September 28, 2012 - Portikus - Michael Stevenson
September 28, 2012

Michael Stevenson

Michael Stevenson and Nuno da Luz, 2012.

Michael Stevenson
A Life of Crudity, Vulgarity, and Blindness

September 29–December 2, 2012

Opening: Friday, September 28, 1–6pm
Celebration with Sound Performance by Alan B. Brock-Richmond from 8pm

Alte Brücke 2 / Maininsel
60594 Frankfurt am Main

“Objects have physically disappeared. Only their images and their memory remain.”
–José de Jesús Martínez, Teoria del Vuelo, Panamá, 1979

Artist Michael Stevenson makes adjustments to narrative texts, re-constructs objects and renders images which draw, by means of allegory, upon his long-standing fascination with island states. For Portikus—positioned on an island in the river Main and home to a bird sanctuary—Michael Stevenson takes on the entire building and translates its structure into a large camera obscura to produce an image “in-flight.”

Utilizing the “magical” effects of daylight, mirror and lens, an image will pass through the building determined by the particularities of the Portikus structure. The building-as-camera will make a live-photograph of a life-size aircraft lodged in the attic like a ship in a bottle. The image will pass out the attic window, fall through an external shaft and arrive back inside the exhibition hall. At night, the object of flight will be seen at a distance across the river and through the distinctive attic windows of Portikus.

In keeping with the artist’s previous re-constructions of architectural forms and re-productions of objects that animate historical narratives, Michael Stevenson has integrated a specific history into the transformation of the building. Panamanian mathematician, Marxist philosopher, poet and playwright José de Jesús Martínez (known as Chuchú) is the protagonist of this installation. He was also the personal bodyguard and advisor to Panamá’s leader General Omar Torrijos Herrera. His writings have been a significant source material for Michael Stevenson since he began tracing a confluence of remarkable events that occurred on the island of Contadora, set in the Gulf of Panama, in the late 1970s.

Chuchú was also a keen aviator and flew a number of light aircraft, each named after an Aleph number from the mathematical sequence used in set theory to represent the infinite. For the Portikus exhibition, Chuchú’s text Teoria del Vuelo (Theory of Flight) is both transcribed onto physical space and reproduced in book form. A re-print and translation of the original book, bound with the lightest paper a printing press can handle, will be available to take away.

Meanwhile, the most extensive publication on Michael Stevenson’s practice to date, with new texts by authors including Michael Taussig, Mark von Schlegell and Jan Verwoert, will be released during the exhibition. It is co-produced by Portikus and Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, and realised with support from Creative New Zealand.

Please note that due to the nature of Michael Stevenson’s installation, Portikus will be open during daylight hours only, from 10am until sunset.

For more information and guided tours of the exhibition, please contact us at or
+49 69 9624454-0.

Director: Nikolaus Hirsch
Curator: Sophie von Olfers
Guest Curator: Laura Preston

Alte Brücke 2 / Maininsel
60594 Frankfurt am Main
T +49 69 962 44 540
info [​at​]

The exhibition at Portikus is made possible by



Michael Stevenson at Portikus
Share - Michael Stevenson
  • Share