I am interested in art as a situated practice that cannot be seen separate from the context in which it takes place. With that I mean that for me the art object is just one term that operates in a broader set of relations, some social, some phenomenological, some conceptual…but all related to an expanded, and ultimately collective, experimental practice that concerns our relations to and engagement with the world of which we are a part, and to the past, present and the possible futures of this world.
— Falke Pisano
In The Value in Mathematics, 2015, Pisano continues her research into the possibilities of overcoming distance and difference. She does so by looking at the implications and the questions that arise when mathematics is considered as a cultural product instead of a value-free global science. This involves questioning the exchange between different cultures, the priorities and methods in education, the traversal of abstract objects across different contexts, as well as challenging the conditions of language, understanding and use.
Here, Pisano considers the notion of ‘ethnomathematics’ with works that examine the cultural construct of mathematical practice. Sculptures, diagrams and text pieces approach issues such as exchange, measurement, design, navigation and calculation, and how methods and applications of these notions vary in different contexts. Pisano’s research-based practice considers how, where, and through which processes an art object is realised and generates meaning. Her diagrammatic works expose a loop, in which shifting abstract sculptural forms are conceived directly in relation to written and spoken language, implying an ongoing and morphing production of meaning.
Through the notion of multiple mathematics, the works probe differences between relationships such as the universal and particular; conventional curricular and cultural responsibility; globalism and pluralism. Articulating such analyses through the lens of logic, scientific research and abstraction, Pisano negotiates such relationships which are also pertinent subjects to contemporary art. Mainly composed of wood, metal and fabric, the sculptural pieces in The Value in Mathematics reference objects such as a weaving frame, a transaction counter, a map, and several display tables. Varying in scale, the pieces refer to issues such as ‘negotiations in exchange,’ ‘learning in proximity,’ and ‘reading the world with mathematics,’ among others.
Falke Pisano and Luca Frei’s double video projection LC in the Bijlmer, 2014 began as a commission for the second edition of Bijlmer Art International in Amsterdam. The artists were invited to make a semi-permanent pavilion reflecting on the work of Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. Although the project fell through, Frei and Pisano continued their research, examining the context of the original commission: what it means to make a pavilion that reflects the work of another artist and what affect it would have had on local residents both physically and psychologically.
The modular sculpture Instrument for a Spatial Conception of Repetition, 2013 consists of three screens and five ‘tools for directing perception’ that can either be attached to the screens as part of the spatial arrangement or displayed as indexical wall sculptures. These ‘tools’, like fragments of a larger diagram, illustrate forces that influence our perception of a series of linked events. Connecting place with a mental position, the posters attached to the tools-as-wall-sculptures describe a point of view, established in relation to the perception of repetition. With Instrument for a Spatial Conception of Repetition, Pisano presents a work of open character that brings together playful, methodological diagrams with a critical approach to representation, as seen in The Body in Crisis.
The Body in Crisis (Housing, Treating & Depicting), consists of a performance and a sculptural installation. Commissioned by Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid the work examines the history of modern medicine in relation to the history of the museum’s building, which was originally a shelter for beggars and later a general hospital. These histories are linked with certain crucial moments in 20th century Spain, which can be found represented in the museum’s collection. The development of public healthcare in Spain is in this way shown to be interwoven with the narrative constructed by works of the collection that depict bodies in crisis. In this work Pisano examines the ability of representation to pose questions of medicine in direct relation to social and political realities.
Two piles of prints occupy the floor. The prints are taken up, one by one, and attached to the display structure. They have been designed to emphasise the chronological chain of events they represent. One series depicts the history of the museum building, from the foundation of the General Hospital to the architectural addition of Jean Nouvel in 2005. The other prints show a series of appropriated images originating from works in the collection of Museo Reina Sofía on display. The works represented depict bodies in conditions of poverty, hunger, war and exclusion.
The Body in Crisis addresses concrete and political moments within the repetitive occurrence of bodies being thrown into states of crisis through violent shifts in the conditions of life. The work centres on six historical moments: Pergamon in 199, Amsterdam 1571, Paris 1793, Mons 1915, Paris 1974, and Houston 1984. Each marks a change in the experience of the body, a node where histories of housing, medicine, architecture, gender, art, and economic and social environments intersect. For Pisano, these recurring moments of crisis, and thus the de- and reconstruction of body functions and fragments, constitute a historical matrix of violence whose structuring element is repetition itself.
One of the central questions of this body of work is: ‘How can contemporary artistic practice play a role in the production of knowledge of crisis, while avoiding venturing into activist modes of representation, communication and practice and instead employing the potential found in artistic strategies and language?’
Bringing the question of the production, mediation and sharing of knowledge of crisis back into the space of the work of art The Body in Crisis reconsiders, specifically, the role of representation in works that address events happening at a historical, geographical, political or cultural distance. More precisely, The Body in Crisis specifically aims at exploring the very potentials and limits of representation that are revealed when found images and references are re-contextualised within contemporary artistic practices. I focus on the historical and continuous reiteration of the human body as it finds itself in moments of crisis, and the way in which historically and/or culturally determined representations can be incorporated into contemporary practices to expose the changing political, social and economic structures that have an impact on the bare condition of human (self-) cognition.
— Falke Pisano
Between 2006 and 2010 I developed a body of work titled Figures of Speech, a long-term examination of processes that occur when ‘objects’ start shifting their form, materiality, meaning, description, understanding, role, agency… Largely based in a performative practice of writing—of formulating and reformulating ideas—the works involved a circulation and exchange of language, ideas and forms: a transfer from one work to another often involving a change of status, a reflection within a different context or a further elaboration on an idea. While I focused initially on ‘objects’, later my interest shifted to ‘speech-acts’, and specifically speech-acts in relation to different forms of agency in artistic production.
