montage of historical art works from ancient times and the Renaissance made it clear that, in the course of time, one and the same gesture can be invested with new meanings. What Warburg called "pathos formulas"-the intense emotional movement of the body expressed in gestures-can thus mean both fear and euphoria, grief and joy, liberation and decline.
What lies in the expression of the gesture, therefore, is not so much an articulation of the inner world of an individual artist, as a discursive act in its repeatability. This is what creates the possibility of the gesture's re-interpretation and its performative potential. As well as this repeatability, making the gesture open to new meanings, there is also the possibility of its being made to contain contradictory meanings. The art works presented in the exhibition draw on this productive element of tension in the gesture, and thus refer to an esthetic practice that takes disconcerting incongruity, dissonance, and ambiguity in film, art, and popular culture as points of departure for political and ethical options of action.
The Mnemosyne Atlas by Aby Warburg gives a visual account of the memory of western culture, both in artistic productions and those of everyday culture. Setting out from the appearance of the often fleeting gesture in everyday contexts of life and work, the exhibition attempts - without laying claim to the status of a culturo-scientific study - to pose questions about a potential for thought and action through the combination of images.
The plates of the Mnemosyne Atlas are also the visual starting point for the way the exhibition is structurally conceived. This form of pictorial thought, characteristic of Warburg, is reflected in the presentation of the art works in a free montage. As with Warburg's plates, however, individual sections are bracketed together. A further motivation behind the form of presentation used in the exhibition was the possibility of using pictorial material as a kind of repository that can be endlessly configured, without a definitive conclusion ever being reached.
A special image/text section containing theoretical texts and both art-historical and contemporary reference material provides the opportunity for further reading, with the aim of extending the timeframe of the art works shown in the exhibition. Aspects of prior research can also be seen here.
Image: Antoni Muntadas, Portrait, 1994
*Gilles Deleuze, "Pierre Klossowski or Bodies-Language", in: The Logic of Sense, 1979
Publication (Ger./Engl.), foreword by Dietrich Karner, editorial by Sabine Breitwieser, texts by Sigrid Adorf, Giorgio Agamben, Anja Streiter and the curators, Ger./Engl., ca. 168 pages, 25 color and 52 b&w illustrations Softcover
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