The Way You Move / from N.PARADOXA, Journeys, Vol.17 / 2006


Julia Schäfer, curator,  Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig, 2006


Marion Porten examines strategies of knowledge-mediation, as we encounter them. Her last project looked at popular science. The Way You Move (2004-2005) has strongly changed and influenced my view on gender-specific acting and everyday-performance. Societies' expectations, values and norms with regard to gender and sex are not only inscribed in and on the body, but they are just as visible in its language and movements. Female and male body languages are even defined as having clearly distinct dialects, but are so deeply internalized that we are hardly conscious of them.

This work is a three-part installation made up of two animated documentaries and a performance instruction. In the first documentary "The Beard Stroke" (DVD, 13 min.), the artist is both producer and actress in front of the camera. Sequences from entertainment alternate with snip-its of information - quotes from the making-of different popular-scientific body language literature read by a male voice-over. The film ends with a music-clip-like animation of the artist's trick-figure stroking his/her imaginary beard. The second element, "Take off a Sweater" (DVD, 6 min.) is a silent black and white film, whose plain form references the beginning of the scientific use of the media film and shows five different versions of taking off a pullover. The third part focuses on the "Manager Gesture", represented in a clichéd way by two framed photographs showing a female fashion-model and a male manager. 'Cross your hands behind the head and lean back!' Two different performing instructions invite the visitor to test out this gender-specific construction on the own body.

These three elements sit in a massive-built furniture set. The stairs reference a Felicia Roosevelt quote, about the office of Nelson Rockefeller: 'I couldn't believe how simple his New York office was. But the big thing was his trick desk. It had a large pull-out drawer with Steps on it. Rockefeller would strut up and step onto the top of his desk in order to address any assembled group.' Porten builds a unified environment out of these elements in a humorous and unmasking way to examine the role of sexes in daily performance:

'By imitating a gesture of another person the specific character of the physical expression of this person is grasped. By taking over his gestures one experiences his physical appearance and emotions. We internalize gestures by mimicking them.' (G. Gebauer / C. Wulf)