Johannes Porsch — Tropology

Opening, May 8, 2018, 7 pm
Exhibition, May 9 – June 22, 2018

Johannes Porsch investigates in his artistic practice how certain elements combine to form a structure and how they interact with one another. Terms like “relation,” “reciprocity,” and “processuality” serve as springboards and premises for his work. In installations, sculptural settings, and spatial interventions, as well as publications and exhibition displays, he undertakes semantic shifts or highlights existing ambiguities in order to use them as design elements in exhibition and publication contexts. Porsch reflects on underlying methodology, engaging with the techniques of artistic depiction or with reproduction and representation processes that are not unique to creating art but can also be found in broader social contexts.

“The concept of artistic research allows me to redefine my own working methods on an ongoing basis,” says the artist of his self-reflexive field of endeavor, in which he continually analyzes and reviews his own strategies for producing meaning and generating reality. “Rather than analyzing the concept itself, however, I invoke historical and contemporary artistic positions through a frame of reference that I deal with in my artistic and curatorial practice as well as in my activities as an author. Science is not the paradigm I apply. Artistic research includes instead a certain amount of ambivalence, which can only be clarified through the process of artistic production, meaning the act of creating itself.”

For Kunstraum Lakeside, Porsch is continuing research whose results he first exhibited in 2017 at the Kunstpavilion Innsbruck under the title Tropology. Tropes are linguistic devices that are used not in their actual sense but figuratively, thus corresponding with Porsch’s methods of shifting and subverting meanings. What is expressed through tropes is therefore not to be understood literally but rather in divergence from a set direction or a given path. Tropes are forms of unreality. In their constant twists and turns and changes of direction, by replacing one frame of reference with another, tropes evade clear semantic determination and undermine normative patterns and hegemonies.

“For rhetoricians, grammarians, and language theorists, tropes are deviations from literal, conventional, or ‘proper’ language use, swerves in locution sanctioned neither by custom nor logic,” wrote the historian and literary scholar Hayden White in Tropics of Discourse. “Tropes generate figures of speech or thought by their variation from what is ‘normally’ expected, and by the associations they establish between concepts normally felt not to be related or to be related in ways different from that suggested in the trope used. If (…) a trope can be seen as the linguistic equivalent of a psychological mechanism of defense (…), it is always not only a deviation from one possible, proper meaning, but also a deviation towards another meaning, conception, or ideal of what is right and proper and true ‘in reality.’”

In Johannes Porsch’s exhibition Tropology at Kunstraum Lakeside, the artist uses the concept of the trope as a figure to toy with means of communication and their respective codes, patterns, and errors. He works here with the Kunstraum’s own spatial, communicative, and institutional conditions, making minimal interventions in the exhibition space’s architecture, its design, the interior fittings designed by Josef Dabernig, its inclusion in a science and technology park, and the communication structure behind the longstanding exhibition program.

Barely noticeable markings on the modular exhibition displays, along with architectural extensions and duplications of the infrastructure lead to subtle irritations of perception, as do changes in the corporate design and the usual communication strategy used by the Kunstraum. Taking photographic views of the premises as his starting point, Porsch interweaves this conventional form of visual documentation with viral distribution mechanisms like the ones used for example by the fashion industry. Circulation of these images in the mass media can serve not only to give an art space a higher profile but also to construct its identity. This communicative entanglement in societal contexts allows the artist to aesthetically visualize (productive) relationships in his work by way of their mimetic reenactment. At the center of Johannes Porsch’s work is always the question of which forms of producing meaning are coursing through the body of society today, and how these forms can be extracted and reshaped in the future.

Quote: Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse, John Hopkins Press, Baltimore and London 1978, p. 2 ff.

Johannes Porsch (b. 1970 in Austria) lives and works in Vienna.


Johannes Porsch, Tropology, 2018