Posts Tagged ‘performance art


Exhibition: ‘The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day’ at ONE Gallery, West Hollywood, California

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 17th May 2019

Curator: David J. Getsy



Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor' October 1975, printed 2018


Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019



“Varble’s total irreverence is no more evident than in his willingness to “cross party lines,” as he did when he wore his Suit of Armor, constructed with gold VO labels from Seagram’s boxes, to both the 1975 Easter Parade and to West Village leather bars! He was an equal opportunity offender, rubbing up against conformity in all forms.”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019



Confusing queen reigns, on parade

In an era of reactionary religious and right wing hypocrisy – Christian sleaze and paedophilia anyone, anti-Muslim and gay Facebook posts in the Australian election, murderous right wing rampage in New Zealand – now more than ever, we need artists like Stephen Varble.

I love doing these posts on artists that certainly I, and I suspect a lot of the readers of this website, would have never have heard of. Artists full of spunk, full of daring-do, artists who rise to challenge the patrons of patriarchy, and the colluders of capitalism (Varble became ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism). Artists who declaim the value of the individual, who shine a light on the plight of the downtrodden and discriminated against. Can you not once bring yourself to utter the word “AIDS” you bigoted president?

“Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances… [He] sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both.” Australian artists such as Leigh Bowery and Brenton Heath-Kerr have a lot to thank Varble for.

He might have risen from the gutter, but his intentions were full of stars.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Many thankx to the ONE Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Varble’s work wasn’t drag in the conventional cross-dressing sense, or “gay art,” which was often defined from a predominantly masculine perspective in the immediate post-Stonewall years. His intention was to stretch and break down the very idea of binary identities, confuse the concept of gender, leave it optional. And this goal puts him well in the framework of queer and transgender thinking now. …

For a series of mid-1970s performances he called “Gutter Art,” he would arrive, elaborately dressed, by limousine (paid for by a Japanese patron, Miyazaki Morihiro) in front of luxury stores on the Upper East Side. Once parked, he unloaded old kitchen utensils from the trunk and started washing them with black ink, as if referring to the domestic life of sweatshop labor. He soon gained notoriety as a kind of cultural terrorist. (Tiffany’s hired guards to keep him out.) He turned up, uninvited, at red carpet events – film premieres, the Met’s Costume Institute gala – to dazzle and deride the guests.

Holland Cotter. “Stephen Varble: The Street Was His Stage, the Dress Was His Weapon,” on The New York Times website January 10, 2019 [Online] Cited 10/04/2019



Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)' 22 March 1976, printed 2018


Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)
22 March 1976, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019



“A chauffeured Rolls Royce glides glacially to the curb in front of the Chemical Bank at New York’s Sheridan Square. The uniformed driver, out in an instant, holds open the passenger door. Rather than a well-heeled person to which such a car would belong, a more hallucinatory sight will emerge, equally glamorous and ridiculous. Two legs appear, only one of which has a shoe. The full length of the body gradually appears, improbably covered in netting and not much else, the entwined nets adorned with crumpled bills. What seem to be bare breasts droop from the chest of a figure of otherwise unidentifiable gender, further confused by a toy fighter jet, poised for takeoff, at crotch level. While no words are spoken, a cartoon speech bubble overhead proclaims, cheerily but with a disgruntled undertow: Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019


The Chemical Bank Protest was Varble’s most notorious and widely reported disruption, and it encapsulated his disdain for commerce, capitalism, and propriety. To contest a forgery against him, Varble went to the Sheridan Square bank to demand his money returned. He created his Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe from Christmas tree packaging, gold leaf wrappers, and fake money. His costumes often combined different signs of gender, and here he wore tow condoms filled with cow’s blood for breasts and a toy jet fighter as a codpiece. The toy referenced the plane ticket the forger purchase with the money, and one shoe was missing to “symbolise his economic loss.” Hovering over his head, a speech bubble touted, “Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Varble’s performances often affected an ironic enthusiasms for his targets (be it a bank, a boutique, a gallery, or a presidential candidate), and his insincere flattery was meant to provide cover for his disruption of business as usual.

Arriving in a borrowed limousine, Varble boldly entered to make his demands as the line of customers at the teller window gawked. On being told by the manager that he could not be helped, Varble punctured the blood-filled condoms and dipped a pen in the spilled blood to write checks (for “none-million dollars”) in his dramatic, mime-like movements before sweeping out to the sound of applause from the customers.

Wall text from the exhibition


“Varble began to truly set himself apart from other gender-focused 1970s performance artists with his outré 1976 performance at Chemical Bank in Sheridan Square. After hearing that someone had forged his signature and emptied out his bank account, Varble walked into the bank dressed in fake money, with breasts made out of condoms and filled with cow’s blood. He demanded his money back. When the bank teller could not comply, Varble punctured his condom-breasts, spilling blood all over the floor, and wrote checks in blood for “none-million dollars,” which he addressed to his companion at the bank, Peter Hujar. The exhibition includes a photograph Hujar took that day, evoking a time when the lax security in banks allowed artists to perform and express themselves, however outrageously (although Varble was then escorted out of the cow’s blood-filled bank by security).”

Extract from Michael Valinsky. “A Forgotten Precursor of Genderqueer Performance Art,” in Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 14/05/219


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation views of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left top, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble with the Enormous Pink Satin and baby Doll (1975); left below Stephen Varble Performing in a Garbage Can at his Loft on Franklin Street (1975); and at centre, Closing Party with Varble’s Enormous Pink Satin Skirt (1975)



Franklin Street Exhibition and Party Performance

in 1976, Varble organised an exhibition of his own work in the loft her share with Jim McWilliams on Franklin Street. He painted the interiors pink, built large decorations, and displayed all his costumes on cut-out mannequins mounted on the walls. The largest piece in the exhibition was a new work the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, some fifteen feet in length. The object played a central role in the “Gala Ending” party that closed the exhibition, as can be seen in the photograph (main above). For this major event Varble enlisted the help of established gender non-conforming performers such as Mario Montez, Jackie Curtis, and Taylor Mead to act as living mannequins for his most iconic costumes. Modelling Varble’s art they paraded with his satin silhouette dolls through the crowd and did impromptu performances – such as when Agusta Machado enacted a campy drama of claustrophobia in Varble’s refrigerator. Day was there to capture the wild party, managing to take individual portraits of some of the major performers in attendance…

In the midst of the playful chaos, Varble gathered these Warhol stars and others (such as Paul Ambrose and New York drag personality Ruth Truth) inside the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, and at a designated time they al burst forth dancing. As the exhibition gave attendees a retrospective view of his output the performance provided a testament to Varble’s place in the queer performance culture of New York. As the art critic Gregory Battock remarked, “It was the kind of event only Stephen Varble could have planned: chaotic, meandering, spurious and very New York […] Even though invitations were hard to come by, everybody was there.”

Wall text from the exhibition


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery with, from left, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble Destroying his Blue and Green Corrugated Paper Dress from the Camera (October 1975); Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale; and Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery


'Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer' [recto] 1975


Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer [recto]
Xerographic print on paper
Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum
Photo: Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery


Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale' October 1975, printed 2018


Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day, 2019



In costumes made from street trash, food waste, and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (1946-1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art.” With disruption as his aim, he led uninvited costumed tours through the galleries of SoHo, occupied Fifth Avenue gutters, and burst into banks and boutiques in his gender-confounding ensembles. Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances. While maintaining he/him as his pronouns, Varble performed gender as an open question in both his life and his work, sometimes identifying as a female persona, Marie Debris, and sometimes playing up his appearance as a gay man. Only later would the term “genderqueer” emerge to describe the kind of self-made, non-binary gender options that Varble adopted throughout his life and in his disruptions of the 1970s art world.

At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (b. 1944) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Trained as an artist and anthropologist and with a keen eye for documenting ephemeral culture as it flourished, Day took hundreds of photographs of Varble’s trash couture, public performances, and events in 1975 and 1976. Varble understood the importance of photographers, and Day was his most important photographic collaborator. This exhibition brings together a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble performing his costume works and also includes Day’s photographs of Varble’s friends and collaborators such as Peter Hujar, Jimmy DeSana, Shibata Atsuko, Agosto Machado, and Warhol stars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead, and Mario Montez.

Varble sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both. The story of Varble told through Day’s photographs is both about their synergistic artistic friendship and about the queer networks and communities that made such an anti-institutional and genderqueer practice imaginable. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble builds upon the 2018 retrospective exhibition of Stephen Varble’s work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, titled Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble, as featured in the New York Times on January 11, 2019. The new ONE Gallery exhibition, with its focus on the collaboration of Varble with the photographer Greg Day, will explore the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerrilla performance art has lived on primarily through vibrant photographs that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash, and public confrontations.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s photographs by Greg Day is curated by David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the  School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble is organised by the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. Generous support is provided by the City of West Hollywood.

About the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc.

The ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) dedicated to telling the accurate and authentic stories of LGBTQ people, history and culture through public exhibitions, educational projects and trainings, and community outreach programs. Our exhibitions, school programs, and community outreach programs are free. We depend entirely on members of the public and private foundations for support.

Press release from the ONE Gallery [Online] Cited 10/04/2019


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left, a still from Stephen Varble’s video Journey to the Sun (1978-1983); and at right Greg Day’s Stephen Varble in the Piggy Bank Dress (1975)


Stephen Varble (American, 1946-1984)
Journey to the Sun
U-matic video transferred to digital, 2018
Courtesy David J. Getsy



Varble receded from the art world and from street performance around 1977, becoming ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism. As he told an interviewer that year, “This is the age of pornography and contempt. The dollar is good. […] The end of capitalism is coming.” Varble instead began to develop private performances and videos about his private mythologies and messianic dreams. His last five years were consumed with working on an epic, operatic work of video art: Journey to the Sun. It started in 1978 as a performance about the mythology of Greta Garbo, and Varble invited friends to his Riverside Drive apartment to view his monologues accompanied by project slides. His ambitions soon outgrew this format, and he turned to video for its ability to combine text, image and performance. He considered these videos to be revivals of illuminated Medieval manuscripts with their rich visual play between words and pictures, and he called his group of collaborators in the video the “Happy Arts School of Manuscript Illumination.” The aim of the “school” was to promote Varble’s vision of societal transformation through the making of modern fables in the form of videos, books, and prints. His “video books,” as he called the tapes, offered an “antidote to nature’s ruin on this heavenly globe.”

Journey to the Sun tells the story of a musician, the Grey Crowned Warbler, who undergoes tribulation and metamorphosis on a journey to transcendence. The tale is a loosely autobiographical fable of an artist who encounters a stern mystical teacher, Sage Purple Pythagoras (played by his partner, Daniel Cahill) who tests the Warbler. Many of Varble’s iconic costumes feature in the video, and he combined elements of his own history with references to literature, religion, and popular culture (notably, Garbo). Combining heavily scripted monologues with improvised performances. Journey to the Sun does not offer a tidy or easily understood narrative. Rather, it sketches a fantastic and surreal visual world in which dreams are realised through the transformations of everyday objects, popular imagery, and rubbish.

To make this “rodeo-paced” video, Varble filled his apartment with drawings and writings on the walls, blacked out the windows, and began filming scenes both scripted and improvised with collaborators. Journey to the Sun is remarkable for its time due to the complexity and density of the video editing – all of which was done by Varble in his apartment. He only completed about thirty percent of his planned work before his death from AIDS-related complications in January 1984. This screening copy presents a continuous segment of around 80 minutes that has been selected from the three surviving U-matic master tapes, but no changes have been made other than the choice of where to begin and end this combined excerpt. This is but a fragment of the much longer video epic Varble hoped would be his major contribution.

Wall text from the exhibition


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery


Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing Stephen Varble’s Blue Boy



“One afternoon, Stephen invited me to accompany him to a performance in midtown Manhattan. He bought Blue Boy with him. We took the F train uptown from Washington Square. Sitting on the subway car bench and wearing his Chemical Bank Protest attire. Stephen hugged, kissed, fondled and poked Blue Boy. He spoke to him in an affectionate and sometimes argumentative language of moans, “ohs” and clicks. I sat across from him and watched as people entered the car. They stared, laughed, gasped, and made disparaging remarks about his sanity before moving to another part of the subway car. Even riding the train was an opportunity for Stephen to shock.”

Greg Day
Wall text from the exhibition


Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy from Leslie-Lohman Museum on Vimeo.


Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy


Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival' 1975


Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019



ONE Gallery, West Hollywood
626 N. Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Opening hours:
Thursday – Sunday: 11.00 am – 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Closed Monday – Wednesday

ONE Archives website

ONE Gallery, West Hollywood website


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Exhibition: ‘Balthasar Burkhard’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 10th February – 21st May 2018


Balthasar Burkhard

Balthasar Burkhard



As is so often the case with an artist, it is the early work that shines brightest in this posting.

The works from On the Alp possess an essential power; the daring capture of actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day make you wish you had been there; and the installation photograph of ‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 (below) makes me want to see more of his 1980s installations, with their shift in scale and repetitive nature. There are no more examples online, but a couple of photographs can be seen in the first installation photograph below.

I can leave the underwhelming aerial, cloud and landscape work well alone. There are many people in the history of photography who have taken better photographs of such subject matter. His life-sized photographs of animals again do nothing for me. They possess a reductive minimalism riffing on the canvas backgrounds of Avedon blown up to enormous size (as in most contemporary photography, as if by making something large the photograph gains aura and importance) but they lead nowhere. Perhaps in their actual presence (the physicality of the print) I might be transported to another place, but in reproduction they are a one-dimensional non sequitur.

From the energy of the earlier work emerges “a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot”, scrupulous studio photos that demand to be taken seriously, but mean very little. Here, passion has lost out to rigorous and deathly control.


Many thankx to Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz will showcase the oeuvre of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) in a major retrospective. Burkhard’s work spans half a century: from his early days as a trainee photographer with Kurt Blum to his seminal role in chronicling the art of his time, eventually becoming a photographic artist in his own right who brought photography into the realms of contemporary art in the form of the monumental tableau. More than 150 works and groups of works chart not only the progress of his own photographic career, but also the emergence of photography as an art form in the second half of the twentieth century. An exhibition in collaboration with Museum Folkwang, Essen, and Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano.



Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) from 'On the Alp' 1963


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
from On the Alp
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam' 1969


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol's Factory), New York' 1972


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol’s Factory), New York
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Jean-Christophe Ammann. 'oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA' 1972


Jean-Christophe Ammann
oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA
Venice, 1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard



Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz have launched a major retrospective exhibition dedicated to the lifetime achievement of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

The exhibition charts the many facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step, from his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum – in which he adhered closely to the traditional reportage and illustrative photography of the 1960s, and undertook his first independent photographic projects – to his role alongside legendary curator Harald Szeemann, and his documentation of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Balthasar Burkhard is the author of many iconic images of such groundbreaking exhibitions as When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969 and the 1972 documenta 5, capturing radical and frequently ephemeral works, actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day.

Meanwhile, Burkhard endeavoured to make his mark both as a photographer and as an artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend and colleague Markus Raetz, trying out his skills as an actor in the USA, and ultimately being invited to hold his own highly influential exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel and Musée Rath in Geneva in 1983 and 1984. These enabled him to liberate photography from its purely documentary role by creating monumental tableaux in which he developed the motif of the body into sculptural human landscapes and site-specific architectures.

Throughout the course of his career, Burkhard turned time and again to portraiture. Whereas his early photographs tended to show artists in action within their own setting, his later portraits adopted an increasingly formalised approach. During the 1990s, he transposed this stylistic reduction to a wide-ranging series of animal portraits reminiscent of the encyclopaedic style of nineteenth century photography.

Another milestone of Burkhard’s oeuvre can be found in his vast aerial photographs of major mega cities such as Tokyo and Mexico City. These images, shot from an aircraft, like his images of the earth’s deserts, were destined to become a personal passion. Balthasar Burkhard’s quest for a morphology, for a formula that could encapsulate both nature and culture, is particularly evident in his later work, which ranges from pictures of waves and clouds, Swiss mountains and rivers, to the delicate fragility of plants. His interest was always focused on the materiality of the image. Alongside the highly idosyncratic and somewhat darkly sombre tonality of his prints, Burkhard constantly sought to explore every aspect of photography’s aesthetic and technical potential.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the joint exhibition by Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung not only shows individual works, but also reflects on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented, underpinned by a wealth of documents from the archives of the artist. The exhibition is divided in two parts and shown in parallel in the exhibition spaces of Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung.

Press release


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz. 'The Bed' 1969/70


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz
The Bed
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne' 1969


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne' 1969


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel' 1972


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard



With this major retrospective, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz pay homage to the Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer, but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

Together, the two institutions chart the many and varied facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step. Fotostiftung presents early works from the days of his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum and his first independent documentary photographs. The exhibition also traces Burkhard’s role as a photographer alongside the curator Harald Szeemann and capturing images of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, Burkhard carved his niche as a photographer and artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend Markus Raetz and eventually breaking away from the European art world in search of both himself and new inspiration in the USA.

The second part of the exhibition at Fotomuseum shows the work created by Burkhard after his return to Europe, and his exploration of the photographic tableau. It was during this phase that he largely succeeded in emancipating photography from its purely documentary function. Using monumental formats, he translated the motif of the human body into sculptural landscapes and site-specific architectures. He went on to apply his stylistic device of formal reduction to portraits and landscapes. This marked the beginning of a series of experiments in the handling of photographic techniques. From long-distance aerial photographs of mega-cities such as Mexico City and Tokyo to close-up studies of flowers and plants, Burkhard seemed to be constantly seeking a formula that would embrace both nature and culture, encapsulating a sensory and sensual grasp of visible reality.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the exhibition not only shows individual works, but is also underpinned by applied projects, films and many documents from the archives of the artist. This wealth of material allows a reflection both on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented in the exhibition space as well as his constant weighing-up of other media.


