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Portikus Frankfurt

Frankfurt, Germany
Official website: Portikus Frankfurt

Portikus Frankfurt was the venue for an exhibition of Steve McQueen’s films that took place April 12 - June 8, 1997. The exhibition was reviewed by Jan Winkelmann and was published in art/text magazine, No 58, August - October 1997, pages 97 -98

Winklemann began the review by a discussion of Just Above My Head, before offering a more general introduction to McQueen’s exhibition. “For his first solo exhibition in Germany, three of McQueen’s four 16-millimeter films were screened at Frankfurt’s Portikus: Bear (1993), Five Easy Pieces (1995) and Just Above my Head (1996) (Stage, also from 1996 was not included). During the exhibition Portikus was transformed into a kind of standing cinema, the narrow rear wall of the room serving as a projection screen. When projected on such a monumental scale these black-and-white silent films disrupt the moviegoing experience - the unaccustomed silence is deafening, heightening the viewer’s own perception. He finds himself reflected into the whole, no longer able to seek refuge in uninvolved consumerism. One sequence in Five Easy Pieces makes this dramatically evident: clad only in a pair of white boxer shorts, McQueen straddles the camera. The extraordinary aesthetic quality of the shot, reminiscent of a Calvin Klein ad, is abruptly shattered when McQueen reaches into his shorts, pulls out his penis and begins to urinate on the camera lens. The hermetic nature of the film’s narrative structure is defiled and the viewer’s position changes from distant voyeur to brutalized victim.”

As mentioned, Winklemann’s review began with a discussion of Just Above My Head, as follows: Steve McQueen’s latest film, Just Above My Head, is an invitation to silent reflection. The empty sky is projected onto an entire wall, drawing one irresistibly into the frame. Only the head bobbing up and down at the bottom of the picture prevents one from becoming totally submerged in its monochromatic surface. Steve McQueen is running, his face shot from an extremely low angle so that it traces rapid elliptical circles. He disappears only to resurface; sometimes just his forehead is visible, sometimes the entire head, moving faster at first, then more slowly. Is he running away or toward something? Does he know where he is going or is that irrelevant? Toward the end of the film the monochromatic sky is suddenly torn asunder: tree branches spread over the wall from left to right, vanishing as fast as they appear. But the artist keeps on running.”

The review - Steve McQueen’s films at Portikus Frankfurt - was illustrated with a still from Just Above My Head.

The review was translated by Ruth Koenig

Related items

click to show details of Steve McQueen’s films at Portikus/Frankfurt

»  Steve McQueen’s films at Portikus/Frankfurt

Review relating to an exhibition, 1997

Exhibitions at this venue

People who have appeared at this venue

»  Steve McQueen OBE, CBE

Born, 1969 in London, UK