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Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt opens three outdoor walk-in installations by Hélio Oiticica
Hélio Oiticica, Penetrável Macaléia "Homenagem a Jards Macalé", 1978/2013. Installation view: Palmengarten, Photo: Axel Schneider.

FRANKFURT.- In conjunction with the retrospective “Hélio Oiticica: The Great Labyrinth” (28 September 2013 – 12 January 2014) at the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, the Frankfurt Palmengarten presents three outdoor walk-in installations by the Brazilian artist from 30 August (Friday) to 27 October. In one of the pavilions, Penetréval PN 14 MAP, a performance and film programme take place with interventions by contemporary artists. The programme was developed by students of the master’s course in “Curatorial Studies – Theorie – Geschichte – Kritik” (Goethe-Universität and Städelschule).

Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980) is considered a pioneer of participatory art. In the early 1960s he developed strategies for opening up new socio-political perspectives in art. He conceived of himself as a constructer of materiality, colour, time, space and situations. Rather than prescribing a certain form of reception, Oiticica’s expansive installations (Penetráveis) – of which three will be on view in the Palmengarten – invite the visitor to free exploration and participation.

“Oiticica was ahead of his time, farther ahead than virtually any other artist of his generation. It would be many years before the terms ‘participation,’ ‘environment,’ and ‘proposition’ would come to dominate artistic discourse in Europe and North America; Oiticica already formulated them at an early stage in his career, and to this day they account for the key significance his oeuvre holds for contemporary art”, observes Peter Gorschlüter, deputy director of the MMK and curator of the exhibition.

Oiticica designed his Penetráveis from the 1960s onwards. The term “penetrável” was invented by the artist and derives from the Portuguese verb “penetrar” (“penetrate”). Penetrável PN 14 MAP was executed as part of a series of concepts for / models of pavilions differing in size, colour and form, three of which were set up in the Palmengarten according to the artist’s precise instructions. What they have in common is that they are all designed for participation by the visitor and interplay with the surrounding space in the form of experiments and events for all of the senses. During his lifetime, Oiticica frequently invited dancers, musicians, artists and writers to interact with his works and installations. Yet visitors can explore the installations on their own as well, not only during but also between the performances.

At the Palmengarten, the three pavilions are surrounded by the landscaped nature of a botanical garden. They create new spaces and change our perspective on the familiar environment. Visitors encounter the tropical vegetation of Oiticica’s native country in the nearby greenhouses. The show represents the first exhibition to be presented jointly by the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst and the Frankfurt Palmengarten.

Through performances with sound, lecture and dance as well as a film series, the pavilion has been brought to life in keeping with Oiticica’s approach, and presents the visitors with special realms of perception and interaction. How do visitors experience Oiticica’s pavilion? What approaches and ideas are found in works of contemporary art? How does participation take place? Over the past months, the participants in the “Curatorial Studies” programme have explored these questions in depth. The result is a comprehensive film and performance programme featuring twelve artistic approaches, developed by the students for Oiticica’s Penetrável PN 14 MAP at the Frankfurt Palmengarten. Experiments with sound, language and dance, projections, salon evenings and tours will draw from Oiticica’s concepts and ideas and translate them into terms of the present. Within the framework of the MMK Sunset at the Palmengarten (11 September), the American performer Vaginal Davis will hold an audience entitled Lesbi Tropicália. An exclusive encounter awaits the viewer; secrets and gossip can be exchanged over tea and cookies. On three evenings the performances will be accompanied by a film programme. Within that framework, films and videos by artists of the present such as Pauline Boudry/ Renate Lorenz and Pola Sieverding will be juxtaposed with cinematic works by Oiticica’s contemporaries Charles Simonds and Jack Smith.

The programme developed by the students is the first curatorial project to be carried out by the degree programme, which cooperates closely with the museums of Frankfurt and has meanwhile gained international recognition. “Curating has to be learned, theoretically and practically. In addition to substantive knowledge of the subject, this requires theoretical knowledge, particularly in the area of epistemology and aesthetics, but also practical experience with the exhibition and staging of artistic works in space”, explains Dr Stefanie Heraeus, the initiator and head of the master’s programme, which is now in its fourth year. The course is a cooperative undertaking of the Goethe-Universität and the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Städelschule being carried out jointly with five museums of Frankfurt: the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, the Städel Museum and Liebieghaus, the Historisches Museum, the Weltkulturen Museum, and the Portikus. The programme is distinguished by the internationally unique alliance of a university, an art academy and several museums. Thanks to the innovative teaching and learning methods employed, the students can combine academic training and scholarly research with curatorial issues and practical professional experience.

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