Part I (Fotostiftung Schweiz)

Early photographs

Balthasar Burkhard was just eight years old when his father gave him a camera to take along on a school excursion. Burkhard himself describes this early experience with the camera as the starting point of his career. It was also his father who suggested an apprenticeship with Kurt Blum, one of Switzerland’s foremost photographers, ranking along-side Paul Senn, Jakob Tuggener and Gotthard Schuh. Blum taught the young Balz, as he was nicknamed, all the finer points of darkroom technique as well as the art of large-format photography. The earliest work from Burkhard’s apprentice years is a reportage of the school, in the form of a book, while his documentation of the Distelzwang Society’s historic guildhall in the old quarter of Bern was clearly a lesson in architectural photography. Yet, no sooner had he completed his apprenticeship than Burkhard was already embarking on his very own independent projects inspired by post-war humanist photography, such as Auf der Alp, a study of rural Alpine life, for which he was awarded the Swiss Federal Grant for Applied Arts in 1964.


Chronicler of Bohemian Life in Bern

Even during his apprenticeship, Burkhard moved in the Bernese art circles to which his teacher Kurt Blum also belonged. In 1962, he created a first portrait, in book form, of painter and writer Urs Dickerhof. Shortly after that, he became friends with his near-contemporary Markus Raetz, and started taking photographs for the charismatic curator Harald Szeemann, who was director of Kunsthalle Bern from 1961 to 1969. Burkhard immersed himself in the vibrantly dynamic Swiss art scene, documenting the often controversial exhibitions of conceptual art at the Kunsthalle, and capturing the lives of Bern’s bohemian set with his 35mm camera. These visual mementos would later be collated in a kind of photographic journal. Initial collaborative projects with artists included a 1966 artists’ book about the village of Curogna (Ticino) and a window display for the Loeb department store in Bern featuring photographic portraits of the Bernese artist Esther Altorfer, devised in collaboration with Markus Raetz and his later wife, fashion designer Monika Raetz-Müller.


Landscapes 1969

Inspired by his friend Raetz, Burkhard photographed bleak and rugged snow-covered landscapes in the Bernese Seeland region. Heaps of earth piled up along the wayside reminded him of Robert Smithson’s Earthworks, which had just emerged in contemporary art. As Burkhard would later explain, “I wanted to leave out everything relating to myself, so that I could truly relate to what remained. I distanced myself from my subject-matter. I succeeded in stepping back both from myself and from my work.”

A close-up of bare agricultural soil, vaguely reminiscent of a lunar landscape, forms the basis for an object with a neon tube created in 1969 for the legendary exhibition When Attitudes Become Form in collaboration with Harald Szeemann, Markus Raetz and Jean-Frédéric Schnyder. In 1969, Burkhard’s brown-toned landscapes were included in the 1969 exhibition photo actuelle suisse in Sion. They were subsequently published as his first independent portfolio by Allan Porter in the May issue of Camera magazine, which was dedicated to avant-garde European photography and its affinity with contemporary art.


The Amsterdam Canvases 1969-70

When Markus Raetz took a studio in Amsterdam in 1969, he and Burkhard continued to work on joint projects. Photographs of everyday motifs were enlarged, practically life-sized, onto canvas, and caused a sensation in the spring 1970 exhibition Visualisierte Denkprozesse (Visualised thought processes) at Kunstmuseum Luzern, curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann, who wrote: “On huge canvases, they [Raetz and Burkhard] showed, among other things, a spartan studio space, a bedroom, a kitchen, a curtain. They relativised the purely object-like character by hanging the canvases on clips. The resulting folds enriched the images by adding a new dimension.” In other words, the folds in the canvas created a “quasi ironic and disillusioning barrier.” Burkhard’s large-format works foreshadowed the monumental photographic tableaux that would eventually herald the ultimate march of photography into the museum space some ten years later.


Documentarist of the International Art Scene

By the end of the 1960s, Harald Szeemann and his polarising, controversial exhibitions were drawing increasing attention far beyond the boundaries of Switzerland. In particular, his (in)famous 1969 show When Attitudes Become Form unleashed heated debates that ultimately led to Szeemann’s resignation as director of Kunsthalle Bern. Then, in 1970, he shocked the members and visitors of the Kunstverein in Cologne with an exhibition dedicated to Happening & Fluxus. Here, too, Burkhard was on hand with his camera. Jean-Christophe Ammann, with whom Burkhard undertook a research trip to the USA in 1972, photographing many artists’ studios, proved no less controversial a figure. Moreover, Burkhard also photographed artists, actions and installations at the 1972 documenta 5 in Kassel, which was headed by none other than Szeemann himself. Given the expanded concept of art that prevailed at the time, which strengthened the role of performance art and installation works alike, photography, too, gained a newfound core significance. Indeed, it was only through photography that many of these innovative works were preserved for posterity.


Chicago and the Self-Invention of the Artist

Following a relatively unproductive period in the wake of documenta 5, during which he worked, among other things, on an unfinished documentary project about the small Swiss town of Zofingen, Burkhard spent the years between 1975 and 1978 in Chicago, where he taught photography at the University of Illinois. It was while he was there that he once again reprised the series of photo canvases he had been working on in Amsterdam between 1969 and 1970. This led to new large-format works portraying everyday scenes such as the back seat of an automobile or the interior of a home with a TV, as well as three now lost photographs of roller skaters and a very androgynous back-view nude study of a young man. In 1977 the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago presented these canvases together with a selection of the Amsterdam works in what was Burkhard’s first solo exhibition. Critics were impressed by his “soft photographs”. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, enthused: “‘European’ grace is wedded to ‘American’ strength in a supreme artistic fiction that suggests the wide-screen format of film.”



In Chicago, Burkhard rekindled his friendship with performance and conceptual artist Thomas Kovachevic, whom he had first met at documenta 5 and who now introduced him to the local art scene. At the same time, Burkhard toyed with the notion of trying his chances as a film actor in Hollywood. With Kovachevich’s help, he produced a series of self-portraits, both Polaroids and slides, which he presented in a small snakeskin-covered box as his application portfolio. He approached Alfred Hitchcock and Joshua Shelley of Columbia Pictures, albeit unsuccessfully. His only film role was in Urs Egger’s 1978 Eiskalte Vögel (Icebound; screened in seminar room I). Burkhard later transformed some of his self-portraits into large-scale canvases, through which he asserted his newfound sense of identity as an artist, making himself the subject-matter of his own artistic work. One of these was also shown in the Photo Canvases exhibition at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery.


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'feet 2' 1980


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
feet 2
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Knie', Kunsthalle Basel (installation view) 1983


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel 
(installation view)
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Study of The Head' c. 1983


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Study of The Head
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Design for Body II' c. 1983


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Design for Body II
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard




Part II (Fotomuseum Winterthur)

Body and Sculpture

The 1980s heralded the advent of a particularly productive period for Balthasar Burkhard in which he adopted a more sculptural approach to photography, treating his prints as an integral part of the exhibition architecture. Just as he himself had witnessed how the generation of artists before him had called the classic exhibition space into question, so too did his own latest works now begin to take control of that space. Burkhard became one of the foremost proponents of large-scale photographic tableaux, as evidenced by his groundbreaking exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 and Museé Rath, Geneva, in 1984.

It was in the photo canvases he made in Chicago during the late 1970s that Burkhard first turned towards the motif of the body as a sculptural form with which he would continue to experiment over the coming years. Such an overtly sculptural approach to the body and to the nude as landscape soon began to demand a larger format than Burkhard had previously been using. An arm, almost four metres long, framed by heavy steel, or the multipart installation Das Knie (Knee), reflect the very core of his creative oeuvre in all its many facets: monumentality, fragmentation and the breaking of genre boundaries by transposing two-dimensional images into spatially commanding installations.


Portraits: Types and Individuals

The increasing formal reduction of Balthasar Burkhard’s images continued in the field of portraiture. He invited fellow artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Christian Boltanski to sit for him. With this series, it seemed that he had finally put behind him his days as a chronicler of the art scene, reliant on the techniques of applied photography.

Portraits of a rather different kind are his profiles of animals, in an equally reduced setting, against the backdrop of a tarpaulin. Redolent of Renaissance drawings or nineteenth century animal photography, his images of sheep, wolves and lions come across as representing ideal and typical examples of their species without anthropomorphising them, while at the same time wrenching them out of their natural environment. These images reached a broad audience through the popular 1997 children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera, which was republished in its second edition in 2017.


Architectural Photography

Given his increasing success in the art world, Burkhard could well afford to be selective about his choice of commissioned works. He had already been taking photographs for architects connected with the Bern-based firm Atelier 5 back in the 1960s, and was still accepting commissions in this field in the 1990s. Burkhard’s photographic essay on the Ricola building designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron indicates just how thoroughly his own distinctive artistic syntax permeates his commissioned and architectural photography, right through to the details of fragments and materials. These photographs were shown in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1991, having been explicitly designed for this particular exhibition space. As in his artistic oeuvre, Burkhard operates here with spatially commanding installations, skilfully dovetailing the architectural motif with the presentational form.


Aerial Photography

In the 1990s, before the art world had even begun to turn its attention to the subject of megacities, Burkhard was already taking a keen interest in the world’s major conurbations. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a Swiss airforce pilot, he took bird’s-eye-view photographs from a plane. His panoramic shots of cities such as London, Mexico City and Los Angeles were preceded by small-format studies of clouds: the so-called Nuages series. Having incorporated a study of rural Switzerland into his formative training in 1963 with the series Auf der Alp (On the Alp), he returned once more to focus on the landscape of his homeland in the early 2000s with an entire series of aerial photographs of the Bernina mountain range.


Landscape and Flora

In the last two decades of his life, Burkhard concentrated primarily on landscape and flora, turning to historical precedents both in his techniques and in his choice of motif. The desert formations of Namibia, in which all sense of proportion is lost amid the remote and untouched wilderness, set a counterpoint to the sprawling urban expanses of Mexico City and London. The diptych Welle (Wave), by contrast, pays homage to the work of French artist Gustave Courbet, with Burkhard making a pilgrimage to the tide swept shores where the father of Realism had painted in 1870.

In another series, Burkhard adapts the aesthetics of botanical plant studies, which were as widely used around the turn of the twentieth century as the complex photographic process of heliography, and transposes these to larger-than-life formats. Whereas Burkhard, as a young photographer, had captured the exuberant art scene of the 1960s and 1970s, snapshot-style, he later went on, as an artist-photographer, to explore the potential of the photographic tableau, diligently researching near-forgotten techniques and the sensual details of the visible world.


Artwork and Commissioned Work

The site-specific installations of his photographs and Burkhard’s own dedicated approach to museum spaces warrant an excursion into the archives of the artist, paying particular attention to four exemplary exhibitions.

One spectacular and iconic show was the Fotowerke (Photo works) exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983. Curated by artist Rémy Zaugg, the installations can be reconstructed thanks to the catalogue and copious documentation. Contact prints and studies, for instance, help to give an insight into the no longer extant thirteen metre work Körper I (Body I) as well as shedding light on the choice of motif for further body fragments.

A 1984 solo exhibition at the Le Consortium in Dijon, on the other hand, shows how Burkhard responded with his group of works Das Knie (Knee) to an entirely different installation context within the given space. Similarly, at the Musée Rath in Geneva that same year, Burkhard, together with his friend Niele Toroni, instigated a radical juxtaposition of photography and painting based on the pillars of the exhibition venue.

At Grand-Hornu in the Belgian town of Mons, by contrast, his life-sized photographs of animals were mounted at eye level. While Burkhard chose a large format for the exhibition venue, the images in his children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera tell of a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot. This apparent discrepancy between artwork and commissioned work never seemed to be relevant to Burkhard. The sheer volume of his studio photos, alone, indicates just how scrupulously precise he was about the way he wanted to be perceived as a serious photographer.

Wall text from the exhibition


Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018


Installation views of the exhibition Balthasar Burkhard at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February – May 2018


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Balthasar Burkhard in his studio' 1995


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Balthasar Burkhard in his studio
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Camel' 1997


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bull' 1996


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Reindeer' 1996


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
The Reindeer
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Mexico City
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Mexico City
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Nuages ​​8' 1999


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Nuages ​​8
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Ecosse' (Scotland) 2000


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Ecosse (Scotland)
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bernina' 2003


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Silberen' 2004


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Rio Negro' 2002


Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Rio Negro
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard



Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
Tel: +41 52 234 10 30

Opening hours:
Daily 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotostiftung Schweiz website

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website


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Exhibition: ‘Acting for the Camera’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 5th June 2017

Featured artists (selection):
Ottomar Anschütz | Bill Brandt | Brassaï | Günter Brus | John Coplans | Hugo Erfurth | Trude Fleischmann | Seiichi Furuya | Eikoh Hosoe | Martin Imboden | Dora Kallmus | Rudolf Koppitz | Johann Victor Krämer | Heinrich Kühn | Helmar Lerski | O. Winston Link | Will McBride | Arnulf Rainer | Henry Peach Robinson | Otto Schmidt | Rudolf Schwarzkogler | Franz Xaver Setzer | Anton Josef Trčka | Erwin Wurm



I made this posting way before my operation, but have been unable to post until now because of my ongoing recuperation.

While the exhibition may have finished, I am so enamoured of the theme of the exhibition, the people and artists, that I think it’s valuable to have the posting, images and the additional research I did online. I especially like the striking work of Helmar Lerski and the “Aktionen” of Rudolf Schwarzkogler which reflect on the hurtfulness of the world, but remind me of the yet to come political art of the first wave of HIV/AIDS. What a beautiful installation as well…


Many thankx to the Albertina for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Anonymous. 'The Sculptor Hans Gasser and Workshop Assistants at Work' 1855-1857


The Sculptor Hans Gasser and Workshop Assistants at Work
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna



Ottomar Anschütz
Elektrischer Schnellseher


Anton Josef Trčka. 'Egon Schiele' 1914


Anton Josef Trčka
Egon Schiele
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna



Josef Anton Trčka, Antios (7. September 1893 Vienna – 16. March 1940), was a Czech photographer , painter, sculptor, draftsman, designer of tapestries and silver jewellery, collector of folk art Moravian, occasional antiquarian, poet and philosopher . He was a representative of Viennese Modernism, Art Movement, which influenced European culture of the 20th century…

Around 1910 the Trčka decided to study at the professional school of photography Lehr- Graphische und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna, one of the best in Europe. Coincidentally, at the school was Professor Karel Novák, in his time one of the most important personalities of the beginnings of art photography. In 1914 he got the opportunity to portray several leading personalities of Viennese Modernism. Among them was Gustav Klimt, Peter Alternberg and the 50 year old Josef Svatopluk Machar. However, the highlight for Trčka prewar contracts were the photographic series of portraits of Egon Schiele, which focused on facial expressions and hand gestures.


Franz Xaver Setzer. 'Conrad Veidt' 1919


Franz Xaver Setzer
Conrad Veidt
Gelatin Silver Print
Albertina, Vienna



Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (22 January 1893 – 3 April 1943) was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Man Who Laughs (1928), and, after being forced to migrate to Britain by the rise of Nazism in Germany, his English-speaking roles in The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and, in Hollywood, Casablanca (1942). After a successful career in German silent film, where he was one of the best-paid stars of Ufa, he left Germany in 1933 with his new Jewish wife after the Nazis came to power. They settled in Britain, where he participated in a number of films before emigrating to the United States around 1941…

He starred in a few films, such as George Cukor’s A Woman’s Face (1941) where he received billing just under Joan Crawford’s and Nazi Agent (1942), in which he had a dual role as both an aristocratic German Nazi spy and as the man’s twin brother, an anti-Nazi American. His best-known Hollywood role was as the sinister Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (1942), a film which was written and began pre-production before the United States entered the war.

In 1943, at the age of fifty, he died of a massive heart attack while playing golf at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. In 1998, his ashes were placed in a niche of the columbarium at the Golders Green Crematorium in north London.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Dora Kallmus, Arthur Benda. 'Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste in their dance Märtyrer [Martyrs]' 1922


Dora Kallmus, Arthur Benda
Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste in their dance Märtyrer [Martyrs]
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna



Her hair was cut fashionably into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled “The Dancer Anita Berber”. Her dancer friend and sometime lover Sebastian Droste, who performed in the film Algol (1920), was skinny and had black hair with gelled up curls much like sideburns. Neither of them wore much more than low slung loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage worn well below her small breasts.

Her performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber’s favourites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.

Aside from her addiction to narcotic drugs, she was also a heavy alcoholic. In 1928, at the age of 29, she suddenly gave up alcohol completely, but died later the same year. She was said to be surrounded by empty morphine syringes.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Rudolf Koppitz. 'In the Arms of Nature' 1923


Rudolf Koppitz
In the Arms of Nature
Multicolor gum bichromate print
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna


Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925


Rudolf Koppitz
Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study)
Multicolor gum bichromate print
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna



Rudolf Koppitz (4 January 1884 – 8 July 1936), often credited as Viennese or Austrian, was a Photo-Secessionist whose work includes straight photography and modernist images. He was one of the leading representatives of art photography in Vienna between the world wars. Koppitz is best known for his works of the human figure including his iconic Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study” and his use of the nude in natural settings….

Koppitz’s work is marked by a pronounced awareness of form, line, and the surface play of light and shadow. Early in his career, Koppitz was known for staging groups of subjects in the style of the Vienna Secession, the most well known example of this being his Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study”.

Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study) is surely the most widely published and best known image in Austrian photography from the early decades of the last century. This is for good reason, as no photograph better captures the cultural strands that characterized the Austrian avant-garde at that time. Here one can see a graphic strength and compositional clarity that reflects the modernist ambitions initiated in the fine as in the applied arts by the Secession and by the Wiener Werkstätte. But what gives the image its power is the aura of mystery, of symbolist sensuality that resonates through this enigmatic grouping of the three uniformly coiffed and draped figures and the one single naked figure.” ~ Christies

Bewegungsstudie’s languid nude, elaborately robed women and undeniable sensuality, in the context of its rigorous and artistic composition, bring to mind the sexual morbidity of Viennese artists like Gustav Klimt and Alphonse Mucha, as well as the Swiss symbolist painter Ferdinand Hodler and has made it as unforgettable then as it is today. It has become the Koppitz’s signature image, and was also his best-seller. Prints of the image were purchased by, among others, the Toledo Museum of Art; the New York Camera Club notable Joseph Bing, head of that club’s print committee; and the Englishman Stephen Tyng, who published it in a small portfolio of works from his collection.