— Falke Pisano
Conceptual reconstruction concerning form: the object, 2008, consists of three digital collages that have been framed together with short texts. The images show partial views of works-in-progress in Pisano’s studio in Villa Arson. Using the framework of the number three, each sculpture is an attempt to conflate either three different works or three different points of view. The first: making an object out of a singular view of three abstract sculptures; the second: a large scale sculpture from three Joseph Albers drawings, and the third: three sculptures in response to three novels: Period by Dennis Cooper, Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima and The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. With an interest in the process of thinking as a form of making, Pisano proposes that the ideas formulated in the text be treated as an object. The texts thus address the failure or abandonment of a work whilst simultaneously negating this failure by transforming the material object of the sculpture into the immaterial object of an idea.
Chillida (Forms & Feelings) is a personal account of Pisano’s emotional reaction to a series of photographs by David Finn of sculptures by the Basque sculptor Chillida. While going through the pages of the photo-book, Pisano traces the relationship between the characteristics of these specific objects: their depiction, the experience of the photographer, his daughter, as well as Pisano’s own preoccupations concerning existential matters and her emotional response to the photographs.
In this lecture, Pisano outlines a number of ideas regarding abstract objects and their existence. The work departs from two questions: How can an object exist in different conditions? and How could I formulate a possible existence that could be articulated as an object? Following this line of enquiry, several issues concerning an object’s ontology, or ontological status, are addressed in the work. Throughout each case study, Pisano examines the oscillation between the concrete and abstracted status of various objects—whether physically experienced, perceived, or imagined. Considering a threefold relation between sculptor, sculpture and spectator, Pisano articulates diverse analysis of objects such as: abstract memorials for Martin Luther King; Broken Obelisks, (1963-1967) by Barnett Newman; the work of Eduardo Chillida and the photographs of Chillida’s sculptures by David Finn. Along with numerous other examples in this lecture, Pisano complicates oblique relations among a network of objects, elaborating her interest in the deconstruction of established thought.
Falke Pisano: Vondervotteimittiss (the stories we tell)
Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
25 May – 27 July 2019
Falke Pisano: The Value in Mathematics
Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany
30 September – 27 November 2016
EXHIBITIONS at Hollybush Gardens
Meriç Algün Ringborg, Jumana Emil Abboud, Knut Henrik Henriksen, Falke Pisano, Mladen Stilinović
4 September – 3 October 2015
Falke Pisano: Disordered Bodies Fractured Minds
14 September – 21 October 2012
Benoît Maire & Falke Pisano
23 April – 30 May 2010
Falke Pisano: Figures of Speech
23 April – 7 July 2009
Benoît Maire & Falke Pisano
20 June – 13 July 2008
Beyond Language: A Dialogue with Falke Pisano
Interview by Suzanne Cotter, Journal of Fine Art Research, Vol. 2 No. 1, 14 December 2017
Essay by Sabeth Buchmann, Abstraction as an Open Experiment, ed. by Mari Laanemets, Lugemik, Tallinn Art Hall 2019
A Conversation between Margaret Gaida and Falke Pisano
Interview by Margaret Gaida, Metropolis M, 19 March 2016
Review by Matthew Rana, Frieze, No. 164, June 2014
Critics’ picks: Falke Pisano at The Showroom, London
Review by Ashitha Nagesh, Artforum, May 2013
Profile by Gina Bunefeld, thisistomorrow, 16 July 2011
Figures of Speech
Profile by Maria Lind, ArtReview, May 2011
Feature by Laura McLean-Ferris, ArtReview, Summer 2010
Space in Language
Interview by Vincenzo De Bellis, Mousse, No. 19, June 2009
Falke Pisano (b. 1978, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) lives and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Working across sculpture, installation, performance, video and artist’s publications, Pisano’s practice often facilitates exchanges between language, ideas, materials and forms as a means to rethink the ways in which systems of thought are structured, formalised, and ultimately naturalised.
Pisano has exhibited internationally, with selected solo shows including Unboxing: Constructed Worlds, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France; PRESENT: Instrument for a Spatial Conception of Repetition, Hollybush Gardens, London; VONDERVOTTEIMITTISS (the stories we tell), Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam (all 2019); The value in mathematics, Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Cordoba, Spain; The value in mathematics – How do we learn?, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany (both 2016); The value in Mathematics, REDCAT, Los Angeles (2015); Parts that do not go together; Heart Head Hold-up; Threading Third and Fourth Person, Praxes, Berlin, Germany; Constellations of One and Many (in collaboration w Archive Books), ar/ge kunst, Galerie Museum / Galleria Museo, Bolzano, Italy (both 2014); and The Body in Crisis, The Showroom, London (2013).
She has participated in and performed at numerous significant institutions and international exhibitions, including Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2018, 2012, 2011, 2006); 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016); Istanbul Biennial (2013); Museu Reina Sofia, Madrid (2012); Shanghai Biennale (2012); Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2012); MACBA, Barcelona (2009); Yokohama Triennale (2008); Manifesta 7, Italy (2008); 5th Berlin Biennale (2008); and Kunsthalle Basel (2008). Pisano’s works are held in museum collections internationally, including Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Madrid; Centre national des arts plastique, Paris (Cnap); FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France; Galleria CIvica d’Arte Moderna di Torino (GAM), Italy; and Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.