Asad Raza: Diversion

Asad Raza: Diversion


Portikus on Frankfurt’s Main island. Courtesy of Google Earth.

May 27, 2022
Asad Raza
June 25–September 25, 2022
Artist talk: June 21, 7–9pm
Aula of Städelschule, Dürerstraße 10, 60596 Frankfurt am Main
Press preview: June 23, 9:30–11am
Opening: June 24, 6pm
Alte Brücke 2 / Maininsel
60594 Frankfurt am Main
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 12–7pm,
Saturday–Sunday 11am–7pm

T +49 69 96244540
Instagram / Facebook

Asad Raza’s new work Diversion redirects the river through Portikus and invites the public to interact with and dip in the waters of the Main.

The river is a key protagonist in the planetary water cycle—channeling earth’s circulation of water from mountain to brook, from ocean and to cloud. As a source of energy flows, fertility, and new life, the river is often understood as a powerful deity or person, holding historical, economical, socio-political, and emotional importance. In response to Portikus’ unique location on Frankfurt’s Main island, artist Asad Raza’s new work Diversion reflects on the many facets that rivers carry. In an evocative waterscape that spans the entire exhibition space, visitors encounter a continuous stream of the Main diverted through the gallery and flowing back to the current.

At the heart of Raza’s practice is the creation of experiences and dialogues. In Diversion, the audience is invited to interact with, dip in, and drink purified water from the river. As in many of the artist’s works, human exchange is an integral part of this piece. Custodians, who Raza cast on site, wander with the visitor, explaining scientific facts, telling stories and carrying out daily rituals, such as monitoring the water quality, analyzing its development, filtering, and remineralizing quantities of it. By bringing together the processual and the relational, Raza emphasizes in this piece the interdependence of humans and their environment.

The notion of transformation—of knowledge and substance—is highlighted by various materials used in the gallery and by actions occurring throughout the exhibition. While logs of charcoal are made by burning sticks gathered on the island, a sandbank recalls how stones crush against each other, alluding to natural and industrial processes of alteration, which are both central aspects of evolution. The filtered sediments collected from the channel provide vital nutrients for the plants to live and grow in the gallery. Inspired by the image of the river delta, all elements are connected like arteries and feeding on each other. Diversion forms an ecosystem, which the artist describes as a metabolism—the synergy of human, plant and mineral life. Using common materials, such as newspapers, picnic tables, pipes and pitchers, Raza imagines an environment of collective memory, creating a place of gathering and contemplation. In this sense, the title, Diversion, alludes both the literal detour of the Main through Portikus and to the urgency of steering away from the course.

Asad Raza (b. 1974 in Buffalo, US) rejects disciplinary boundaries in his work, which conceives of art as a metabolic, active experience. Using actions and processes such as soil-making, tennis, and horticulture, his projects create encounters within and beyond the exhibition. His works have been realized by institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art (2017), the Lahore Biennale (2018), Kaldor Public Art Projects (2019), Gropius Bau (2020), the Serpentine Galleries (2020), Urbane Kunst Ruhr (2021), West Den Haag (2022), Grand Union (2021–2023) and the Front Triennial (2022). 

Diversion is accompanied by an artist newspaper edited by Asad Raza and Mathew Hale, with contributions by Liberty Adrien, Arhun Aksakal, Sophia Al-Maria, Shane Anderson, Carina Bukuts, Keren Cytter, Manthia Diawara, Emily Dickinson, Dan Graham, Rufus Hale, Catalina Imizcoz, Prem Krishnamurthy, Wolfram Lotz, Adéla Součková, Joe Stahlmann, Elsa Stanyer, Bones Tan Jones, and more. The newspaper is designed by Studio Pandan and co-published by X Artists’ Books.

Diversion is made possible by the support from Hessische Kulturstiftung, Kulturamt der Stadt Frankfurt am Main and Städelschule Portikus e.V.. Additional support is provided by Oase.

Director: Yasmil Raymond
Curators: Liberty Adrien & Carina Bukuts

Register for the press preview via presse [​at​]

RSVP for Asad Raza: Diversion
May 27, 2022

Thank you for your RSVP.

Portikus will be in touch.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.