His earliest works show evidence of influence by Gustav Klimt, Japanese art, Art Nouveau and Constructivism. During the First World War, Koppitz’s photographs took on a documentary quality when his photographs became more simple and direct in their subject matter and composition. Koppitz’s work came of age during the inter-war period when most of Austria’s photographers were supporters of art photography. Photographs from that time are full of symbolic meanings often capturing nude and clothed dancers as well as liberal use of both male and female, many of which were of Koppitz himself and female nudes placed in elements of nature and posed to give the impression of a Greek or Roman statue…

Although he did not possess a consistent style, Koppitz was a virtuoso of the dark room, seemingly determined to make the photograph as much of an art object as possible. His beautifully grainy, subtly tinted images align him with American Pictorialists like Edward Steichen and Clarence Smith. Koppitz’s work, much of it using the gum bichromate process, reflected his links with modern artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and their involvement with the ‘life reform’ movement including; nudism, sun culture, and expressive dance popular in Central Europe from the early 1900s as well as agrarian romanticism. Koppitz’s extraordinary mastery of pictorial processes – pigment, carbon, gum, and bromoil process of transfer printing – gained the respect of his colleagues throughout the world and garnered mention in the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1929.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Trude Fleischmann. 'Actress and Dancer Lucy Kieselhausen' c. 1925


Trude Fleischmann
Actress and Dancer Lucy Kieselhausen
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna



Lucy Kieselhausen was born in 1897 in Vienna, Austria. She was an actress, known for Tausend und eine Frau. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Junggesellen (1918), Erdgeist (1923) and Die siebente Großmacht (1919). She was a student of Grete Wiesenthal and was celebrated as a successful dancer at the beginning of the 20th century who had great successes on German stages. Besides her dancing activity she also wrote the dance drama “Salambo”, which was set to music by Heinz Tiessen. She died in December 1926 in Berlin, Germany.

“Around 1915 another Viennese, Lucy Kieselhausen (1897-1927), began specializing in performing waltzes. She, too, had evolved out of ballet culture, but her embodiment of the waltz was virtually opposite that of Wiesenthal. She favoured luxuriously decorative hothouse costumes and the utmost refinement of movement. For her the waltz was not a lyrical expansion of space into the freedom of nature but an almost perfumed distillation of the stirrings within an opulent boudoir, with its scenography of exquisite privileges and voluptuous secrets. An adroit sense of irony shaded her movements with a abruptly “bizarre and jerky” rhythms; “her joyfully flashing temperament did not hover on a smooth surface but over a shadowy abyss from which issued her fool’s dance with its slumbering, half-animal rapture.” Her curious appropriation of the waltz ended suddenly when she died in a benzine explosion.”

Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 161-162.


Hugo Erfurth. 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928


Hugo Erfurth
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna – permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science



Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship…

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and. with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff”. Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Martin Imboden. 'The Dancer Gertrud Kraus' c. 1929


Martin Imboden
The Dancer Gertrud Kraus
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna



In the 1920s, Gertrud Kraus’s style was known as expressionistic dance, or German dance. In 1929 Gertrud Kraus, together with Gisa Geert, was chief assistant to Rudolf von Laban, director of a trade union parade during the “Vienna Festival” in Vienna.

In 1930, an impresario invited her to perform in Mandate Palestine. Her tour was a great success and she was invited back the following season. In 1933, her company performed her work Die Stadt wartet (“The City Waits”), presenting the modern metropolis as a fascinating but dangerous place. It was based on a short story by Maxim Gorki. On the night that Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany, Kraus’s company performed this piece on the open-air stage in the Burg-garden next to the Hofburg.

In 1933, while she was in Prague performing for the Zionist Congress, leaders of a Czech communist cell contacted her and tried to recruit her for their purposes. The next day, she went to the Palestine Office in Prague, and applied for immigration. Kraus moved to Tel Aviv in 1935, first living with friends and then renting a basement that became her studio. She formed a modern dance company affiliated with the Tel Aviv Folk Opera, which was probably the only one of its kind in the world. In 1949, she won a scholarship to travel to the United States to learn the newest trends in modern dance.

In 1950-1951, she founded the Israel Ballet Theatre, and became its artistic director. The company folded after a year due to financial difficulties. Until her death in 1977, Kraus devoted herself to teaching dance, as well as painting and sculpture.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

The work of Jan Coplans left and centre

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures at right

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017


Installation views of the exhibition Acting for the Camera at the Albertina, Vienna, March – June 2017



With circa 120 works from the Albertina’s Photographic Collection, the exhibition Acting for the Camera examines the diverse ways in which models are staged or stage themselves before the camera. The featured photographic works, created between the 1850s and the present, represent a cross-section of photographic history as well as the diversity of the Albertina’s own holdings. The present selection is divided between six thematic emphases: motion studies, models for artists, dance, picture stories, portraits of actresses and actors, and Viennese Actionist stagings of the body.

All of these photographs arose from diverse and multi-layered forms of collaboration between the model before and the photographer behind the camera lens. Some of the models are staged according to their photographers’ instructions, while other shots originated via a creative process in which model and photographer collaborated on an equal footing. And in some cases, the pictures were even taken according to highly specific instructions given by the model.



It was photographic studies done in the interest of scientific research that made it possible for the first time to visually analyse the processes of human locomotion in high detail. Anonymous models, such as in the photographs taken by Ottomar Anschütz beginning around 1890, made themselves available in order to render understandable processes such as spear-throwing. The individuals seen in such works act according to the exact instructions of the photographer. Series of this type were used to compare the motion patterns of “healthy” and “unhealthy” bodies as well as undergird medical theories with visual evidence.

While such motion studies occasionally doubled as working studies for artworks by other artists, there was also a category of works created specifically for this purpose such as Johann Victor Krämer’s staged studio photographs as well as Otto Schmidt’s nudes, and some of these were also sold “under the table” as pornography.


Expressive Gestures

A strong and likewise mutually influential relationship arose between photography and dance. At the beginning of the 20th century, modern expressionist dance was an avant-garde art form, and dancers would work together closely with photographers in order to document and disseminate their performances. Such partnerships made possible expressive stagings that helped define the styles of that era. The expressive gestures often seen therein were also taken up by Anton Josef Trčka, who had Egon Schiele pose with a hand position reminiscent of something one might see in dance.

Portraits of well-known actors such as a laughing Romy Schneider, along with role-portraits for film productions, were created in Viennese studios by photographers such as Trude Fleischmann and Madame d’Ora, and these iconic pictures represent yet another emphasis in this presentation.


Bodies as Photographic Material

Much like the way in which classic portraits convey the personalities of those being portrayed, photography can also stage the body in the opposite way, as something purely material. Helmar Lerski, for example, treated the human face as a landscape that could be modelled by light and shadow. John Coplans, on the other hand, explored his own naked body centimetre by centimetre, portraying himself without his head and thus questioning stagings of masculinity and social norms.

In Viennese Actionism, the artists likewise placed themselves front and centre as pictorial subjects. Rudolf Schwarzkogler, who wrapped himself like a mummy in muslin bandages during the late 1960s, as well as his Actionist colleague Günter Brus, staged performances specifically for the photographic camera. And the newest works in Acting for the Camera are as recent as Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures, for which the artist had models assume ridiculous poses with everyday objects.

Following Black & White (2015) and Landscapes & People (2016), this is the third large-scale presentation of the Albertina’s Photographic Collection. The Albertina, as a treasure trove of visual knowledge, began collecting photographs all the way back in the mid-19th century – but it was only upon the establishment of the Photographic Collection in 1999 that these fascinating works were rediscovered.

Press release from the Albertina


Helmar Lerski. 'Metamorphosis 601' (Metamorphose 601) 1936


Helmar Lerski
Metamorphosis through Light #601 (Metamorphose 601)
Gelatin silver print


Helmar Lerski. 'Metamorphosis through Light #587' 1935-36


Helmar Lerski
Metamorphosis through Light #587
Gelatin silver print



Wall texts

Motion Studies

Photographs taken in the context of scientific experimental arrangements visualise the different phases of human and animal locomotion sequences. Several cameras are mounted one after another, their shutters release at short intervals while the model is moving. Shortly after Eadweard Muybridge, who makes a name for himself with motion studies of racehorses in 1877, achieves his first successes, the physician Étienne-Jules Marey and the photographers Ottomar Anschütz and Albert Londe also dedicate themselves to capturing movement sequences photographically. Londe works with Jean-Martin Charcot, a neurologist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière psychiatric hospital in Paris. Anonymous models have to perform certain movements defined by the scientists. The photographs are used to compare the movement patterns of “healthy” and”unhealthy” people and to provide visual evidence for medical theories. Artists interested in the anatomically correct representation of movements use the photographs as models.


Models for Artists

Photographs are used as a workaround in the fine arts quite early on; special collections are compiled. Photographs of models in motion, for example, come to replace preparatory drawings after nature. The expanding demand for photographic material creates a new market for professional studios. The Viennese photographer and publisher Otto Schmidt produces body and facial expression studies as well as nudes (so-called academies). Since these photographs, thanks to their erotic pictorial repertoire, enjoy great popularity not only with artists, Schmidt’s circle of customers keeps growing.

The reduction in price and the easier handling of the photographic material increases the number of artists that take up a camera themselves. The painter Johann Victor Krämer has his models pose in front of half-finished paintings to check or complete their posture and gestures. Grids drawn on the photographs sometimes help to transfer subjects to the canvas.



Germany’s and Austria’s cultural scenes of the early twentieth century see the triumphant progress of modern expressionist dance. Many dancers develop choreographies and movement vocabularies of their own. They visit photographic studios, commissioning presentation and promotion materials. The artists present themselves in the costumes of the performances they currently star in on the stage.

Photographers resort to various possibilities for their dance studies. Hugo Erfurth relies on sequences to convey the flow of movements. The emphasis is on the dancer’s pose in these photographs from the early days of modern dance. Shadows are eliminated by massive retouches, since the pictures were to be reproduced in the book Der Künstlerische Tanz unserer Zeit (The Artistic Dance of Our Time, 1928), published by Langewiesche. Martin Imboden, on the other hand, focuses on the expression of the artistic performance in his static suggestive photographs.


Picture Stories

Restaging paintings and other works of art is a favourite pastime of the upper middle classes and the aristocracy in the nineteenth century. Costumed amateur actors adopting rigid poses for a few moments present the “living pictures” at certain events. The emergence of photography makes it possible to reenact these fleeting performances in the studio and to preserve them for the long term. The theatrical group photos are sold as editions on the art market or used as models to emulate.

Henry Peach Robinson is one of those who devote themselves to staging photographs in a way that lean on the tradition of tableaux vivants. Brassaï’s and Bill Brandt’s photo reportages, which seem to document nocturnal scenes the photographers chanced upon, are actually staged for the occasion. Brandt, for example, has members of his family embody precisely conceived parts in his mysteriously toned series A Night in London. The American O. Winston Link, who shows a penchant for steam engines, plans his pictures in every detail. Relying on an elaborate flash technique and the use of spotlights, his photographs, taken in the open and by night, exhibit a filmic aesthetic.


Portraits of Actresses and Actors

In Vienna, Madame d’Ora, Franz Xaver Setzer, and Trude Fleischmann specialise in portraits of performing artists from the 1910s to the 1930s. They not only catered to the public’s great demand; focusing on the cultural scene’s clientele also ties in with the personal interest of the studios’ owners. The models collaborate with the photographers to realise the desired notions regarding their appearance and the interpretation of their look. Stars from the theatre world choose the costume, make-up, and pose they prefer for their photographic portraits. Some of the character portraits and scenic representations show sweepingly theatrical gestures. Film actresses and actors are only rarely captured in traditional character portraits in the early days of the medium. Setzer’s portrait of Conrad Veidt, who stars in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1919, is an exception. The lighting and styling as well as his facial expression and the expressive gesture of his hand mirror the film’s Expressionism.


Actionist Stagings of the Body

The Actionist art gaining momentum from the 1960s on shows itself inseparably bound up with photography. Next to film, photography is the only way to provide live documentations of performances. Some actions are specifically staged for the photo camera. From about the mid-1960s on, the Viennese Actionist artists Günter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler realise constellations of bodies and objects for photographs that are intended as visual works of art.

Arnulf Rainer, whose grimaces, like the Vienna Actionists’s works, are aimed at criticising the socially standardised body, also poses for a photographer. The photographer was not supposed to pursue an artistic approach of his own but to neutrally capture the given representations of the body. After the pictures were taken, Rainer defines the final image area and overpaints the photos by relying on gestural techniques that emphasise physical and emotional moments of expression.

John Coplans combines observations on the representation of the body with reflections on the nature of media. Using a straightforward and precise exposure technique and keen on obtaining sharp pictures, he confronts the viewer with defamiliarised views of his body transforming it into sculptural fragments. The humorous and absurd poses in which models present themselves for Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures with the help of everyday objects are often based on drawn studies and are captured in factual photographs lending the ephemeral performances durability.


Will McBride. 'Romy Schneider in Paris' 1964, printed 2001


Will McBride
Romy Schneider in Paris
1964, printed 2001
Gelatin Silver Print
Albertina, Vienna
© Will McBride Estate/Berlin


Rudolf Schwarzkogler. '2nd Action' 1965


Rudolf Schwarzkogler
2nd Action
Gelatin Silver Print


Rudolf Schwarzkogler. '3rd Action' 1965


Rudolf Schwarzkogler
3rd Action
Gelatin Silver Print


Rudolf Schwarzkogler. '4th Action' 1965


Rudolf Schwarzkogler
4th Action
Gelatin Silver Print



Rudolf Schwarzkogler (13 November 1940, Vienna – 20 June 1969, Vienna) was an Austrian performance artist closely associated with the Viennese Actionism group that included artists Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, and Hermann Nitsch.

He is best known today for photographs depicting his series of closely controlled “Aktionen” featuring such iconography as a dead fish, a dead chicken, bare light bulbs, coloured liquids, bound objects, and a man wrapped in gauze. The enduring themes of Schwarzkogler’s works involved experience of pain and mutilation, often in an incongruous clinical context, such as 3rd Aktion (1965) in which a patient’s head swathed in bandages is being pierced by what appears to be a corkscrew, producing a bloodstain under the bandages. They reflect a message of despair at the disappointments and hurtfulness of the world.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Seiichi Furuya. 'Christine Furuya Gössler' 1983; printed 1988


Seiichi Furuya
Christine Furuya Gössler
1983; printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna



“The other person is absent as a point of reference but present as an addressee. This strangely warped situation causes an unbearable presence: You are gone (which I lament); you are here (because I am turning to you).” ~ Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

“If you consider the taking of photographs to be in a sense a matter of fixing time and space, then this work – the documenting of the life of one human being – is exceptionally thrilling… in facing her, in photographing her, and looking at her in photographs, I also see and discover “myself.”” ~ Seiichi Furuya, 1979

Seiichi Furuya and Christine Gössler would soon marry, and they would later have a child, Komyo. Throughout their seven years together, Christine would plunge in and out of depressions and psychiatric institutions. And one Sunday in October of 1985, she would jump to her death from the 9th floor of their apartment building in East Berlin. Furuya photographed her throughout, to the very end. And this faithful and macabre portrait making would become his artistic and philosophical project.

Text by Stacey Platt on the space in between website


Erwin Wurm. 'One Minute Sculpture' 1997


Erwin Wurm
One Minute Sculpture
Silver dye bleach print
Albertina, Vienna



Since the late 1980s, he has developed an ongoing series of One Minute Sculptures, in which he poses himself or his models in unexpected relationships with everyday objects close at hand, prompting the viewer to question the very definition of sculpture. He seeks to use the “shortest path” in creating a sculpture – a clear and fast, sometimes humorous, form of expression. As the sculptures are fleeting and meant to be spontaneous and temporary, the images are only captured in photos or on film.

To make a One Minute Sculpture, the viewer has to part with his habits. Wurm’s instructions for his audience are written by hand in a cartoon-like style. Either Wurm himself or a volunteer follow the instructions for the sculpture, which is meant to put the body in an absurd and ridiculous-looking relationship with everyday objects. Whoever chooses to do one of Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures holds the pose for a minute, or the time it takes to capture the scene photographically. These positions are often difficult to hold; although a minute is very short, a minute for a One Minute Sculpture can feel like an eternity.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Erwin Wurm. 'One Minute Sculpture' 1997


Erwin Wurm
One Minute Sculpture
Silver dye bleach print
Albertina, Vienna



Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am – 9 pm

Albertina website


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Exhibition: ‘Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia’ at the Arts Centre Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th February – 21st May 2017

Curator: Dr Steven Tonkin



Just a quick comment on this exhibition as I’m not feeling very well with my ongoing hand issues.

This is one of the best exhibitions I have seen this year in Melbourne.

All of the works, whether video or photographic, are conceptually engaging, intellectually stimulating and visually powerful. I spent a couple of hours over two visits soaking in the narratives and mise-en-scène of every performance. I was totally immersed in the stories the artists were telling. As with all good art, the works engage the viewer and challenge our point of view in the most profound and complex ways.

While the works may be “political” “acts” the performances act on the viewer at a deeper existential level: what are we doing to the world, our only planet, and the people that live on it. What is the cost of rampant capitalism and consumerism in social, political and environmental terms. Every single work in this exhibition is grounded in these concerns. Unlike a lot of contemporary art which is all about surface and as deep as a peanut, this conceptual art is based on the fundamental building blocks of humanity – our connection to earth and to one another – often expressed through aesthetically beautiful images manifested in the physical body.

Favourites are the mesmerising 12-hour performance of Melati Suryodarmo I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012) where the artist’s “methodical grinding of charcoal briquettes to dust can be seen as a metaphor for the crushing of the human spirit by the pressures of life”; the powerful dancing and mechanical digger in Khvay Samnang’s Where is my Land? (2014); and the beautiful face pictures in Moe Satt’s F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) (2009). I could watch the latter over and over again, so archetypal and elemental does the androgynous face of the artist become.

