Anne Imhof “Parade” at Portikus, Frankfurt
Taking up the history of performance in the domain of art as well as music and choreography, the artist examines traditional images, structures, and processes and develops new tactics that contribute to an expanded conception of performance. A crucial aspect of this endeavor is her engagement with a much-discussed genre often felt to be fraught with problems: the documentation of performance. The exhibition at Portikus shows how Imhof has found ways to straighten out the impermanence of performance in terms of time as well as space by introducing a variety of media such as film, drawing, and installation.
The films on display in the main gallery show three performances by the artist. The work School of the Seven Bells translates Robert Bresson’s film Pickpocket (1959) into a complex choreography that took months to develop and rehearse, portraying the dance of pocket-picking. Imhof’s most recent work, Aqua Leo, 1st of at least two, created for the exhibition at Portikus, is based on rituals and secret signs the doormen at the legendary music club Robert-Johnson in Offenbach exchange at night. The artist takes up insiders’ codes that hint at affiliations in particular communities and sets them in new contexts.
Anne Imhof’s works are designed from the outset to exist in multiple versions that unfold over an indeterminate period of time and in various places. The performance Ähjeii, for example, was first staged in 2010 as the artist’s contribution to the annual Städelschule Rundgang; a more elaborate implementation was presented at the same event in 2011. In 2012, she filmed another enactment and then showed the video while performing a live sound composition to go alongside. For her exhibition at Portikus, Imhof went back toÄhjeii once more, filming the choreography in a public space without spectators, effectively producing an imitation advance documentation of the piece. This turn exemplifies the artist’s strategy of disassociating the medium of performance art from the classical sequence of “audience—event—documentation.”
Imhof applies the same approach to the two other works presented at Portikus, Aqua Leo, 1st of at least two andSchool of the Seven Bells. Like Ähjeii, they take place in new variants over the course of the exhibition’s duration. The actors’ movements, gestures, signs, and glances prerecorded on film—and even the actors themselves—will be clearly recognizable. The use of sound adds another layer to the artist’s interest in interrogating the notion of “real experience.” Imhof has developed a multipart composition that becomes part of the installation, with live presentations during the performances. A language emerges that communicates not through words but through the interplay between image, movement, and sound.
The exhibition at Portikus also features an oversized drawing attached to the ceiling of the gallery. It shows sketches for the sequences of actions during the performances, movement patterns for the actors, and lines indicating the division into groups. In order to illustrate the significance of the process—including the drafts and documents describing the development of Imhof’s pieces—for the complex construct of the work, there is a selection of Imhof’s drawings shown on the upper floor.
The exhibition closes on September 7 with a concert by Imhof’s band Beautiful Balance at Portikus and a party with DJ Chloé at Robert-Johnson.
until 8 September 2013
Aqua Leo, 1st of at least two, 2013. Photography Nadine Fraczkowski
School of the Seven Bells, 4th of at least three, 2013. Photography Nadine Fraczkowski
Installation view Anne Imhof, Parade, Portikus, 2013. Photography Helena Schlichting
Courtesy of Portikus, Frankfurt, 2013