Helke Bayrle – Portikus Under Construction

Helke Bayrle – Portikus Under Construction

In the most recent history of art, to build an archive is an important if not fundamental practice in the artist’s work. So it happens that among the recent exhibitions in Milano one of the most interesting ones is the video documentation collected since 1993 by the filmmaker Helke Bayrle displayed now at Peep Hole art space.

Born in 1941 in Torun, Poland, Helke Bayrle lives and works in Frankfurt am Main. Since 1969 she has worked together with her husband Thomas Bayrle, a key-figure of the pop-art in Germany, and from the early nineties, with her video camera, she has documented the installing and setting up of 123 exhibitions at Portikus, one of the pivotal spaces in the art institution, if one is to understand the development of contemporary art languages from the end of the eighties until today.

Watching such documentation the viewer can face the impressive collection of artist portraits. Helke Bayrle’s eye covers behind-the-scenes footage, situations and settings the viewer isn’t normally exposed to, once the exhibition is set up. The films are more than mere documentation. They are subjective and intimate observations of artist personalities and the process behind creating the individual exhibitions. Bayrle’s films are a rare case of a documentation approach mingled with pureness and consistency in vision.

The movies are produced in teamwork with Kobe Matthys since 1993, and after with Sunah Choi since 2001, the editing reveals the precise intention to create short and essential aspects to depict each artist in the development of their shows. She always shot the artists as they were installing their work; the viewers see and feel and understand the art they make better when you also get to meet them as people.

The footages cover the exhibitions of masters such Gilbert & George, John Baldessari, Tony Oursler, Raymond Hains, Jimmie Durham, as well as important personalities from the nineties like Rirkrit Tiravanija, Francis Alys, Matthew Barney, Paul Chan, stars from the Young British Artists as Mark Leckey, Sarah Lucas and Mark Wallinger and Italian artists as Maurizio Cattelan and Paolo Pivi. All their works were hosted in this incredible space of Portikus telling the progress with the living language of video.

And yet, another important presence shown in the the films is the participation of the students from the Städelschule located next to Portikus in Frankfurt. The films can help us to understand deeply the strong relationship between pupils and art students with an older generation of important artists and mentors and, didactically, in how different ways each artist develops his own installation.

Entering in the small art space in Via Panfilo Castaldi for the Bayrle’s exhibition (the last one hosted by Peep Hole before moving in a new base) the visitors can select and consult the different filmworks present in the “Portikus Under Construction” archive, allowing each one to “edit” a personal journey and create a personal portrait of the Portikus, experiencing extremely different, even contrary exhibitions in this space.

From 17 November to 20 December, 2012

Riccardo Conti