But really, every piece in this exhibition is worthy of contemplation. Not to be missed.



Performance art is one of the driving forces in contemporary art across Southeast Asia. It is an art form that acknowledges the cultural traditions of performance within the region, while also providing avant-garde artists with a creative means to critically explore social, political and environmental issues.

The exhibition Political Acts will present a selection of artists’ films, photographs and installations by some of the innovative pioneers of performance art in Southeast Asia.

Artists represented are Dadang Christanto (Indonesia/Australia), Lee Wen (Singapore), Liew Teck Leong (Malaysia), Khvay Samnang (Cambodia), Moe Satt (Myanmar), Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia) and Tran Luong (Vietnam).




Melati Suryodarmo (Born 1969, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia)
I’m a Ghost in My Own House (extract)
Single channel video installation
Duration: 30.30 mins

12-hour performance at Lawangwangi Foundation, Bandung, Indonesia, in 2012



Melati Suryodarmo‘s practice encompasses live art performances which are then presented through films, photography and installations. A film of her renowned 12-hour durational work of I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012), is shown in this exhibition. In this work the artist’s methodical grinding of charcoal briquettes to dust can be seen as a metaphor for the crushing of the human spirit by the pressures of life.

The artist says that “talking about politics, society or psychology is meaningless unless it can be manifested in the physical body.” This is exemplified by Sweet Dreams Sweet, a group performance choreographed by Suryodarmo in Jakarta in 2013. It involved a group of 30 young female performers, all identically dressed to conceal their individuality. This work questions the impact of the political and cultural hegemony in Indonesian society.


Melati Suryodarmo. 'Sweet Dreams Sweet' 2013


Melati Suryodarmo
Sweet Dreams Sweet
Courtesy the artist


Khvay Samnang. 'Rubber Man #3' 2014


Khvay Samnang (Born 1982, Cambodia)
Rubber Man #3
Courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh



Since 2011 Khvay Samnang has used sand as a material for social and political commentary. In Where is my Land? (2014) he critiques the unstoppable momentum of urban development around Phnom Penh, which has resulted in the infilling of traditional lakes and the forced removal of local residents.

In his recent and widely celebrated Rubber Man series from 2014, Khvay poured pristine white rubber over his naked and partially obscured body. He draws attention to the devastating environmental impact of large-scale, foreign-owned rubber plantations on the once remote and previously pristine rainforests of northeast Cambodia.



Khvay Samnang (Born 1982, Cambodia)
Where is my Land? (extract)
Single channel video installation
Duration: 13.30 mins


Lee Wen. 'Splash! #7' 2003


Lee Wen
Splash! #7
Courtesy the artist and iPreciation, Singapore



A driving force in contemporary art across Southeast Asia, performance art will be the focus of a new free exhibition at Arts Centre Melbourne in Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia, presented as part of the inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Gallery 1 from 11 February 2017…

“In the last decade performance art and performative practices have taken centre stage within the global contemporary art world,” says Curator, Dr Steven Tonkin. “The seven artists in Political Acts are ground-breaking practitioners of performance art. As individuals, they offer personal viewpoints on their respective national and regional cultures. As a collective, they illustrate interesting commonalities in artistic strategies and approaches.”

“Most importantly, these provocative contemporary artists highlight the major political, social, economic and environmental issues confronted and critiqued through performance art in Southeast Asia today.”

Dadang Christanto is an internationally acclaimed artist. Born in central Java in 1957, Christanto moved to Australia in 1999. He exhibits and performs regularly in both Australia and Indonesia and has spent his artistic life commemorating the victims of political violence and crimes against humanity.

Singaporean performance artist Lee Wen explores social identity and is best known for his Yellow Man performances. Painting his own body with bright yellow poster paint, he expresses an exaggerated symbol of his ethnic identity. He received the prestigious Cultural Medallion for his contribution to visual art in Singapore.

Born in Kuala Lumpur in 1970, Liew Teck Leong studied Fine Art at the Malaysian Institute of Art in the early 1990s, initially becoming an expressionist painter. In the 2000s his practice changed direction to incorporate installation, photography and public art performances, when he became an active member of the artists’ collective Rumah Air Panas/RAP Art Society.

Born in 1982, Khvay Samnang studied painting and graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, in 2006. He now works across performance, photography, video and installation. Khvay was one of the co-founders of the artists’ collective known as Stiev Selepak (or Art Rebels), and was involved in establishing the artist-run space Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh’s historic White Building. He is one of the leading Cambodian artists to have come to international attention over the last decade.

Born in Yangon in 1983, Moe Satt is one of the cohort of young artists who have begun to transform the contemporary art scene in Myanmar. Principally self taught, Moe Satt uses his body as the primary vehicle for his art, although his practice now also encompasses photography, film and installations. His artistic career mirrors the wider socio-political changes that have occurred in Myanmar over the last decade, from isolation under military rule to the current democratic reforms.

Born in 1969 in Surakarta (or Solo), Central Java, Indonesia, Melati Suryodarmo grew up in the creative environment provided by her father Suprapto, founder of Amerta – an exploratory free-form dance movement. Suryodarmo sees her art practice as opening the door to new perceptions, traversing traditional cultural and political boundaries ‘in an effort to find [one’s] identity’.

Born in Hanoi in 1960, Tran Luong trained as a painter at the Hanoi University of Fine Arts. He achieved recognition as a member of the ‘Gang of Five’, a group of artists whose works were a catalyst for contemporary art in Vietnam from the late 1980s. A widely respected multidisciplinary artist, curator and mentor for the next generation of contemporary Vietnamese artists, his collaborative approach to art-making involves local communities.

“The inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts is an artistic celebration of our relationship with contemporary Asia,” says Arts Centre Melbourne CEO, Claire Spencer. “Vital, fresh and always unpredictable, Asia TOPA offers a city-wide window onto the creative imaginations fuelling the many cultures of our region.”

“Cultural engagement is key to expressing who we are, where we have come from, and how we connect with each other across the Asia-Pacific region. The dazzling array of artists featured in Asia TOPA will provide new ways of understanding the deep connections that run between us all.”

Press release from the Arts Centre Melbourne


Dadang Christanto. 'Tooth Brushing' 1979-2015-2017


Dadang Christanto (Born 1957, central Java)
Tooth Brushing
Courtesy the artist, Gallerysmith, and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art



Dadang Christanto (Born 1957, central Java)
Tooth Brushing (extract)
Single channel video installation
Duration: 6.00 mins

Performance in Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia at the Arts Centre Melbourne on 10 February 2017



Moe Satt (Born 1983, Yangon, Myanmar)
F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) (extract)
Single channel video
Duration: 12.00 mins



Moe Satt’s early performance piece, F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) from 2008-09, is simple in conception but complex in the multiple meanings that can be read into the choreographed combinations of hand and facial gestures. Among the artist’s favourites are a universal ‘Thumbs Up’ and the potent symbol of a ‘Gun’ pressed to his temples.

In his The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon the artist re-enacts a childhood game of racing discarded rubber bicycle tyres with friends. In this series of photographs the public places and monuments he rolls the tyre past present a performative narrative of his country’s history. For example, the beautiful vistas of Yangon’s two large man-made lakes belie their entwined histories of demonstrations and death.


Installation view of Moe Satt's 'The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon' (2013)


Installation view of Moe Satt’s The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon (2013)



Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Steam Rice Man (extract)
Single channel video
Duration: 5.00 mins

Performance at the Mao Khe Coal Mine, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam in 2001



Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Lap Lòe (extract)
Three channel video and sound installation
Duration: 5.00 mins



Tran Luong‘s collaborative approach to art-making often involves working with local communities, such as rural coal miners in northern Vietnam in 2001. During that time he created his early performance art work Steam Rice Man.

Tran Luong weaves his personal experiences with concerns for the wider socio-political situation in Vietnam. One influential moment was seeing his son arrive home from school wearing a red scarf around his neck. It reminded the artist of the communist red scarf he had to wear as a boy.

In Lap Lòe (or ‘flicker’), the three channel video installation in this exhibition, a red scarf has become aesthetically abstracted for the screen – blowing like a flag in the wind, snapping hypnotically and painfully across the artist’s body, and falling gracefully through the area. The red scarf is a powerful symbol for personal and collective memory.


Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi) 'Coc Cach' 2013-16


Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Coc Cach
Courtesy the artist


Liew Teck Leong. 'Body+Dots+Politics (Yellow)' 2016


Liew Teck Leong (Born 1970, Kuala Lumpur)
Body+Dots+Politics (Yellow)
Courtesy the artist



Arts Centre Melbourne
Gallery 1, Theatres Building
100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004

Arts Centre Melbourne website


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Exhibition: ‘Soulèvements / Uprisings’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2016 – 15th January 2017

Curator: Georges Didi-Huberman, philosopher and art historian



soulèvement m ‎(plural soulèvements)

  1. the act of raising, the act of lifting up
  2. revolt, uprising


I believe this to be one of the most complex, original and important exhibitions of 2016. Conceptually, intellectually, ethically and artistically, the exhibition “Soulèvements / Uprisings” seems to stand head and shoulders above most others I posted on during 2016.

Through the profound curatorship of philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman (a man whose writing I admire), Soulèvements e/merges as a “trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts” actioned through five themes: Elements (Unleashed); Gestures (Intense); Words (Exclaimed); Conflicts (Flared up); and Desires (Indestructibles), evidenced across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies. Unlike the earlier posting, Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where I noted that the self-contained themes of that exhibition seemed purely illusory, here the themes are active and engaging, fluid in meaning and representation (the choice of laterally aligned art works to the themes – dust breeding, waves, sea concertos, banners and capes, red tape, montages, posters etc…), which emphasis resistance, the raising up, the uprising as a desirous and joyful act, one that is performative (hence the wonderful video elements in the exhibition) and transgressive.

As one of the most important mediums of the twentieth century in terms of documenting, promoting, obscuring and forgetting “uprisings” – gestures of resistance and joy of any kind – photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining the social context in which we are living … obscuring the ethics and morals of dubious political positions; reinforcing or obscuring the issues behind revolution, rebellion, and revolt; or, through collective amnesia and inertia, through the millions of forgettable images produced each day, overwhelming the authenticity of living that leads to “uprisings” in the first place. Photographs, as people do, cross borders: they are transnational and multidisciplinary. They are global thought patterns that can, in skilled hands, document and sustain alternative ways of seeing the world through a “rising up” of feeling – the “soul” of soulèvement – the act of raising up, the act of lifting ones eyes and one’s spirit from the dire circumstances of oblivion to the hope of a future redemption.

Through photographs, we witness Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune (1871, below), where “the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs.” The political act, although a failure in reality in this case, is sustained through time and space by the performance of the documentary image. Their monstration [the act of demonstrating; proof] – the insurgents act of demonstrating; the photograph as an act of demonstrating their death for judicial purposes; and also a certain monstration (proof) that these mostly young, skinny men died for a belief in a better world – is an evidentiary act of transubstantiation. Is the camera looking down on these bodies in cheap coffins from above, or are the coffins propped up against a wall? How do we feel about these people we do not know, who existed in past time now made present, without being that person who tucked a wreath into the hands of the man at bottom right, someone’s brother, father or son.

In “uprisings” (as the hands raise the camera to the face), there is also an acknowledgment of a certain despair at the death of an innocent. In Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s Striking worker, assassinated (1934, below) the young, handsome youth has been killed with a blow to the head. He lies prostrate on the ground, arm outstretched, hand curled, his body and clothes spattered with his own blood his eyes, open, staring at the now invisible sky. A flow of dried blood has discharged from his mouth and nose, coating and matting his thick long hair and running away in rivulets, soaking into the parched d/earth. Bits of dust and earth are still stuck to his arm through the viscosity of his blood. Earlier, he had dressed for the day in a white singlet, put on his trousers and fastened them with an embossed belt, then put on a crisp, stripped shirt and neatly rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. He might have had breakfast before heading of to a meeting outside where he worked. This day he died, protesting his rights – striking worker, assassinated! Assassinated – executed, eliminated, liquidated (to which the congealing blood attests) … slaughtered. For his right to strike, to protest, the conditions of his being. Any human “being”.

And, mortally, I comment on that one photograph, that one evidence of human beings transcending their own lives (knowing they were going to die) for the greater good – the anonymous photograph taken by members of the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that documents AS PROOF of the reality of the Final Solution: Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau (1944, below). The risks that these people took to capture this photograph speaks to the power of photography to transcend even the most barbaric of circumstances, to prove to the world what was happening in this place. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.”

In other words, the solicitation to resist is not singular or human, but collective and eternal, embodied and embedded in cultural thoughts and actions. Even though they knew they were going to die (almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these Sonderkommando units survived to the camp’s liberation), because the have been “promised to disappear”, their spirit flowed beyond the boundaries of the camp into the ether of history, into the elemental upper air, the raising up of spirits: as an observation and representation of the difference between right and wrong. As the world enters a renewed period of right wing promulgation we must resist the rump of bigotry and oppression. Not just for ourselves but for all those that have passed before.

This is why this exhibition is so important. It speaks to the need for vigilance and protest against discrimination and dictatorship, against the persecution of the less fortunate in society. It also speaks to our desire as human beings that our actions and the actions of others be held to account. Intrinsically uprisings are all about desire, the desire to be stand up and be counted, to put your reputation (as Oscar Wilde did) or your life on the line for what you believe in. The courage of your convictions. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan


Thank goodness for Google translate because otherwise I would have had no text to put under most of these images. This becomes problematic for weak images such as Dennis Adams’ Patriot (2002, below). Without text to support the image you would have absolutely no idea what this image is about… it’s just a plastic bag floating in the air against the azure sky.

The text states: “… considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins.”

Who would have thunk it! From a plastic bag floating in the sky!

Such insight proffered months after the event by any plastic bag floating in the air. The image does not invite reverie and meditation because there is nothing to meditate on. It is an example of contemporary photography as graphic art THAT MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If an image cannot stand on its own two feet, without the help of reams of text to support its substance, its contention, then no wonder there are millions of vacillating images in this world. Including contemporary art.

Outdamned spot! the stain of thy blood cannot be exacted from your feeble representation.


Word count: 1,451

Translations of soulèvement

uprising soulèvement, révolte
rising soulèvement, hausse (rise), insurrection, montant, lever, élévation
insurrection insurrection, soulèvement, émeute (riot), rébellion
uplift soulèvement
upheaval bouleversement, soulèvement, agitation, perturbation, séisme, renversement

Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.






“For almost a decade, the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition program has been conceived with the conviction that twenty-first century museums and cultural institutions cannot be detached from the social and political challenges of the society of which they are part. To us, this approach is a matter of simple common sense.

The program it has shaped does not monitor market trends or seek complacent legitimacy within the field of contemporary art. Rather, we have chosen to work with artists whose poetic and political concerns are attuned to the need to critically explore the models of governance and practices of power that mold much of our perceptual and emotional experience, and thus, the social and political world we live in.

Because the Jeu de Paume is a center for images, we are aware of the urgent necessity – in line with our societal responsibilities – to revise the analysis of the historical conditions in which photography and the moving image developed in modernity and, subsequently, in postmodernity, with all its alternatives, provocations, and challenges.

Thankfully, the history of images and our ways of seeing and understanding the world through them is neither linear nor unidirectional. These are the sources of our fascination with images that don’t tell everything they show and with images affected by the vicissitudes of the human condition.

Photography, and images in general, represent not only reality, but things that the human eye cannot see; like us, photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining. It is only waiting for someone to listen to its joys and its sorrows.

The Jeu de Paume’s programming sites its oblique look at history and contemporaneity in this oscillation between the visible and the invisible in the life of images, creating a space for encounter and the clashing of ideas, emotions, and knowledge, accepting that the coexistence of conflict and antagonism are an essential part of community building.

For these reasons, and from this position, in the superb proposal by the philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman to form an exhibition from his research on the theme of “uprisings,” we found the ideal intellectual, artistic, and museological challenge.

While the notion of revolution, rebellion, and revolt isn’t alien in contemporary society’s vocabulary, the object of its action is replete with collective amnesia and inertia. That is why analyzing the representations of “uprisings” – from the etchings Goya, to contemporary installations, paintings photographs, documents, videos, and films – demonstrates an unequivocal relevance to the social context in which we are living in 2016. […]

Marta Gili, “Foreword,” in Uprisings, catalogue of the exhibition, p. 7-10.




Enrique Ramirez
Cruzar un muro [Franchir un mur] (Crossing a wall)
Vidéo HD couleur, son, 5’15”
Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels


A series of images of people in a waiting room is in an unusual place, perhaps in our imagination, or perhaps anywhere. The short by Enrique Ramirez addresses article number 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.


Giles Caron. 'Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' August 1969


Gilles Caron
Manifestations anticatholiques à Londonderry
Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
August 1969
© Gilles Caron / Fondation Gilles Caron / Gamma Rapho



Known for his wartime photoreports, fascinated by liberating acts and the figure of the insurgent, photographer Gilles Caron carried throughout the 1960s an interest in the social conflicts that marked his time. At first he is led to cover is a peasant revolt which takes place in Redon in 1967. Anxious to produce an image which appears to him as a formal translation of the anger of these peasants, he seizes the gesture of a demonstrator sending a projectile in the direction of the forces of order. Photogenic, this suspended gesture gives the insurrections a choreographic dimension and testifies to the violence of the social demands that animate the demonstrators. The “figure of the pitcher” then reappears on the occasion of the events of May 1968 and then of the conflicts that took place in Northern Ireland in 1969. This archetype is part of the tradition of the representation of David against Goliath: the symbol of the power carried by the faith of one who is thought weak in the face of brute force. If there is no question of faith in the images of Caron, it is nonetheless an irrepressible form of desire that animates those bodies which revolt: no matter the imbalance of forces, the insurgents are carried by a feeling of invulnerability and of power in the face of the forces of order objectively much more armed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)




by Georges Didi-Huberman, curator of the exhibition

What makes us rise up? It is forces: mental, physical, and social forces. Through these forces we transform immobility into movement, burden into energy, submission into revolt, renunciation into expansive joy. Uprisings occur as gestures: arms rise up, hearts beat more strongly, bodies unfold, mouths are unbound. Uprisings are never without thoughts, which often become sentences: we think, express ourselves, discuss, sing, scribble a message, create a poster, distribute a tract, or write a work of resistance.

