Performative ArtTalk August 3: Pre-Work and Thoughts

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Hi ArtTalkers,

In preparation for our next ArtTalk on Thursday August 3, I’ll be sharing occasional content on artists who use their body as material in their performance art.

This text was inspired by a performance by Petra Deus on May 14, in St. Gertud, Cologne as part of the exhibition: “Die Spur des Wortes”.

Performance art is a kind of artwork or art exhibition created through actions carried out by the artist or other participants. It may be witnessed live or via documentation, spontaneously developed or scripted. It is traditionally presented to the public. Sometimes the public is invited to co-create the art piece. In this bespoke case, Ms Deus carries out an artistic act for the audience. However, during the span of the exhibition, she also invites interested participants to contribute their own “words” which she will re-image by stitching or by sewing them onto textile fragments. These artifacts become what she calls “Denkzetteln”.

Petra Deus deals with the impact of the word in everyday and spiritual contexts. In this particular dance performance, she slowly and methodically lets salt – an element with strong biblical connotations - trickle from her hand. She uses the grains of salt taken from a white sack to form words across the floor of the St Gertrud church. The audience watched transfixed as each letter emerged. She empties the entire bag of salt to compose “Ich bin da”. As soon as the phrase is complete, Ms Deus begins with a broom to decompose the salt words. Her gestures stay controlled and minimalistic. In the last act, in the cloud of scattered salt formerly spelling “da”, she bends down to write in Hebrew the sign Dabar which means “word” and then she leaves the floor.

The artist uses words to question words. She disengages words from their meaning in this installation in a way that shifts perspectives and creates poetic associations. The dance performance added another layer of emergent meaning to the embroidered “worded” objects.

These objects are arranged throughout the sacral space of the church; in a large spiral, on the altar, in the baptistry, confessional, and crypt. Together with collages by Reiner Fuchs this show is a visually compelling experience.

Petra Deus – Reiner Fuchs

Exhibition in St. Gertud Köln


Ms Deus Objects in Wood, Textiles, Ink/Graphite
Sonntag, May 21st Tour with Sabine Klement.
Monday, May 29th Finissage, concert 17 h “Alles hat seine Zeit”

My next Performance Art content nugget will be on Valie Export. Ms. Export will give a talk at Museum Ludwig on May 22nd. I plan to include her photography in our next ArtTalk on Thursday, August 3rd. So go ahead and make a note in your calendars 🤗

Happy Springtime 🌼 to you all.

Karla Schlaepfer