Dara Friedman

Supportico Lopez, Berlin, Germany

Shortly before Christmas in 1967, the poet Paul Celan travelled to Berlin to read at the city’s Academy of the Arts. A friend loaned him a book about the 1919 murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, in which Celan read a court testimony that described the violent way in which ‘Liebknecht was shot full of holes like a sieve’. On 20 December, Celan walked down Berlin’s Budapester Straße and noted the cruel irreverence with which the house where Liebknecht and Luxemburg were murdered had been renovated as a luxury hotel called the Eden. Celan’s trip resulted in a poem I cherish that uses the language of violence to redeem the violence of language: it rhymes Eden (Eden) with Jeden (everyone) and tells of ‘the man’ that ‘became a sieve’.

4th_sidweays_single_screen.00_04_45_00.still001.jpg

Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017 four-channel video projection,16mm film transferred to HD video, color, sound. Courtesy: the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin 

Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017 four-channel video projection, 16mm film transferred to HD video. Courtesy: the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin

 

For Dara Friedman’s ‘Dichter’ (Poets, 2017), the artist issued an open call to performers asking them to recite a poem that they find meaningful. Having selected 16 individuals, the German-born, Miami-based artist then filmed them, one by one, against a pink backdrop, as they sought to embody rather than recite their poems, an adaption of the innovative Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski’s technique of speaking through the entire body. Friedman presented the resulting 16mm films as a multi-part installation: voices shouting, simultaneously, at times incomprehensibly, in German, or lulling us sweetly with words alone. Some faces sprout up from different corners of the room; others are stacked in multiple windows within a single screen. If it sounds like the cacophony we often experience these days as part of our socially-mediated lives, in which a plurality of voices and faces flicker from one to the next, then consider how deftly Friedman has mobilized the alienation and earnestness of poetry to capture this.

michael.00_00_48_03.still010.jpg

Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017, four-channel video projection,16mm film transferred to HD video, color, sound. Courtesy the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin 

Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017, four-channel video projection, 16mm film transferred to HD video. Courtesy: the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin

 

Some performers chose familiar poems from the likes of Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Rainer Maria Rilke. Others opted for dramatic monologues with a highly sentimental first-person narrative, their performances coming close to the self-expression in the verse. One poem, well-known in Germany but unfamiliar abroad, attributed here to Christian Morgenstern, is titled ‘Dunkel war’s, der Mond schien helle’ (It was dark, the moon shone brightly, 1898). The Jabberwocky-like poem contains a series of paradoxes, such as ‘sitting people standing in a room’.

Poetry is a paradoxical art: it attempts to resuscitate language and thus redeem experience in a manner that is at once personal and shared. It resonates today due to our difficulty to parse individual expression from collective solipsism. How do we, like Celan, distinguish the violence done to and by language – the decline of speech and its rejuvenation? Such questions are central to Friedman’s piece, which constitutes a paradoxical moment of collective self-expression.

katarina.mov.00_00_21_23.still013.tif_.jpg

Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017, four-channel video projection,16mm film transferred to HD video, color, sound. Courtesy the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin 

Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017, four-channel video projection, 16mm film transferred to HD video. Courtesy the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin

 

Friedman’s usage of poetry, German literary history, self-expression and preciousness, is not always legible. There are some holes in the presentation – the decision to use mostly German-language poetry, for instance, limits accessibility. Yet ‘Dichter’ is legitimated due to the way it captures today’s synthesis of signal and noise, poetry and detritus, volubility and distance, individualism and history. We struggle to parse what is valuable from what is not. (In another room stands a vitrine filled with 16 unique rings made by Friedman, which seem to represent the talismanic aspects of poems.) On one screen, we see a performer reciting a poem entitled ‘I Love You So’ (1928), by the German artist and writer Joachim Ringelnatz, who showed artworks at the Academy of the Arts before his practice was denounced as degenerate by the Nazis. The poem ends with a sweet antinomy: ‘The main thing about a sieve / is its holes. / I love you so’.