It is also forms: forms through which all of this will be able to appear and become visible in the public space. Images, therefore; images to which this exhibition is devoted. Images of all times, from Goya to today, and of all kinds: paintings, drawings, sculptures, films, photographs, videos, installations, documents, etc. They interact in dialogue beyond the differences of their times. They are presented according to a narrative in which there will appear, in succession, unleashed elements, when the energy of the refusal makes an entire space rise up; intense gestures, when bodies can say “No!”; exclaimed words, when barricades are erected and when violence becomes inevitable; and indestructible desires, when the power of uprisings manages to survive beyond their repression or their disappearance.

In any case, whenever a wall is erected, there will always be “people arisen” to “jump the wall”, that is, to cross over borders. If only by imagining. As though inventing images contributed – a little here, powerfully there – to reinventing our political hopes.


Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris) 'Dust Breeding' 1920


Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris)
Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes)
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 30.4 cm (9 7/16 x 12 in.)
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



One of Duchamp’s close friends and a member of the New York Dada scene, the American photographer and painter Man Ray (1890-1976) was also one of Duchamp’s collaborators. His photograph Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes) from 1920 is a document of The Large Glass after it had collected a year’s worth of dust while Duchamp was in New York. The photograph was taken with a two-hour-long exposure that beautifully captures the complex texture and diversity of materials that lay atop the glass surface. Dust Breeding marks a pivotal phase in the development of Duchamp’s masterpiece. After the photograph was taken, Duchamp wiped The Large Glass almost entirely clean, leaving a section of the cones covered with dust, which he permanently affixed to the glass plate with a diluted cement. (Text from The Met website)


Hiroji Kubota. 'Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois' 1969


Hiroji Kubota
Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois
Gelatin silver print
© Hiroji Kubota/Magnum Photos



Claude Cattelain
Vidéo Hebdo 46
Vidéo pal, 4/3, couleur, son, 6 min 30 s
Collection de l’artiste
© Claude Cattelain



Entitled Vidéo Hebdo 46, this work by Claude Cattelain is part of a series of short films made between January 2009 and March 2010, following a weekly rhythm. If many of the films in this corpus play with the conditions of video recording (shooting conditions, sensitivity of the sensor, editing …), the forty-sixth is more like the return of a performance. Executed with great economy of means, its performances follow a precise protocol whose action often resembles an absurd experience of which the body of the artist is the subject. Here, Claude Cattelain tries to raise a chair by interposing one by one the wooden battens – which look singularly like slices of books – under the feet of the said chair without ever going down or putting a foot on the ground. This progressive uprising of the foundation leads inexorably to its overthrow and thus to the fall of the artist. The uselessness of this exercise is commensurate with the concentration and attention with which it applies to try to get to the maximum of its possibilities. Each performance of Claude Cattelain is thus an experience of limits: those of his balance, his strength, his concentration and gravity. By voluntarily avoiding the logics of productivity and productivity, Claude Cattelain invites the viewer to observe a poetic action, a possible metaphor of existential or historical situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)



The exhibition

“Soulèvements / Uprisings” is a trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts.

They are gestures which say no to a state of history that is considered too “heavy” and that therefore needs to be “lifted” or even sent packing. They are also gestures that say yes to something else: to a desired better world, an imagined or adumbrated world, a world that could be inhabited and conceived differently.

These figures of uprising and up-raising will range freely across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies.

The exhibition sequence will follow a sensitive, intuitive path along which the gaze can focus on exemplary “cases” treated with a precision that prevents any kind of generalisation. We will be mindful not to conclude, not to dogmatically foreclose anything. The sequence will comprise five main parts:




“All the uprisings failed, but taken together, they succeeded.”

“They rise, but they do not simply stand up – they rise up.”

Judith Butler, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




The elements become unleashed, time falls out of joint. – And if the imagination made mountains rise up?

To rise up, as when we say “a storm is rising.” To reverse the weight that nailed us to the ground. So it is the laws of the atmosphere itself that will be contradicted. Surfaces – sheets, draperies, flags – fly in the wind. Lights that explode into fireworks. Dust that rises up from nooks and crannies. Time that falls out of joint. The world upside down. From Victor Hugo to Eisenstein and beyond, uprisings are often compared to hurricanes or to great, surging waves. Because then the elements (of history) become unleashed.

We rise up first of all by exercising our imagination, albeit through our “caprichos” (whims or fantasies) or “disparates” (follies) as Goya said. The imagination makes mountains rise up. And when we rise up from a real “disaster,” it means that we meet what oppresses us, and those who seek to make it impossible for us to move, with the resistance of forces that are desires and imaginations first of all, that is to say psychical forces of unleashing and of reopening possibilities.

Dennis Adams, Francis Alÿs, Léon Cogniet, Marcel Duchamp, Francisco de Goya, William Hogarth, Victor Hugo, Leandro Katz, Eustachy Kossakowski, Man Ray, Jasmina Metwaly, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Robert Morris, Saburô Murakami, Hélio Oiticica, Roman Signer, Tsubasa Kato, Jean Veber, French anonymous.


Francisco de Goya. 'Los Caprichos' 1799


Francisco de Goya
Los Caprichos
Eau-forte, aquatinte et burin, 2e édition de 1855.
Collection Sylvie et Georges Helft
Photo: Jean de Calan



Between 1797 and 1799, Francisco de Goya composed a collection of engravings, Los Caprichos [Les Caprices], in which he portrayed in a satirical way the behavior of his Spanish fellow citizens. “Y aun no se van!” (“And yet they do not go away!”) is the 59th engraving of a set of 80. Each time the title constitutes an ironic commentary on the image. This one refers to the group of people represented on the engraving, with the bodies emaciated, folded on themselves, praying, looking scared. One of them tries to prevent the tombstone from falling on them, but all seem helpless, destitute of strength, unable to resist this final ordeal. The use of chiaroscuro, which produces a dramatic effect, as well as the thick slice of the slab that forms the diagonal of the composition, accentuates the desperate character of the scene. Finally, the massive aspect and the weight of the stone, opposed to fragile and denuded bodies, complete their inexorable destiny. This engraving thus seems to illustrate the absolute dejection felt by individuals under certain circumstances. For Georges Didi-Huberman, degradation is one of the conditions conducive to the uprising. The imagination and the critical eye of the artist – a fervent supporter of the Enlightenment – can constitute a force of resistance and struggle for the oppressed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Léon Cogniet. 'Les Drapeaux' 1830


Léon Cogniet
Les Drapeaux (The flags)
Huile sur toile
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans
Photo: François Lauginie



The Revolution of 1830 led to the overthrow of the government of King Charles X. After the publication of several ordinances, including a restriction on freedom of the press, this episode, which failed to restore the Republic, The tricolor flag, abandoned by the Restoration for the benefit of the white flag, symbol of royalty. This is evidenced by Leon Cogniet’s study of a painting that will never see the light of day.

These revolutionary days, also called the Three Glorious Days, are symbolically represented by three flags caught in the turmoil. The first, white, overhung by a menacing sky, is hoisted on a mast adorned with a fleur-de-lis. The second tears apart and reveals the blue sky as a promise of freedom. Finally, the third, torn and covered with blood, allows the reconstruction of the tricolor emblem created during the Revolution of 1789. Thus the blood poured during these days allows the people to reconnect with the revolutionary ideals. The unleashing of elements, a metaphor for the tempestuous popular revolt, accompanies the transformation of the banished flag of royalty to the national flag. This sketch is repeated and widely circulated at the time, accompanied by an anonymous poem: “To the darkness finally succeeds the clarity / And pale shreds of the flag of the slaves / And of the azure sky and the blood of our brave / The brilliant standard of our freedom is born. ” (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Victor Hugo. 'La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)' 1857


Victor Hugo
La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, gouache, papier vélin
Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet


This drawing is the witness of Victor Hugo’s fascination with the sea. His pen marries the movements of the ocean, which then becomes the symbol of his exile: “It is the image of my current destiny stranded in abandonment and solitude,” he says. On the drawing he calls ‘My destiny’, it is not known whether the ship, alone in front of the monster of the sea, enveloped by its foam, is carried or precipitated by the immense wave. It is a figure of his destiny, but also of the human condition.


Man Ray. "Sculpture mouvante" ou "La France" ("Moving Sculpture" or "France") 1920


Man Ray
“Sculpture mouvante” ou “La France” (“Moving Sculpture” or “La France”)
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, dation en 1994
Negative gelatin-silver on glass plate
9 x 12 cm
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI
Image obtenue par inversion des valeurs du scan du négatif
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris, 2016



An active member of the Dada group in New York with Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray joined the surrealists in Paris in 1921. He was interested in questioning the conventions of the world of art and considered photography as a means of expression. It explores all potentialities: experiments, diversions, portraits, advertising applications … The fixation of an element in movement constitutes one of the specificities of photography that fascinates the surrealists because the object thus grasped by the apparatus appears in an unexpected light: the linen which dries, inflated under the effect of the wind, becomes a moving sculpture as the title of the work suggests. This way the title can guide the reception of the passionate photography of Man Ray. This image is also published on the cover of the sixth issue of La Révolution Surréaliste in 1926, accompanied by the legend “La France”. This enigmatic title, rather than helping to understand photography, multiplies the possible interpretations and attests to Man Ray’s desire to subvert the use and meaning of the images. Thus this wind which “transforms” linen into sculpture, appears as a metaphor for the surrealist project, which makes the photographic medium the operator of a true conversion of the gaze. By this image of the “uprising”, Man Ray thus gives a visual form to the aesthetic and political revolution that the members of the Surrealist group called for. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Eustachy Kossakowski. 'Le "Panoramic Sea Happening - Sea Concerto, Osieki" de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d'une série)' 1967


Eustachy Kossakowski
Le “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d’une série)
The “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” by Tadeusz Kantor (from a series)
Inkjet pigment print
Owner of negatives and slides: Musée d’Art Moderne de Varsovie
© Collection Anka Ptaszkowska



In 1967 Tadeusz Kantor with a group of other Polish avant-garde artists delivered Panoramic Sea Happening. They were working in frames of artistic plain-air in Osieki (near Koszalin) organized there every year since 1963. This complex action was in a way a preface to Kantor’s theatre. But it was also parallel to actions of Western artists, which led to the birth of performance art. In this important moment Kantor formulated a category of impossible. It derived from the night dream but as this one was compromised Kantor wanted to use a new word: ‘impossible’. At the same time the very essence of the happening, as he was saying, was to make impossible real. How did he do it? By reenactment, repetition and documentation.

Dorota Sosnowska. From the abstract for “Impossible is Real: Tadeusz Kantor at the seashore” 2016


Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz. 'Parangolé - Encuentros de Pamplona' 1972


Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz
Parangolé – Encuentros de Pamplona (Parangolé – Encounters of Pamplona)
Impression chromogène (sur papier et carton)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Photo: Archives Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
© Projeto Hélio Oiticica / © Leandro Katz



“At the time when he was producing his first Penetrables, Oticica started to design Parangolés, banners and capes printed in a great variety of colors and designs, and occasionally inscribed with mottoes, advertisement lines, or found phrases. Oiticica premiered his (anti)fashion statements in 1965 in what he called a Parangolé Coletivo, in which he distributed his creations among friends and members of the Mangueira samba school – he had joined in 1964 – who paraded wearing them while dancing to samba… He would continue making Parangolés and staging Parangolé events throughout the rest of his life, at times through friends who acted as intermediaries, as in the Pamplona encounters of 1972 in Spain when Argentinean artist Leandro Katz ran a Parangolé event on Oiticica’s behalf.”

Juan A. Suárez. “Jack Smith, Hélio Oiticica, Tropicalism,” in Criticism Vol. 56, No. 2, Jack Smith: Beyond the Rented World (Spring 2014) pp. 310-311.


Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975


Henri Michaux
Acrylic on paper
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Jean-Louis Losi


Dennis Adams. 'Patriot' 2002


Dennis Adams
From the series Airborne
C-Print contrecollé sur aluminium.
Prêt du Centre national des Arts Plastiques, Paris, inv. FNAC 03.241.
© Dennis Adams / CNAP / Courtesy Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie



A plastic bag stands out on the azure sky and floats in the air. Difficult, considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins. These images, although directly related to this highly publicized event have nothing of the “shock” images that then invade the press.

They carry neither sensationalism nor exaggerated patriotism, but rather invite reverie and meditation. By adopting this attitude to the antipodes of the media and political enthusiasm that follows September 11, Dennis Adams questions the relationship to temporality in the face of this type of event. He denounces the “greed of politicians and military men who have a definite opinion on moments of history”* and questions the imperative of hyperreactivity not conducive to the analysis and the constitution of a historical consciousness. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Dennis Adams quoted by Michel Guerrin, “In Madrid, photographers face history”, in Le Monde, June 15, 2004, p. 30.


Roman Signer. 'Rotes Band / Red Tape' 2005


Roman Signer
Rotes Band / Red Tape
Vidéo couleur, son, 2’07’”.
Caméra: Aleksandra Signer
Courtesy de l’artiste et d’Art: Concept, Paris


Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015

Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015


Tsubasa Kato
Break it before it’s broken
Video: color, sound, 4:49 min
© Tsubasa Kato / caméraman: Taro Aoishi



On March 11, 2011, a tsunami struck the Japanese coast and caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disastrous environmental and social consequences are still impossible to evaluate and the inhabitants, partly neglected by the public authorities, have to face an unprecedented crisis. Many of them have been displaced and most of their income from fishing is reduced to nothing because of the contamination of the ocean. Tsubasa Kato then decides to get involved with them by accompanying them daily in this difficult period. In addition to this support, he decided on November 3rd (03/11) – the day of the celebration of culture in Japan (Bunka no Hi) and date whose numerical writing is the inverse of that of the tsunami (11/03) – to achieve a strongly symbolic performance.

Entitled Break it before it’s broken, the video of this action shows residents of the region invited to overthrow the structure of a house washed away by the tsunami and destroy it definitively. Becoming actors of destruction and no longer passive observers, participants can then transform the event undergone into action. This festival of culture, for Tsubasa Kato, is an opportunity to initiate a unifying artistic moment that testifies to the strength of collective movements and the mobilization necessary to reverse the course of events. He will then reiterate this performance in other parts of the world, which are often subject to delicate social situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016

Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016


Mari Kourkouta
16 mm sur vidéo (en boucle), noir et blanc, silencieux, 4’ 10.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production : Jeu de Paume, Paris



“Body, mind and soul are uplifted by the divine energy of desire”

Marie-José Mondzain, “To those who sail the sea…” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings


“To make the world rise up we need gestures, desires, and depths.”

Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments on What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




From burden to uprising. – With hammer blows. – Arms rise up. – The pasión. – When bodies say no. – Mouths for exclaiming.

Rising up is a gesture. Before even attempting to carry out a voluntary and shared “action,” we rise up with a simple gesture that suddenly overturns the burden that submission had, until then, placed on us (be it through cowardice, cynicism, or despair). To rise up means to throw off the burden weighing down on our shoulders, keeping us from moving. It is to break a certain present – be it with hammer blows as Friedrich Nietzsche and Antonin Artaud sought to do – and to raise your arms towards the future that is opening up. It is a sign of hope and of resistance.

It is a gesture and it is an emotion. The Spanish Republicans – whose visual culture was shaped by Goya and Picasso, but also by all the photographers on the field who collected, the gestures of freed prisoners, of voluntary combatants, of children and of the famous La Pasionaria, Dolores Ibárruri – fully assumed this. In the gesture of rising up, each body protests with all of its limbs, each mouth opens and exclaims its no-refusal and its yes-desire.

Paulo Abreu, Art & Language, Antonin Artaud, Taysir Batniji, Joseph Beuys, Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, Gilles Caron, Claude Cattelain, Agustí Centelles, Chim, Pascal Convert, Gustave Courbet, Élie Faure, Michel Foucault, Leonard Freed, Gisèle Freund, Marcel Gautherot, Agnès Geoffray, Jochen Gerz, Jack Goldstein, Käthe Kollwitz, Alberto Korda, Germaine Krull, Hiroji Kubota, Annette Messager, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Friedric Nietzsche, Willy Römer, Willy Ronis, Graciela Sacco, Lorna Simpson, Wolf Vostell, anonymes catalans, français, italiens.


Gustave Courbet. 'Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)' 1848


Gustave Courbet
Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)
Man in a smock standing on a barricade (frontispiece for Le Salut public project)

Fusain sur papier
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet


Germaine Krull. 'The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse "Révolution"' 1925


Germaine Krull
The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse “Révolution”
Gelatin silver print
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Estate Germaine Krull, Folkwang Museum, Essen



Pioneer and adventurous, Germaine Krull is one of those women photographers of the inter-war period who contributed largely to the emergence of a nervous and dynamic photographic approach, in step with a modern world in constant acceleration. In photographing Jo Mihaly, she portrays a dancer who shares this avant-garde sensibility. Indeed, a pupil of Mary Wigman, this singular figure of dance participates in the German expressionist movement and contributes to the development of a modern choreographic art: the unconstrained body emancipates itself from the conventions of classical dance, the gesture of the dancer is released and regains its vitality. The movement then becomes the result of the personal expression of the dancer whose photographer has the burden of seizing the fulgurance [dazzling speed]. Stretched arm, smoky eyes and feverish eyes, Jo Mihaly – who has always claimed her commitment to the Communist Party – realizes a gesture that resonates with her time but also with the youth of Germaine Krull, marked by its proximity to the Republic of the Soviets of Berlin in 1919. Thus, it is as much for these artists to participate in an aesthetic revolution in their respective artistic fields as to echo the social and political uprisings that have taken place throughout Europe since the the advent of the industrial era. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)



Alberto Korda. 'Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba' 1959


Alberto Korda
El Quijote de la Farola, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba

Vintage gelatin silver print on baryta paper
Leticia et Stanislas Poniatowski collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Kitai Kazuo. 'Resistance' (book) 1965


Kitai Kazuo
Resistance (book)
© Kitai Kazuo/ Collection privée


With a manifesto both aesthetic and philosophical, the Japanese publication Provoke proposed a radical break in only three issues, published in 1968 and 1969. Provoke (photographers Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama, critic Kōji Taki and poet Takahiko Okada) proposes a new visual language – rough, grainy and blurred – that captures the complexity of the experience and the paradoxes of modernity suffered by all.


