“A Fire in My Belly”

Alan Murrin

April 27, 2021
Julia Stoschek Foundation, Düsseldorf
February 6–December 12, 2021

This show of 47 works by 36 artists—41 drawn from Julia Stoschek’s collection, augmented by six loans—explores the effects of violence, physical and psychological, on the body and the body politic. The earliest work on display is Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach’s Capri (1911), an oil painting showing a sunset burning out over a darkening coastline; the most recent is Anne Imhof’s Untitled (Wave) (2021), a thirty-minute video wherein a lone figure stands on a shoreline, beating back the oncoming tide with a whip. The show is filled with careful pairings, its emotional register ranging from despair to hope, from the abject to the sublime. It takes its title from David Wojnarowicz’s 1986–87 montage of spinning eyeballs and sewn flesh, mummified corpses and ants crawling over a figurine of the crucified Jesus; on the opposite wall hangs Zoe Leonard’s Untitled Aerial (1998/2008), a photograph of a vast landscape with a river wending through it like a strip of silver ribbon. The two sit in silent communion, the naked landscape a counterbalance to the corporeal concerns of Wojnarowicz’s work. As is so often the case with this show, the wound inflicted by one piece is salved by the next.

On entering the space, a warren of rooms of varying sizes (the complex once housed the Czech Cultural Center in East Germany), the viewer encounters Cyprien Gaillard’s hologram L’ange du foyer (Vierte Fassung) (2019), a brightly colored chimera turning itself inside out like it’s being born of its own flesh. Its visceral imagery is reflected in Laure Prouvost’s video installation They Parlaient Idéale (2019), which uses the language of the uncanny to take the viewer on a journey with nomads travelling across Europe to the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where the work was first shown. The march resembles a papal procession, but the standards they bear are made up of gelatinous breasts. Live fish are held inside a half-open jacket, squirming like intestines. Octopuses creep into view, an egg yolk is squashed, an eyeball appears, and a tentacle is smoked like a cigarette. For all the nods to surrealism, Prouvost creates a visual dialect of her own.

This is a display of extremes, where quiet, ruminative work sits alongside pieces that explore the limits of the body. Marianna Simnett’s Faint With Light (2016) confronts the viewer with a bank of LED lights. Fixed to a blackened wall, the structure is tall and broad, and the effect is totalizing. The lights flash on and off in correspondence with an audio recording of four self-induced fainting episodes, growing brighter as the artist’s breathing intensifies. The artist’s body and the viewer’s endurance are tested. On a different scale, yet also inducing a physical unease, Adrian Piper’s Everything #4, (2004) consists of a small oval mirror engraved in gold leaf with the text “EVERYTHING WILL BE TAKEN AWAY.” Lit from above, the mirror reflects a pool of light onto the floor. Hung too low to satisfy any narcissistic hope of meeting one’s own reflection, the work insists, instead, that nothing can last.

The catalogue, which features short texts by writers invited to respond to each of the works in whatever way they chose, complements a confident show which is prefaced by a wall text quoting Adrienne Rich: “There is fury here, and terror, but there is also power, power not to be had without the terror and the fury.”1 Fear of violence, fear of illness and death, glimpses of freedom and panicked entrapment: the past year’s lurches from calm to dread resonate through this show, which offers a mirror on our times and some form of catharsis. A significant proportion of the Stoschek Collection has been made available online since the start of the pandemic, but this physical encounter with the work feels essential to a narrative that ends with Robin Rhode’s film Candle (2007). The artist draws the simple outline of a candle. He lights it and blows it out. The world does not end with a bang, but with a flame being softly extinguished.


Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 19661978 (London: Virago, 1980), 310.

Video Art, Experimental Film

Alan Murrin is an Irish writer based in Berlin.

RSVP for “A Fire in My Belly”
Julia Stoschek Foundation
April 27, 2021

Thank you for your RSVP.

Julia Stoschek Foundation 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.