Marion Porten

Ilina Koralova, Curator

The term language describes concrete systems of signs as well as all actions employed to the ends of expression or communication.

Marion Porten’s artistic practice revolves around social constructs, values and codes that, in the broadest sense, are expressed through language. In her video works, often presented within expansive installations, the artist investigates and analyses the prejudices and forms of discrimination whereby particular social groups are pressured into a subordinate role in society.*

Porten is also interested in the translation processes occurring during communication and transposition from one form of language to another. This does not imply the transferral of a specific text from a source language into a target language, but rather the transposition of an expression from one medium into another and thus from one context into another. This approach generates unrestricted structural systems of texts, images, sounds, spaces and rhythms urging to be received and grasped in the context of new arrangements.

The process of reinterpreting a text, a gesture or a full-fledged social stance or attitude starts as soon as she chooses her protagonists. Marion Porten often has women slip into typically male roles or she documents the behaviour of women carrying out traditionally male professions. For instance, she has a preeminent actress from the German Democratic Republic (renowned above all for playing Gretchen in productions of Goethe’s Faust) recite Faust’s famous monologue; she asks a female tap dancer to re-enact step sequences by the legendary Afro-American tap dancer Bill (Bojangles) Robinson; she accompanies a female conductor at work with her orchestra. Such deviations from specific stereotypes illustrate on a variety of levels both the process of translation and the shifts of meaning that occur as a result. This serves to question prevalent social values and power relationships and to seek new perceptions as a consequence.

Defined by stylistic precision, Marion Porten’s visual idiom clearly reflects the way she approaches her subject matters and performers. If for instance she is filming gestures, facial expressions and movement sequences, the camera is always at eye level with the performers. The image adjustments reflect the artist’s deferential relationship with the persons she is filming. The somewhat uncomfortable rhythm of the film, often caused by sudden harsh cuts, serves to hone our awareness of the medium and our situation as viewers. Marion Porten’s ‘filmic diction’ intelligently strikes a balance between inner participation and distanced observation.
Ilina Koralova

Text from: Einen Ort herstellen / Producing a place  2010