Wolf Vostell. 'Dutschke' 1968


Wolf Vostell
Peinture polymère sur toile
Haus der Geschichte der Bundensrepublik Deutschland, Bonn
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975


Art and Language
Shouting Men (details)
Screenprint and felt pen on paper
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona collection
Photo: Àngela Gallego
© Art and Language


Patrick Zachmann 'The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital' 1989


Patrick Zachmann
L’armée bloquée par la foule aux portes de la capitale
The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital
Gelatin-silver bromide print on baryta paper
50.4 x 60.9 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
© Patrick Zachmann


From the early 1980s, Patrick Zachmann carried out an in-depth investigation into the Chinese diaspora. Present in China at the time of the events in Tiananmen Square, he photographed particularly symbolic episodes. This picture, taken on 20 May, is located just after the beginning of the hunger strikes, and before the massive repression known as the Tiananmen massacre. The nocturnal atmosphere and the gestures of the orator confer on this “moment before” a dramatic theatricality.


Annette Messager. '47 Piques (47 Pikes)' 1992


Annette Messager
47 Piques (47 Pikes)
Soft toys, colored pencils on paper, various materials, and 47 metal pikes
270 x 570 x 70 cm
Annette Messager and Marin Karmitz collection/Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Graciela Sacco. from the "Bocanada" (A breath of fresh air) series 1992-1993


Graciela Sacco
from the “Bocanada” (A breath of fresh air) series
Posters in the streets of Rosario, Argentina
© Graciela Sacco



This series of photographs of open mouths was immediately considered by Graciela Sacco as being intended to circulate in the public space on various supports (stamps, spoons, stickers, posters …). It is however in the form of a wild display that the artist has most often given to see this set. The first of these displays took place in 1993, during a strike, in public school canteens in the town of Rosario. It was then a question of questioning the impossibility of the municipal staff to make their claims heard and the consequences of this movement knowing that for the majority of the children, this meal was the only one of the day. Graciela Sacco then continues to post these posters in cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo or New York, often during election campaigns or close to advertising images. Are they hungry mouths? Cries of claims? Of suffering? Or even breathing as the title suggests? Be that as it may, this repeated but inaudible message tends to become oppressive. By exposing them in public space, the artist seems to give visibility to those anonymous calls that we do not want or can not hear. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)




Poetic insurrections. – The message of the butterflies. – Newspapers. – Making a book of resistance. – The walls speak up.

Arms have been raised, mouths have exclaimed. Now, what are needed are words, sentences to say, sing, think, discuss, print, transmit. That is why poets place themselves “at the forefront” of the action itself, as Rimbaud said at the time of the Paris Commune. Upstream the Romantics, downstream the Dadaists, Surrealists, Lettrists, Situationists, etc., all undertook poetic insurrections.

“Poetic” does not mean “far from history,” quite the contrary. There is a poetry of tracts, from the protest leaflet written by Georg Büchner in 1834 to the digital resistance of today, through René Char in 1943 and the “cine-tracts,” from 1968. There is a poetry particular to the use of newspapers and social networks. There is a particular intelligence – attentive to the form – inherent in the books of resistance or of uprising. Until the walls themselves begin to speak and occupy the public space, the sensible space in its entirety.

Antonin Artaud, Ever Astudillo, Ismaïl Bahri, Artur Barrio, Georges Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Joseph Beuys, Enrique Bostelmann, André Breton, Marcel Broodthaers, Cornelius Castoriadis, Champfleury, Dada, Armand Dayot, Guy Debord, Carl Einstein, Jean-Luc Fromanger, Federico García Lorca, Jean-Luc Godard, Groupe Dziga Vertov, Raymond Hains, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Bernard Heidsieck, Victor Hugo, Asger Jorn, Jérôme Lindon, Rosa Luxemburg, Man Ray, Germán Marín, Chris Marker, Cildo Meireles, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pablo Picasso, Sigmar Polke, Jacques Rancière, Alain Resnais, Armando Salgado, Álvaro Sarmiento, Philippe Soupault, Félix Vallotton, Gil Joseph Wolman, German, Chilean, Cuban, Spanish, French, Italian, Mexican, Russian unknowns.


Raoul Hausman. 'Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset' 1921


Raoul Hausman
Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset
Postcard sent by Raoul Hausmann to Theo van Doesburg
Archives Theo and Nelly van Doesburg
Photo: collection RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016



Herwarth Walden (actual name Georg Lewin, 16 September 1879 in Berlin – 31 October 1941 in Saratov, Russia) was a German Expressionist artist and art expert in many disciplines. He is broadly acknowledged as one of the most important discoverers and promoters of German avant-garde art in the early twentieth century (Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Magic Realism).

From 1901 to 1911 Walden was married to Else Lasker-Schüler, the leading female representative of German Expressionist poetry. She invented for him the pseudonym “Herwarth Walden”, inspired by Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). In 1912 he married Swedish painter Nell Roslund. In 1919 he became a member of the Communist Party. In 1924 he was divorced from his second wife.

With the economic depression of the 1930s and the subsequent rise of National Socialism, his activities were compromised. In 1932 he married again and left Germany shortly later because of the threat of the Gestapo. He went to Moscow, where he worked as a teacher and publisher. His sympathies for the avant-garde soon aroused the suspicion of the Stalinist Soviet government, and he had to repeatedly defend against the equation of avant-garde and fascism. Walden died in October 1941 in a Soviet prison in Saratov. (Text from the Wikipedia website)



John Heartfield. 'Use photography as a weapon !' 1929


John Heartfield
Benütze Foto als Waffe ! 
Utilise la photo comme une arme !
Use photography as a weapon !

AIZ, année VIII, no 37, Berlin, 1929, p. 17
37.8 x 27.5 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Inv.-Nr.: JH 2265
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs/ADAGP, Paris, 2016



In the late 1910s, members of the Dada movement practiced the first collages using images from cheap publications. The iconoclastic dimension of these heterogeneous juxtapositions allows them to open up the critical potential of images. Then, in the 1920s in Berlin, the Dada movement became politicized and the idea that the affiliated artists of the Communist Party were to serve the proletarian cause was strengthened. Few artists felt as committed to this mission as John Heartfield (his real name was Helmut Herzfeld). From the end of the 1920s, he developed a practice of satirical photomontage for the press, and in particular of the Communist journal AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) for which he worked until 1938. He then produced 237 photomontages denouncing Fascist ideology, the financing of the Nazi party by the industrialists and the extreme violence of the national socialist program. Invited to the Film und Foto exhibition in 1929 in Stuttgart, he had inscribed above the section devoted to him the slogan found in AIZ the same year: “Use photography as a weapon!”. Through the massive dissemination of his photomontages, he wants to mobilize public opinion and incite him to rise up against the rise of the fascisms that threaten Europe. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Heartfield lived in Berlin until April 1933, when the National Socialists took power. On Good Friday, the SS broke into his apartment, and the 5’2″ Heartfield escaped by jumping from his balcony and hiding in a trash bin. He left Germany by walking over the Sudeten Mountains to Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia, John Heartfield rose to number-five on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list.


Federico. 'García Lorca Mierda (Shit)' 1934


Federico García Lorca
Mierda (Shit)
Calligram, Indian ink
Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid
© Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid / VEGAP


Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network) 'Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)' 1942



Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network)
Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)
17 x 25 cm
Collection particulière
Courtesy des éditions de L’échappée



This satirical tract was realized and distributed in 1942 by the network of the Resistance Buckmaster, during the German occupation in France. The flying leaf, given from hand to hand or slipped into a mailbox, the leaflet or the butterfly (smaller) is at the same time the expression of a refusal – that of yielding – and of an imperious desire to act and call for a start. Intended to mark the minds and to attract the adhesion, they can be formed of short and poetic texts, slogans or images. Open, it presents a caricature drawing of four pigs and, in the center, an inscription in capital letters which apostrophes the reader and invites him to look for the fifth … Indeed, if the recipient folds the sheet according to the dotted lines, he makes Hitler’s acrimonious face! Thus, like any clandestine message, the meaning of the leaflet is not given immediately. The system of folding conceals and intrigues before revealing, but also accentuates the critical and percussive nature of the subject. Opening and closing like two wings, this butterfly is an anonymous, ephemeral and fragile missive ready to fly in the air to carry its message of rising. Like a firefly gleaming in the night of war, “an indication of a desire that flies, goes where it wants, insists, persists, resists in spite of everything”*, in the words of Georges Didi-Huberman, this image constitutes a weapon at the same time frail and powerful. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Georges Didi-Huberman, “Through desires (fragments on what raises us)”, in Soulèvements, Paris, Jeu de Paume, 2016, p. 372.


Raymond Hains. 'OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)' 1961


Raymond Hains
OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)
Torn poster on canvas backing
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Michel Marcuzzi



By the end of the 1940s, Raymond Hains paced the streets of Paris and sought out surprising agglomerates of torn posters that he picked up before painting them on canvas. The artist, flâneur, is the catalyst of a new form of urban poetry that gives rise to impromptu entanglements of words and images. This practice of hijacking posters largely echoed the world of art and French society after the Second World War. These torn posters formally evoke the canvases of “action painting” in vogue at the time, which Hains enjoys by calling himself “inaction painter”. The proliferation of these posters accompanies the rise of consumption but also the many political debates that agitate France. Thus futile advertisements co-exist promoting an eternally joyful world and political posters whose subjects are sometimes dramatic. In 1961, Raymond Hains realized an exhibition entitled “La déchirée France” [The Torn France] which presents itself as a sounding board of contemporary French history, marked by the decomposition of the Fourth Republic and what is not yet called the war of Algeria. The work OAS. Shoot the bombers testifies to the violence of the positions taken with regard to this organization favorable to the maintenance of French Algeria, but also to the reality of the attacks they commit. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Sigmar Polke. 'Against the two superpowers - for a red Switzerland' (1st version) 1976


Sigmar Polke
Gegen die zwei Supermächte – für eine rote Schweiz (1e version)
(Against the two superpowers – for a red Switzerland) (1st version)
Spray paint and stencil on paper
Ludwig Forum für internationale Kunst, Aachen
© The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne /ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975


Henri Michaux
Indian ink, acrylic on paper
50 x 65 cm
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016 / Photo : Jean-Louis Losi



The poet Henri Michaux has endeavored to combine writing and drawing. Already in his invention of a new graphic alphabet in 1927, and then in his hallucinogenic experiments by absorption of mescaline from 1955, Henri Michaux sought to liberate, unbind language and drawing and thus to explore “the space within”. This ink on paper presents an entanglement of disorderly spots more or less energetic or impregnated. Just as his poems try to lift the tongue, this drawing seems to express what he calls “trembling in images”. Traces of liberating gestures, this expressive “new language”, noisy, made of floods of forms and collisions of signs, becomes the image of the disorderly world and the claimed insubordination of its author. In 1971, Michaux always seems to be looking for what he calls in the turbulent infinity “a confidence of a child, a confidence that goes ahead, hopes, raises you, confidence which, entering into the tumultuous universe … becomes a greater upheaval, a prodigiously great uprising, an extraordinary uprising, an uprising never known, a rising above itself, above all, a miraculous uprising which is at the same time an acquiescence, an unbounded, calming and exciting acquiescence, an overflow and a liberation.” Thus Michaux considered drawing as a movement, the very rise of thought and bodies. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)



“Uprising transforms consciousness and in this movement it reconstitutes it. It gathers needs together and turns them into demands, it turns affects into desires and wills, it positions them in a tension towards liberty.”

Antonio Negri, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




To go on strike is not to do nothing. – Demonstrating, showing oneself. – Vandal joys. – Building barricades. – Dying from injustice.

And so everything flares up. Some see only pure chaos. Others witness the sudden appearance of the forms of a desire to be free. During strikes, ways of living together are invented. To say that we “demonstrate,” is to affirm – albeit to be surprised by it or even not to understand it—that something appeared that was decisive. But this demanded a conflict. Conflict: an important motif of modern historical painting (from Manet to Polke), and of the visual arts in general (photography, cinema, video, digital arts).

It happens sometimes that uprisings produce merely the image of broken images: vandalism, those kinds of celebrations in negative format. But on these ruins will be built the temporary architecture of uprisings: paradoxical, moving, makeshift things that are barricades. Then, the police suppress the demonstration, when those who rise up had only the potency of their desire (potency: not power). And this is why there are so many people in history who have died from having risen up.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Hugo Aveta, Ruth Berlau, Malcolm Browne, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Agustí Centelles, Chen Chieh-Jen, Armand Dayot, Honoré Daumier, Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Robert Filliou, Jules Girardet, Arpad Hazafi, John Heartfield, Dmitri Kessel, Herbert Kirchhorff, Héctor López, Édouard Manet, Ernesto Molina, Jean-Luc Moulène, Voula Papaioannou, Sigmar Polke, Willy Römer, Pedro G. Romero, Jésus Ruiz Durand, Armando Salgado, Allan Sekula, Thibault, Félix Vallotton, Jean Veber, German, Catalan, French, Mexican, South African unknowns.


Thibault. 'The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere' Sunday, June 25, 1848


La Barricade de la rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt avant l’attaque par les troupes du général Lamoricière
The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere
Sunday, June 25, 1848
11.7 x 15 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski



This daguerreotype is part of a series of two exceptional views of the barricades taken during the popular insurrection of June 1848. Disseminated in the form of woodcuts in the newspaper L’Illustration at the beginning of the following July, these photographs were realized by an amateur named Thibault, from a point of view overlooking the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt, June 25 and 26, before and after the assault. The first photographs reproduced in the press, they show the value of proof given to the medium in the processing of information since the middle of the nineteenth century, well before the development of photomechanical reproduction techniques. The inaccuracies and ghostly traces caused by a long exposure time limit the accuracy lent to the medium. Also the engraver allowed himself to “rectify” the views for the newspaper, adding clouds here and there and specifying the posture or the detail of the silhouettes. The remarkable interest of these daguerreotypes, however, resides in their indeterminate aspect. In fact, they reveal the singular temporality of these events: both short (since each second counts during the confrontations) and at the same time extended (in the moments of preparation and waiting). The temporalities proper to events and photography are thus combined in order to offer the perennial image of an invisible uprising and therefore always in potentiality. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Édouard Manet. 'Guerre civile (Civil war)' 1871


Édouard Manet
Guerre civile (Civil war)
Two-tone lithograph on thick paper
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet


André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri. 'Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune' 1871


André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri (attribué à)
Insurgés tués pendant la Semaine sanglante de la Commune
Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune
Albumen photograph
21 x 27 cm
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Paris
© André A.E. Disdéri / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet



This photograph was taken at the end of the tragic Bloody Week which concluded the Commune of Paris in May 1871. It shows the corpses of Communards shot by the Versailles troops, presented in their coffins at the public exhibition of their bodies. This image is imprinted with brutality: that of the authors of the massacre of these young men struggling for the independence of Paris, that of the monstration [The act of demonstrating; proof] and, that of photography, in its realization, its frontality and its precision. Why did one of the most famous portraitists of the Second Empire record the image of these inanimate bodies? We know today that photography has played an important role in anti-communard propaganda, the aim of which was to show the “exactions” of the insurgents (barricades, vandalism, assassinations …) and to present this event not as a revolution but as a civil war. It was also used for identification purposes, used for judicial proceedings and repression. The value of this image, however, is due to the fact that the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs. Gathered for the occasion and set up facing us, they form, through photography, the image of an inseparable community. Even if the revolution has failed and power has failed, its power remains and continues to nourish the memory of political uprisings. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Allan Hughan. 'Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)' May 1874


Allan Hughan
Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)
May 1874
Tirage sur papier albuminé
14.7 x 19.6 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac


The legend of the image, written in the thirties, states: “In the foreground the tribe of rebels of 1878”, while that handwritten on the original negative says “tribe of Atai revolted.” These elements drag the meaning of this image realized by the first photographer present in New Caledonia. The photographs he takes of kanaks, villages, but also of the prison and mining facilities in 1874, take on a new retrospective significance after the great Kanak revolt of 1878.


Félix Vallotton. 'La Charge (The Charge)' 1893


Félix Vallotton
La Charge (The Charge)
Proof, woodcut on paper
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Gift of Adèle et Georges Besson en 1963. On loan to Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Besançon
© Centre Pompidou / MNAM / Cliché Pierre Guenat, Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie



Felix Vallotton made this engraving on wood in 1893 as part of his critical contributions to social violence for newspapers and magazines of his time. Composed with great economy of means, La Charge represents the brutal repression of a demonstration by the forces of the order. The diving point of view testifies to the influence of photography on his work and reinforces the voyeur character of the viewer as well as his feeling of helplessness. The formal repetition of the uniform of the “guardians of the peace” and the resemblance of their faces, all wedged between their mustache and their kepi, translates well the impression of mechanical unleashing of a blind violence. By contrasting black and white, Vallotton refers to the physical confrontation between civilians and policemen. The centrifugal force which animates the composition gives the impression that the wounded bodies shatter like an explosion. By distorting the characteristic perspective of the Nabi aesthetic, the victims’ bodies seem to be abandoned. Through the eyes of man in the foreground, the artist denounces the abuse of force but also takes the spectator to witness and invites him to rise up against this injustice. The artist, known for his anarchist positions, broke as much with the traditional principles of composition as with the established order. At the charge against the protesters, he responds by his own charge against the authorities. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Joseph Marie Ernest Prud'Homme. 'Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka' 1897


Joseph Marie Ernest Prud’Homme
Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka
Print on aristotype paper
12 x 17 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac


On July 29, 1897, Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka, two of the greatest leaders of the Menalamba insurrection, which began after the abdication of Queen Ranavalona III and the establishment of the protectorate in October 1895, publicly knelt before Governor General Joseph Gallieni to signify their submission. This ceremony is the theatrical acme of the policy of “pacification” carried out in Madagascar by Gallieni, since his arrival in September 1896.