Main image: Dara Friedman, Dichter, 2017, four-channel video projection,16mm film transferred to HD video. Courtesy: the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin

 

Pablo Larios is associate editor of frieze. He lives in Berlin.

Issue 188

First published in Issue 188

June – August 2017

Most Read

Ahead of its South London Gallery performance, how Tom Phillips’s Irma – a work that questions the genre of opera...
With the opening of the 15th Istanbul Biennial this week, a guide to the best exhibitions around town
Ahead of the openings of EXPO Chicago and the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, a guide to the best exhibitions...
Florine Stettheimer, Beauty Contest: To the Memory of P.T. Barnum, 1924, oil on canvas, 1.2 x 1.5 m. Courtesy: Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut and Ettie Stettheimer
The Jewish Museum, New York, USA
Highlights of the exhibitions and performances taking place during Berlin Art Week 
Reflections, a favourite verse, and a new poem dedicated to one of the English language’s most renowned poets of the...
Nicole Eiseman, Sketch for a Fountain (Skizze für einen Brunnen), 2017, Skulptur Projekte 2017, bronze, gips, wasserbecken. Courtesy: Skulptur Projekte Münster
Various venues, Münster, Germany
Buoyed by Manifesta announcing it will dock in the port city in 2020, is Marseille becoming the new LA? 
Ahead of this year’s DC Open and gallery share Okey-Dokey, a round-up of the best shows across the Rhineland cities
From artist Enoch Cheng’s nocturnal balletics to fascist violence in Charlottesville, rethinking the political agency...
Opened 15 months ago but remaining empty until now, the inaugural show at the landmark Palestinian Museum in Birzeit
The dual sides to the city’s Cph Art Week
Queer cringe at the BBC and other diversity dilemmas
Marta Minujín, El Partenón de libros (The Parthenon of Books), 2017, under construction in Kassel as part of documenta 14. Photograph: © Rosa Maria Ruehling
On documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel
Chris Kraus’s biography of the first female ‘Great Writer as Countercultural Hero’
Remembering the artist whose occultist experiments transformed her body and biography into art 
In this microcosm of the disenfranchisement of ‘Late Great Britain’, what use is art?
Public debate around Confederate insignia has little to do with historical fact, and everything to do with collective...
A multi-faceted collaboration between Matthew Barney, Ragnar Kjartansson and the Iceland Dance Company reflects on...
What Luc Besson’s Valerian and a number of recent artists’ 3D films are getting right about our current reality
The removal of the Confederate monuments in Baltimore shows decisiveness after years of inaction – already they stand...
Yayoi Kusama to open her own museum; Confederate monuments removed in Baltimore; David Roberts Art Foundation to leave...
From a tribute to Straub/Huillet to Valerie Massadian’s portrait of teenage motherhood, the turn to real situations and...
Japan’s growing number of art festivals tread a precarious path between state-sponsored leisure-culture and soft-power...
Fifty years after the term was coined, a show in Samos reflects on ‘the unlikely liaison between love and politics’
Arsenale and Giardini, Venice, Italy
SoundCloud has been invaluable to the new music community for both documentation and discovery – now the audio-...
The extraordinary life of the late, great, gallerist and collector Alexander Iolas
Various venues, New York, USA
At a time of instantaneous information and fetishized immersivity, artists are evoking scent as an alchemical, bodily...
With her current show at Gasworks, London, the Kuwaiti artist shares some influential images
Romare Bearden, Pittsburgh Memory, 1964, mixed media collage and graphite on board, 22 x 30 cm. Courtesy: © Romare Bearden Foundation / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017
Successfully layering a broader socio-historical narrative onto a period of radical non-conformity, this is an...
With a strong surrealist strain, and including a welcome number of female artists, highlights from the 48th edition of...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

May 2017

frieze magazine

June – August 2017

frieze magazine

September 2017