Anonymous. 'The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio' 17 March 1910


Les Habés envoient un parlementaire pour faire leur soumission au commandant Pognio
The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio
17 March 1910
Print on baryta paper
10.9 x 16.7 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac


The French colonial conquest of West Africa, begun in 1854, stops with the unification of its possessions within French West Africa in 1895. It was mainly carried out by the infantry which had to face populations hostile to colonization. The Habés (Dogons) of the Bandiagara region (present-day Mali) resisted the French soldiers from 1894 to 1910.


José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) 'Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)' 1926


José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949)
Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)
Huile sur toile
México, INBA, Collection Museo de Arte Moderno
Photo © Francisco Kochen
© Adagp, Paris 2016


Tina Modotti (1896-1942) 'Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)' 1st June 1929


Tina Modotti (1896-1942)
Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)
1st June 1929
Illustration de l’annonce pour la chanteuse communiste Concha Lichel, publiée dans el machete, no 168, 1
Illustration of the announcement for the communist singer Concha Lichel, published in El Machete, no 168, 1
Gelatin silver print
México, INBA, Museo Nacional de Arte
Donation de la famille Maples Arce, 2015
© Francisco Kochen



The Mexican Revolution profoundly changed the structure of society: since men had gone to war or to search for work and livelihoods, women took on new tasks, first in armed struggle and then in rebuilding culture and education within society. Thus, the image of the soldiaderas, those women who followed the revolutionary troops, acquired a special significance and was symbolically compared to the “strong women” of the Bible. In the artistic field, women also played a decisive role, sometimes called “proto-feminism”: patrons of valuable artists or artists themselves, they participated in the quest for an aesthetic language capable of expressing their doubts and questioning. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Concha Michel (1899-1990) was a singer-songwriter, political activist, playwright, and a researcher who published several projects on the culture of indigenous communities. She was one of the few women who performed in the corrido style. She created the Institute of Folklore in Michoacan and was one of the first collectors of folklore and preservers of the traditions of the Mexican people. She was a cultural icon having relationships with two presidents, and a broad range of Mexico’s most prominent artists including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Guadalupe Marín, Tina Modotti, Elena Poniatowska, Anita Brenner and others. (Text from the Wikipedia website)


Ruth Berlau. 'Grévistes américains (American warriors)' 1941


Ruth Berlau
Grévistes américains (American warriors)
Gelatin silver print
10 x 15 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Bertolt Brecht Archiv
© by R. Berlau/Hoffmann



Ruth Berlau, actress, director and photographer of Danish origin realizes this photograph shortly after his arrival in the United States. She fled Nazi Germany with the writer and playwright Bertolt Brecht and accompanied him during much of his exile. In line with her commitment to the Spanish war and her communist ideas, she photographed American social movements and showed the actors of the struggle and the victims of oppression. This series on strikes highlights the workforce of the workers, with the desire to get their faces out of anonymity. It is in keeping with the documentary use of photography undertaken by social programs such as the New Deal and in particular the path traced by Walker Evans, initiator of the “documentary style”. It chooses a frontal point of view, apt to reveal with precision and clarity the faces of the strikers. In doing so, it applies itself to restoring their dignity while producing the documents of a social history. The counter-drive gives the strikers a particular scope and strength, just as the framing, which ostensibly divides the group, suggests that they belong to a powerful and determined group. The photographic practice of Ruth Berlau seems to embody a democratic ideal, revealing both the unity and the singularity of each and a common political commitment, which is reflected here through the exchange of views. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)' 1934


Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)
Gelatin silver print
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
© Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / Roger Viollet
© Estate Manuel Álvarez Bravo


Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969

Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969


Contestation autour de la construction de l’aéroport de Narita
Contestation around the construction of Narita airport

Gelatin silver prints
© Collection Art Institute of Chicago


In parallel with the dazzling rise of a consumer society on the Western model, for ten years (from 1960 to 1970) Japan went through a major identity crisis that unfolded on multiple fronts: American military bases in Okinawa, construction of Narita airport, occupation of universities by students …


Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006

Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006


Chieh-Jen Chen
The Route
35 mm film transferred onto DVD: color and black and white, silent, 16:45 min.
© Chieh-Jen Chen, courtesy galerie Lily Robert



“To rise up is to break a history that everyone believed to have been heard. It is to break the foreseeability of history, to refute the rule that presided, as we thought, over its development or its preservation.”

Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments of What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




The hope of one condemned to death. – Mothers rise up. – They are your own children. – They who go through walls.

But potency outlives power. Freud said that desire was indestructible. Even those who knew they were condemned – in the camps, in the prisons – seek every means to transmit a testimony or call out. As Joan Miró evoked in a series of works titled “The Hope of a Condemned Man,” in homage to the student anarchist Salvador Puig i Antich, executed by Franco’s regime in 1974.

An uprising can end with mothers’ tears over the bodies of their dead children. But these tears are merely a burden: they can still provide the potencies of uprising, like in the “resistance marches” of mothers and grandmothers in Buenos Aires. It is our own children who rise up: “Zero for Conduct!” was Antigone not almost a child herself? Whether in the Chiapas forests or on the Greece – Macedonia border, somewhere in China, in Egypt, in Gaza, or in the jungle of computerized networks considered as a vox populi, there will always be children to jump the wall.

Francisca Benitez, Ruth Berlau, Bruno Boudjelal, Agustí Centelles, Eduardo Gil, Mat Jacob, Ken Hamblin, Maria Kourkouta, Joan Miró, Pedro Motta, Voula Papaioannou, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, Enrique Ramirez, Argentinian, Greek, Mexican unknowns.


Denis Foyatier. 'Spartacus' 1830


Denis Foyatier
Commande de Charles X, 1828
Département des Sculptures
© 2011 Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN – Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier


Victor Hugo. 'Le Pendu (The hanged man)' 1854


Victor Hugo
Le Pendu (The hanged man)
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, encre noire, fusain, pierre noire, gouache sur papier
Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet


While in exile in Jersey, Victor Hugo is deeply moved by the death sentence in Guernsey of John Charles Tapner, a condemnation against which he protests and asks for a pardon that he will not get. Hugo then makes four drawings depicting a gaunt hanged man at his gallows. The museum preserves two (Ecce and Ecce Lex). Hugo had hung them in his room in Marine Terrace in Jersey, and in his study under the roof of Hauteville House in Guernsey.


Voula Papaioannou 'Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens' 1944


Voula Papaioannou
Graffitis de prisonniers sur les murs de la prison allemande de la rue Merlin à Athènes
Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens
Gelatin-silver print, modern print
24 x 30 cm
Benaki Museum Photographic Archive, Athènes



Voula Papaioannou is a major figure in Greek documentary photography. Born in 1898, she made numerous photographs of landscapes, monuments and archaeological sites in the 1930s. The Second World War led her to wonder about her practice and she was committed to covering the realities of the conflict. Her apparatus then becomes a tool to testify and publicize the misery and suffering of the Greek population during the German occupation. It reflects the difficulties of everyday life, the departure of the military in combat and the famines that strike civilians. During the liberation, she made a few shots of street fights as well as these images of the walls of the prison of Athens held until then by the Germans. It shows the graffiti (inscriptions and drawings) left by the detainees, most of them awaiting execution. Many say their names and send a message to their families (“I want my relatives to be proud of me”) or claim their political convictions (“Vive le KKE”, Greek Communist Party) for the sake of transmitting until the day before their deaths the reasons for their struggle and the conditions of their disappearance. These photographic recordings are similar to archaeological documents bearing the traces of the imprisonment of the Greek Resistance fighters and their hope that these messages will one day be read in a Greece freed from the Nazi occupation. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Anonymous. 'Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau' 1944


Anonyme (membre du Sonderkommando d’Auschwitz-Birkenau)
Femmes poussées vers la chambre à gaz du crématoire V de Birkenau
Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau
Contact plate with two images
12 x 6 cm
Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim
Photo: Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim



This photograph was taken by a member of the Sonderkommando Auschwitz-Birkenau, a special unit of Jewish inmates commissioned by the SS to carry out the final solution. It belongs to a set of four photographs carried out clandestinely on a piece of film, using a photographic camera infiltrated in the camp and then concealed at the bottom of a bucket. Hidden near crematory furnace V, the author of these photographs was assisted by other members of the Sonderkommando. To do such an act was indeed extremely dangerous. The sloping framing and the blur reflect the perilous conditions in which the photographer was then placed. This picture, however, clearly shows a convoy of naked women pushed by the special unit to the gas chamber, located off-field. The film was then filtered from the camp into a tube of toothpaste to join the Polish Resistance, accompanied by an explanatory letter. These photographs therefore have an informative aim and constitute the only photographic documents on the gas chambers. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.*” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.

*Georges Didi-Huberman, Images malgré tout, (Images despite everything), Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 2003, p. 14.


Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed of prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. The death-camp Sonderkommandos, who were always inmates, should not be confused with the SS-Sonderkommandos which were ad hoc units formed from various SS offices between 1938 and 1945. The term itself in German means “special unit”, and was part of the vague and euphemistic language which the Nazis used to refer to aspects of the Final Solution (cf. Einsatzkommando units of the Einsatzgruppen death squads).

About 120 SS personnel were assigned to the gas chambers and lived on site at the crematoria. Several SS personnel oversaw the killings at each gas chamber, while the bulk of the work was done by the mostly Jewish prisoners known as Sonderkommandos (special squads). Sonderkommando responsibilities included guiding victims to the gas chambers and removing, looting, and cremating the corpses.

The Sonderkommado were housed separately from other prisoners, in somewhat better conditions. Their quality of life was further improved by access to the goods taken from murdered prisoners, which Sonderkommandos were sometimes able to steal for themselves and to trade on Auschwitz’s black market. Hungarian doctor Miklós Nyiszli reported that the Sonderkommando numbered around 860 prisoners when the Hungarian Jews were being killed in 1944. Many Sonderkommandos committed suicide due to the horrors of their work; those who did not generally were shot by the SS in a matter of weeks, and new Sonderkommando units were then formed from incoming transports. Almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these units survived to the camp’s liberation.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Ken Hamblin. 'Beaubien Street' 1971


Ken Hamblin
Beaubien Street
Modern gelatin silver print
Fifth Estate photo
Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan


Joan Miró 'Prisoner's Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III' 1973


Joan Miró
L’Espoir du prisonnier, dessin préparatoire pour L’Espoir du condamné à mort I, II et III
Prisoner’s Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III
Crayons de couleur et stylo sur papier (bloc-notes)
7.7 x 12.5 cm
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelone
© Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Fundació Miró, Barcelone



This sketch is part of a series of preparatory studies for a triptych entitled The Hope of the Condemned to Death, completed in March 1974. It is already possible to guess the overall design (three horizontal compositions of primary colors formed of sinuous lines) and the title seems to be clarified with the addition of these words: “the hope of the prisoner”. Sensitive to the death sentence of the anarchist and anti-fascist militant Salvador Puig i Antich, a member of the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, Joan Miró claims that he completed his triptych on the day of his execution on 2 March 1974. Thus the artwork – initially imagined in an abstract and metaphorical way – then encounters history. This triptych executed in very large format so as to address the greatest number, as Miró wished that the painting would be, thus constitutes a real monument to the memory of one of the last victims of Francoism. Judged “prophetic” by the artist, he presents a series of black lines that he interpreted as an image of the tourniquet used for execution. Struggling or playing as much with the void as with the spots of vivid colors, these dark lines on a light background also seem to be distended and open like a permitted hope. From his first studies, Joan Miró managed to preserve intact, by the energy of the gesture and the vivacity of the keys, the “indestructible desire” to hope and resist, which culminated the following year in the fall of the Franco regime.  (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Eduardo Gil. 'Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)' December 9-10 1982


Eduardo Gil
Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)
December 9-10 1982
Modern gelatin silver print
Eduardo Gil collection
© Eduardo Gil



Eduardo Gil was born in 1948 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After studying sociology, he became a photographer. Self-taught and sensitive to social struggles, his commitment was linked to the establishment of the military dictatorship following the coup d’état of 24 March 1976. Working for the press and as an independent author, he made a series of reports on the political situation and social life of his country. He photographed in particular the second March for the Resistance in Buenos Aires on 9 and 10 December 1982. Organized at the call of the Mothers of the Place de Mai in tribute to the missing children during the dictatorship, the First march of the Resistance in 1981 ‘Is then reproduced every year until 2006, involving the entire society, including after the end of the dictatorship. Faced with the march, Eduardo Gil records the determined faces of the women, mothers and grandmothers of the children of Argentina, demonstrating to obtain answers on the fate of the disappeared. The use of black and white flattened the composition and accentuated the juxtaposition of the women’s faces with the banners and placards. The photographs of the children brandished by the demonstrators thus seem to merge in the procession. All appear in this sense more united than ever, stretched out towards us, as towards politics. Eduardo Gil seems to prove here that by recording the image of the missing among the living, photography itself is a force of uprising. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Francisca Benítez. 'Garde l'Est' 2005


Francisca Benítez
Garde l’Est
Still frame
Francisca Benitez collection
© Francisca Benítez


Gohar Dashti. From the series 'Today's Life and War' 2008


Gohar Dashti
From the series Today’s Life and War
Institut des Cultures d’Islam


The photographs of the Iranian artist Gohar Dashti’s Today’s Life and War show the daily life of a young couple against a background of war. Surrounded by tanks, bunkers and armed soldiers, the spouses live in the middle of the fields of ruins and continue to go about their occupations. Between impassivity and disillusionment, their attitudes show perseverance and unwavering determination to simply continue living. With these surreal scenes, the artist is witnessing a generation caught between the memories of ten years of war against Iraq and the permanent threat of conflict.


Pedro Motta. 'Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)' 2013


Pedro Motta
Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)
From the “Natureza das coisas” series
Mineral print on cotton paper
Private collection
Courtesy of the artist and gallery Bendana Pinel


Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016

Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016


Maria Kourkouta
Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)
HD video loop: color, sound, 36:00 min.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production: Jeu de Paume, Paris



Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website


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Exhibition: ‘Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind’ at SCA Galleries, Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 7th May 2016


Taken as a whole, the artist Roger Ballen’s body of work is exceptionally strong. From his early documentary series Dorps (1986) and Platteland (1996) which featured alienated and poverty poverty stricken whites in South Africa struggling with their place in the world after Apartheid; through my favourite series Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005) and Boarding House (2009) which portrayed down and out whites on the fringe of South African society in a surrealist, performative art; to the more recent Animal Abstraction (2011), I Fink U Freeky (2013) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) … through each of these series you can trace the development of this preternatural artist, whose work seems to exist almost beyond nature itself.

The move from documentary photographer to director/collaborator/actor/observer was critical to the development of Ballen’s art. As the text on the Outland web page on Roger Ballen’s website states, “Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, these pictures move into the realms of fiction. Ballen’s characters act out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder whether they are exploited victims, colluding directly in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their representation.” From the videos included in this posting, it is obvious that the latter statement is the correct interpretation. Through this thematic development, the viewer may come to understand the nature of the artist’s collaboration with the people, places and things that he photographs. The empathy that these photographs and videos evidence, the interchangeable director/actor roles, and the connection that he has with his subject matter gives insight into the compassion of this man. He never judges anyone. He accepts them for who they are and works with them to create these challenging art works.

Apparently these photographs, “have a singular ability to cause disquiet to the viewer.” Personally, they have never caused me disquiet for I find them quite fascinating. They follow on from a long line of photographers who have observed the marginalised in society, from the circus freak show photographs, through Diane Arbus and Arthur Tress (who also has a book called Theater of the Mind) to Joel Peter-Witkin and Roger Ballen. Much like the earlier Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans, which featured an outsider photographing a world from a different point of view, Ballen moved to South Africa from America in 1982 and has never fully lost that outsider status. As John McDonald observes, “He has been there long enough to be an insider, but retains the probing eye of an outsider, able to see a side of life that native-born can’t see, or don’t wish to see.” And that is the point: all of these artists, with their probing eyes, can perceive difference and accept it on its own terms. They portray the world through a horizontal consciousness (an equal “living field” if you like), not a heirarchical system of privilege, power and control, where some are better, more worthy than others.

But what nature is he investigating? Is it human nature and its ability to survive under the most dire circumstances? Is it the nature of the relationship of the body to its environment, or the human to animals, or the relationship between our souls and our subconscious? It’s all of these and more. Ballen probes these nexus, the strands that connect and link our lives together: our dreams, nightmares and desires. His photographs act as a form of binding together, bringing the periphery of society into the centre (of attention). He creates an extant reality in which we are asked to question: how do we feel towards these people and how do we feel about our own lives?

He achieves this creation through the use of what I call “heightened awareness” – both situationally and subconsciously. Ballen is fully aware and receptive towards the conditions of his environment and his dreams. Instead of a desire to possess the object of his longing and then to be possessed by that desire (desire to possess / possessed by desire) Ballen has learnt, as Krishnamurti did, not to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. Ballen understands that he must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – because only then might you become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more. He accepts what he can create and what is given to him by being fully aware. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action.1 His images become a blend of the space of intimacy and world-space as he strains toward, “communion with the universe, in a word, space, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences.”2

His photographs become an enveloping phenomenon in which the viewer is draped in their affect… this ‘wearing of images’ is both magical and all encompassing.

We are the people in his pictures. We are their dreams.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Many thankx to SCA Galleries for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

  1. Concepts from KrishnamurtiBeginnings of Learning. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 130-131.
  2. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. xxxv.



“Archetypal levels of the deeper subconscious pervade my photographs… When I create my photographs I often travel deep into my own interior, a place where dreams and many of my images originate. I see my photographs as mirrors, reflectors, connectors into the mind… The light comes from the dark.”


“These pictures are a very complex way of seeing, a very complex way of viewing the world and you know perhaps this went back to the time I was in my mother’s stomach… I can’t really say what exactly is the primary cause of what I do.”


“So the thing is is my pictures, my better pictures or a lot of my pictures, embed themselves deeply in the subconscious, because the mind isn’t ready for those photographs, they don’t have any corresponding experience in some way or another, so the pictures tend to have more of an impact on the person’s deeper mind than something we would normally think of as disturbing because the pictures get into the mind. People aren’t used to having things get in there and stay in there and threaten their image of themselves in some way or another and so that’s why they call them disturbing, they’re not actually disturbing a better way of saying it is that if somebody has some kind of consciousness they’re actually enlightening.”

Roger Ballen








“His raw, black & white images are alluring, fascinating and disturbing. He is one of the most important and exciting photographers of the 21st century. The intriguing work of Roger Ballen is coming to Australia, to Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), this March in the artist’s first major Sydney exhibition. Staged to coincide with the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is a provocative exhibition of 75 contemporary works created by the artist over the last two decades.

Professor Colin Rhodes, Dean of the University of Sydney’s contemporary art school and curator of the exhibition, said: “For a long time Roger Ballen’s photography has trodden a path where others are too timid to tread, toying with our innermost dreams, nightmares and desires. The raw, atmospheric exhibition spaces at Sydney College of the Arts [the site of the former Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital] are the ideal setting to articulate this core aspect of Ballen’s work.”

Born in New York in 1950, Ballen has lived in Johannesburg since the 1970s. His work as a geologist took him across the countryside and led him to explore, through the camera lens, the smaller South African towns. His early photographs of the hidden lives of people living on the fringes of society made considerable impact, receiving acclaim from American writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag among others.

Through the medium of black and white photography, Ballen has achieved a unique integration of drawing, painting and installation that have been compared to the masters of art brut. His peculiar and somewhat shocking imagery confronts the viewer and drags them into the work. Viewers are participants in the work – not merely observers – taking them on a journey into the recesses of their minds, as Ballen explores his own.

Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind consists of five sections that see people, birds, animal and inanimate subjects become the ‘cast’ in an exhibition that is hard-hitting, psychological theatre. The Sydney exhibition includes a new installation work created onsite at SCA by Ballen in response to the site’s mental health history, in the labyrinth of underground cells of the former Rozelle hospital.

The show includes Ballen’s award-winning music video ‘I Fink U Freeky’ (2012) by South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, which has received over 76 million hits on YouTube and earned a cult following. In addition, the public will be able to access his equally remarkable video works Outland and Asylum of the Birds.

The worldwide impact of Ballen’s work was celebrated in major retrospective exhibition at Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art from 2013 to 2014. It was this exhibition that drove Rhodes’ interest to bring Ballen’s work to Australia.

“When I first saw Ballen’s work en masse, I was struck by the role of drawing in his photos and what seemed to me a relationship with Art Brut or Outsider Art. The artist’s interest in and knowledge of Outsider Art is a key part of understanding the growth of Ballen’s identity as an international artist,” said Professor Rhodes.

Roger Ballen will present a public talk in Sydney at SCA on 9 March, ahead of the official opening of his Sydney exhibition on Tuesday 15 March. Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is showing at SCA Galleries from 16 March to 7 May 2016. A 96-page book will accompany the exhibition featuring Ballen’s photography and an essay by Professor Rhodes.”

Press release from SCA Galleries


Roger Ballen. 'Caged' 2011


Roger Ballen
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Bewitched' 2012


Roger Ballen
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Untitled' 2015


Roger Ballen
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Twirling Wires' 2001


Roger Ballen
Twirling Wires
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Mirrored' 2012


Roger Ballen
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery



“Ballen has no qualms about creating dramatic scenarios in his search for “archetypal” symbols that speak to the viewer’s subconscious. He began as a documentary photographer but over the years his pictures have become filled with drawings, paintings and sculptural brac-a-brac, created by the artist himself, or by his subjects. In works such as Collision (2005) or Deathbed (2010), there are no figures, but the human presence is implied by a face drawn on a pillow or the broken head of a doll. The walls in both photos are covered in crude drawings and dirty marks – signs of previous occupation…

[Ballen] argues that these images are primarily psychological, not sociological. He wants to address that deep, dark part of the mind that Freud called “the Id”. As a concept it’s more poetic than biological – a shared repositary of instinctive drives that remains buried under the trappings of civilisation…

Despite the extreme nature of her work, Diane Arbus remained within the documentary tradition, whereas a figure such as Joel-Peter Witkin constructs his own theatrical tableaux in the studio. Ballen’s work is somewhere between these two poles. The subjects of his photographs are society’s misfits, but his approach is shamelessly theatrical. His figures are not posing passively, they are collaborating with someone who has won their trust, creating a form of ad hoc performance art in bare, filthy rooms…

It’s more interesting to ask what Ballen feels when he enters such environments. To take these photos he has immersed himself in a world of violence and madness. If he has built up a rapport with his subjects it is by treating them not as freaks, but as people with their own sense of dignity. He refuses to buy into conventional distinctions about what is normal and abnormal, presumably as a legacy of his early exposure to the counterculture and the anti-psychiatry movement.”

John McDonald. “Roger Ballen,” on the John McDonald website April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 25/04/2016


Roger Ballen. 'Lunchtime' 2001


Roger Ballen
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Take off' 2012


Roger Ballen
Take off
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Cat and Mouse' 2001


Roger Ballen
Cat and Mouse
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'School Room' 2003


Roger Ballen
School Room
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery


Roger Ballen. 'Portrait of sleeping girl' 2000


Roger Ballen
Portrait of sleeping girl


Roger Ballen. 'Deathbed' 2010


Roger Ballen


Roger Ballen. 'Three hands' 2006


Roger Ballen
Three hands


Roger Ballen. 'Head inside shirt' 2001


Roger Ballen
Head inside shirt



SCA Galleries
Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney)
Kirkbride Way, off Balmain Road, Lilyfield (enter opposite Cecily Street)
Tel: +61 2 9351 1008

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday, 11am – 5pm
Saturday, 11am – 4pm (during exhibitions)

SCA Galleries website


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Exhibition: ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 6th July 2014


If I had half of this artists courage, I might not even have a quarter of her talent.


Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

View the catalogue essays Ana Mendieta: Traces by Stephanie Rosenthal and Embers by Adrian Heathfield (2.66Mb pdf)



“Art is a material act of culture, but its greatest value is its spiritual role, and that influences society, because it’s the greatest contribution to the intellectual and moral development of humanity that can be made”

“My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs through everything; from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.”

“To me, the work has existed on different levels. It existed on the level of being in nature and eventually being eroded away. But obviously when it’s shown to someone as a photograph, that’s what it is.”

Ana Mendieta


The few women working with the body at that time were in instant affinity with each other… The struggle for all of us was to keep the sensuousness of the body and to de-eroticize it in terms of cultural expectations. It was gratifying and exciting to discover her work. Those of us who had already been situating the body as central to our visual aesthetic could also anticipate the resistance that would be around her.

I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory. More than Ana dies, when she dies.”

Carolee Schneeman quoted in Camhi, Leslie. “ART; Her Body, Herself,” on the New York Times website published June 20, 2004 [Online] Cited 20/06/2014


“You do feel the sadness that she’s not with us and you wonder where she would have gone with her work.”




Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)' (detail) 1972


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)
Suite of eight color photographs (estate prints, 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)' 1972


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)
Suite of seven colour photographs, estate prints 1997
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Rape' 1973


Ana Mendieta
Color photograph (lifetime print)
20.4 x 25.4 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris


Ana Mendieta. 'Rape Scene' 1973


Ana Mendieta
Rape Scene
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2 cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010


Rape Scene (1973) was part of series of works devised in response to the rape and murder of a fellow student on the Iowa University campus, where Mendieta completed her BA, MA (painting) and an MFA (inter-media). She invited friends and fellow students to her apartment. The viewer entered through a slightly ajar door into a dark apartment into a room where the artist appeared under a single source of light revealing Mendieta stripped from the waist down. The artist stood slouched and bound over a table, nude from the waist down with her body smeared in blood. Around her was an assemblage of broken plates and blood on the floor. Her direct identification with a specific victim meant that she could not be seen as an anonymous object in a theatrical tableau.


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)' (detail) 1973


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)
Suite of six color photographs (estate prints 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Body Tracks)' 1974


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Body Tracks)
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection of Igor DaCosta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)' 1972


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)
Suite of six colour photographs, estate prints
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1973


Ana Mendieta
Lifetime colour photograph
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2011
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Blood and Feathers #2' 1974


Ana Mendieta
Blood and Feathers #2
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Imagen de Yagul' 1973


Ana Mendieta
Imagen de Yagul
Lifetime colour photograph
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London



“Ana Mendieta: Traces is the first comprehensive survey of this influential artist’s work to be presented in Great Britain or the German-speaking world. It persuasively demonstrates that her art, while very much rooted in the concerns of her day, maintains a powerful connection to our present moment. Born in Cuba in 1948, Mendieta was forced to immigrate to the United States as a child due to her father’s political situation, and much of her work is obliquely haunted by the exile’s sense of displacement, while also reflecting her position as a double minority in North America’s largely white, male art world of the 1970s and 1980s. From the beginning, motifs of transience, absence, violence, belonging, and an identity in flux animated her multidisciplinary art, which ranged nomadically across practices associated with body art, land art, performance, sculpture, photography and film. At its core lay her recurring use of her own body – its physical and photographic traces – and her interest in marginal outdoor sites and elemental materials.

Spanning her brief, yet remarkably productive, career, this exhibition explores the many distinct facets of her practice. It captures her powerfully visceral evocation of ritual and sacrifice, as well as cycles of life and decay, while also highlighting her pioneering role as a conceptual border-crosser. Including photographs, drawings, sculptures, Super-8 films and a substantial selection of photographic slides, most of which have not been exhibited until now, Ana Mendieta: Traces reveals an artist whose underlying concerns led her to bravely re-work and re-combine genres, to draw on different cultures, both archaic and contemporary, while challenging the limits of the art discourse of her time. Her work continues to profoundly challenge, disturb, influence and inspire.

The Museum der Moderne Salzburg will open an extensive retrospective of the work of Ana Mendieta, one of our era’s most important and influential artists. Mendieta was born to a politically active family in Havana, Cuba in 1948. In the wake of the Cuban revolution, when she was only twelve years old, her parents sent her together with her sister to the United States. In 1985, at just thirty-six years old, she died under tragic circumstance in New York. During her short yet prolific career, she developed a unique visual language that is mesmerizing in its intimacy, and equally challenging. Her pioneering work has been acknowledged by large retrospectives in the United States and Europe, and is represented in the collections of major museums.

According to Sabine Breitwieser, director at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, who has arranged the exhibition, “a comprehensive exhibition in the German-speaking area, especially in Austria, and the German monograph on Ana Mendieta are long overdue. The artist’s distinctive work, in which she stages her body within the landscape, seems to be ideally exhibited at this site, where nature and the theatrical take on such a major role. Due to the fragility of the work, this could possibly be one of the last extensive Mendieta exhibitions.”

Among the central themes in Mendieta’s artistic work are exile and cultural displacement. In her search for identity and finding her place in the world, she attempted to create a dialogue between the landscape and the female body. Her work reveals numerous points of contingency with the emerging art movements of the 1960s and 1970s – Conceptual art, land art, and performance art. Nonetheless, it refuses any kind of categorization and instead addresses missing links or gaps between different media and art forms. “Through my art I want to express the immediacy of life and the eternity of nature,” wrote Mendieta in 1981. Using her own body and elementary materials, such as blood, fire, earth, and water, she created transitory pieces that combine rituals with metaphors for life, death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation. Her disembodied “earth body” sculptures were private, meditative ceremonies in nature documented in the form of slides and films. From them, Mendieta developed the so-called Siluetas (silhouettes), which form the core of her work. In the 1980s, Mendieta’s body disappeared from her artworks and she started to generate indoor works for galleries. Her engagement with nature continued in her sculptures and drawings, which she created as lasting works.

The exhibition presents roughly 150 works, which are organized throughout twelve spaces; two of these spaces are reconstructions of the original exhibitions by the artist. The works shown are in a multitude of media ranging from photography, film, and sculpture through to drawing. A further section will present the artist’s archive. Slides and photographs, notebooks and postcards offer insight into Mendieta’s working methods. The concern of Stephanie Rosenthal, chief curator of the Hayward Gallery London, is “to show Ana Mendieta’s outstanding work in all of its facets, and to place her artistic process at the center.”

While the artistic media that Mendieta utilizes in her works could not be any more diverse, the pictures that she produces are characterized by an unmistakable, overwhelming and mystical poetry. This exhibition makes clear that almost thirty years after the artist’s premature death, her work has lost none of its singularity and uniqueness.”

Text from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg website


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Silueta Series)' 1978


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Silueta Series)
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


Ana Mendieta. 'Alma, Silueta en Fuego' (Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still) 1975


Ana Mendieta
Alma, Silueta en Fuego (
Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still)
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
3:07 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)' (still) 1976


Ana Mendieta
Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)
(Soul, Silhouette of Fireworks)
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
2:22 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)' 1973


Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)
Black-and-white photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.4 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Gallery Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery London



“Ana Mendieta died at just 36 years old, but the imprint of her life digs deeper than most. Mendieta’s work occupies the indeterminate space between land, body and performance art, refusing to be confined to any one genre while working to expand the horizons of them all. With the immediacy of a fresh wound and the weightlessness of a half-remembered song, Mendieta’s artwork remains as haunting and relevant today as ever.

Her haunting imagery explores the relationship between earth and spirit while tackling the eternally plaguing questions of love, death and rebirth. Like an ancient cave drawing, Mendieta’s art gets as close as possible to her subject matter allowing no excess, using primal and visceral means to navigate her themes. Decades after her death, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg will show a retrospective of the late feminist artist’s work, simply titled “Ana Mendieta: Traces.”

Mendieta, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948, moved to the U.S. at 12 years old to escape Castro’s regime. There she hopped between refugee camps and foster homes, planting inside her an obsession with ideas of loss, belonging and the impermanence of place. As an artist in the 1970s, Mendieta embarked upon her iconic series “Silhouettes,” in which she merged body and earthly material, making nature both canvas and medium. In her initial “Silhouette,” Mendieta lay shrouded in an ancient Zapotec grave, letting natural forms eat up her diminutive form.

Her “earth-body” sculptures, as they came to be known, feature blood, feathers, flowers and dirt smothered and stuck on Mendieta’s flesh in various combinations. In “Imagen de Yagul,” speckled feverishly in tiny white flowers, she appears as ethereal and disembodied as Ophelia, while in “Untitled Blood and Feathers” Mendieta looks simultaneously the helpless victim and the guilty culprit. “She always had a direction – that feeling that everything is connected,” Ana’s sister Raquelin said of her work.

An uncertain mythology runs throughout Mendieta’s oeuvre, a feeling at once primal, pagan and feminine. Admirers have cited the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria as an influence, as well as the ancient rituals of Mexico, where Mendieta made much of her work. Yet many of Mendieta’s pieces removed themselves from the spiritual realm to address present day events, for example “Rape Scene,” a 1973 performance based off the rape and murder of a close friend. For the piece Mendieta remained tied to a table for two hours, motionless, her naked body smeared with cow’s blood. In another work, Mendieta smushes her face and body against glass panes, like a child eager to peek into an off-limits locale, or a bug that’s crashed into a windshield. Against the glass, her scrambled facial features almost resemble a Cubist artwork.

Mendieta died tragically young in 1985, falling from her New York City apartment window onto a delicatessen below. She was living with her husband of eight months, minimalist sculptor Carl Andre at the time. Andre was convicted of murder following the horrific incident and later acquitted. Though the art world remains captivated by the mysterious nature of Mendieta’s passing, her sister emphasized the importance of removing Ana’s work from her life story. “I don’t want it to get in the way of the work,” she said. “Her death has really nothing to do with her work. Her work was about life and power and energy and not about death.”

Fellow feminist performance artist Carolee Schneeman disagrees, however, telling The New York Times in 2004: “I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory.”

Since many of Mendieta’s artworks were bodily performances, the ephemera that remain are but traces of her original endeavors. For an artist whose career was built on imprints, ghosts and impressions, this seems aptly fitting. Visceral yet distant, bodily yet spiritual, Mendieta’s images speak a language very distant from the insular artistic themes that so often populate gallery and museum walls. Mendieta’s works present the female body turned out, at once vulnerable and all-powerful, frail and supernatural. As her retrospective makes obvious, her artistic traces are still oozing lifeblood.”

Priscilla Frank. “The Haunting Traces Of Ana Mendieta Go On View (NSFW),” on the Huffington Post website February 4, 2014 [Online] Cited 30/06/2014


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1976 "Silueta Series, Mexico"


Ana Mendieta
“Silueta Series, Mexico”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2 cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010


Mendieta formed a silueta on the beach at La Ventosa, Mexico, filling it with red tempera that was ultimately washed away by the ocean waves. The artist documented the obliteration of the figure by the tide in a sequence of 35 mm slides.


Ana Mendieta. 'Tree of Life' 1976


Ana Mendieta
Tree of Life
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1978 "Silueta Series, Iowa"


Ana Mendieta
“Silueta Series, Iowa”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.3 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris


Ana Mendieta. 'Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres)' [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)] 1982


Ana Mendieta
Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres) [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)]
Black-and-white photograph, box mounted, exhibition copy
Collection Ignacio C. Mendieta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1982


Ana Mendieta
Graphite on leaf of a copey tree (Clusia major)
E. Righi Collection
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85


Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London


Ana Mendieta. 'El Laberinto de Venus' (Labyrinth of Venus) 1985


Ana Mendieta
El Laberinto de Venus (Labyrinth of Venus)
Acrylic on paper
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London



Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
T: +43.662.84 22 20-403

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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