The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics

Gesture, Media,
and Politics
Exhibition: Throwing Gestures

Protest, Economy and the Imperceptible

Exhibition: Throwing Gestures

Review of exhibition "Throwing Gestures" in Studio 1, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin. Vernissage 7 Dec 2018, open 9–16 Dec 2018

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

The exhibition “Throwing Gestures” scrutinizes gesture as a physical movement that gains its significance through political attribution, as well as its media (in)visibility. “Throwing Gestures” examines media representations of (political) gestures, including their translation, displacement and (de-)contextualization, verbalization, as well as video recognition and cinematic forms. The artworks analyze power structures, be they visible or invisible, or manifested in material forms such as architecture and technology.

The works presented in the exhibition were developed over the past two years as part of the interdisciplinary research project “The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics.” Artists, performers, media and cultural scientists participated in an exchange of questions, methods and research, critically challenging their own approaches and identifying interdisciplinary interests with colleagues in intense, temporally and spatially limited work situations. The resulting works are supplemented by works of guest artists representing important references in the research process, while also incorporating significant aspects for the examination of gestures.

The compilation of works clearly shows that the presence in media of protest gestures is woven into a complex struggle for attention. In the “attention economy,” protest gestures must be analyzed against a socio-economic backdrop. It can thus be assumed, somewhat polemically, that the “policing [of] the crisis” (Stuart Hall et al.) of the Margaret Thatcher era has entered the age of its commercial exploitation.

Artists participating in the exhibition: Larry Archiampong & David Blandy, Jakob Argauer, Florian Bettel, Dina Boswank, Justine A. Chambers, Jeremy Deller, Timo Herbst, Kerstin Honeit, Irina Kaldrack, Silas Mücke, Marcus Nebe, Tobias Schulze, Konrad Strutz, Baha Talis, Nasan Tur, Laurie Young.

Curated by Florian Bettel, Dina Boswank, Timo Herbst, Konrad Strutz and Laurie Young. The spatial staging was developed through a process of critical discourse with Alexander Koch.

Jeremy Deller
All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Banner with text message addressing people with zero-hours contracts, as well as video, 20 min., 2014

Jeremy Deller’s exhibition format “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air” explores British industrial heritage, as well as the emergence of the urban working class during the Industrial Revolution. Deller juxtaposes artifacts testifying to brutal 19th century working conditions with objects taken from current work practices.

The text message, “Hello, today you have day off,” addresses those workers without contracts who are hired on a daily basis – an estimated one million people in the UK. A message that seems friendly enough, but in fact entails loss of income and social security for people with unregulated free time and working hours.

Courtesy by Jeremy Deller and The Modern Institute.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Florian Bettel, Barbara Lippe
Assad Waiting
Video, 5 min., loop, 2002/2018

Hafiz al-Assad, Syria’s dictator from 1971 to 2000 and father of Bashar al-Assad, must wait – in stark contrast to his habitual gesture of domination, evoked by making others wait for him. He is forced to maintain a stiff pose in the TV studio for several minutes, waiting for the appearance of the true star of the upcoming live broadcast, Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Faris.

The summer of 1987 provided the Syrian nation with a memorable collective television-viewing experience: Faris reported to Assad about his stay on the Soviet space station Mir. To this day, viewers remember the Faris broadcast with pride. The sight of the waiting dictator remained hidden from them, however, at the time.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Nasan Tur
Demo Kits Deluxe
5 items, each brass, sateen, spray paint can, refined adhesive tape 90 x 5.5 x 7.5 cm Unique, 2009

“Having a political opinion is one thing; expressing it in public and taking a stand is quite another. When do we decide to switch roles from passive to active? The ‘Demo Kits’ are both works of art and tools with features designed to facilitate individual action. Everyone should keep at least one at home, ideally ready to hand near the front door like a fire extinguisher. The practical demonstration kits contain a rolled-up banner made out of two rods and a piece of fabric, and also a can of spray paint. I made some of them very inexpensively out of simple wooden laths, cotton fabric, and spray paint from a DIY store. By contrast, the banners in the exhibition in Bethanien are arranged like precious jewels. Consisting of exotic wood, hand-polished precious metal, the finest silk and shiny spray cans, each and every one of them is unique and therefore expensive.” (Nasan Tur)

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Larry Achiampong & David Blandy
FF Gaiden: Black Death
Ultra HD colour video, Stereo Sound, 16:9, 9 mins, 2017

“FF Gaiden: Black Death” used the videogame Grand Theft Auto to explore Brexit, the legacy of Thatcherism and the post-colonial condition from inside a simulated environment. This work combines a plethora of material: a script and vocal delivery by artist Kamile Ofoeme, a synthetized soundtrack and a journey through a dilapidated virtual factory. Brexit in Britain has encouraged a cultural shift towards looking to the past for national identity, a narrative made plain during Thatcher’s time in power.

The Finding Fanon project, a collaboration between Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, is inspired by the lost plays of Frantz Fanon, (1925–1961) a radical humanist who dealt with the psychopathology of colonization, the social and cultural consequences of decolonization.

Watch the Video here:

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Dina Boswank, Timo Herbst, Irina Kaldrack, Silas Mücke und Marcus Nebe
Installation by Silas Mücke, 2018

“Throwing Gestures” encompasses two works focusing on “G20”, a performative installation and exhibition organized by the Leipzig Association for Contemporary Art (KV – Verein für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig) in October 2018. Using political gestures in frontal protest situations at the G20 Summit 2017 in Hamburg, Dina Boswank, Timo Herbst, Irina Kaldrack, Silas Mücke and Marcus Nebe developed an exhibition format that interlinks video recordings, sound works, photo installations, objects and performative lectures. Through overlays, reinforcement and disruption, various ways of thinking and different approaches to protest, political gestures and capacity for action are juxtaposed and further elaborated using spatio-temporal dramaturgy.

The exhibition in Studio1, Art Quarter Bethanien (Kunsthaus Bethanien), features a video documentary by Marcus Nebe and an adaptive work by Silas Mücke

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Kerstin Honeit
ich muss mit ihnen sprechen
Installation (Video, 30 cards on 6 aluminium rails), Dur. 1:35 min, HD colour, sound, 2015/2016

The miniature ich muss mit ihnen sprechen is a continual process of raising the voice and preparing to speak, questioning acts of speech and empowerment. An examination of the representation of people of colour in mainstream German film and TV arising from research into the politics of film voice dubbing. The starting point is the “white” German voice artist who dubs Whoopi Goldberg as well as over thirty other African American actresses in spite of their age or other characteristics. This is a common practice within the politics of German film dubbing where a few (‘white’) voices represent supposedly similar, mainly US-American’, actor types. This way the already constructed stereotypes become further solidified and amplified by the choice of voice.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Jakob Argauer, Timo Herbst, Laurie Young
Ramps, various materials, distributed in Studio 1, 2018

The architecture at the entrance to the exhibition space Studio 1 in the Art Quarter Bethanien (Kunsthaus Bethanien) forms the starting point of the collaboration between Laurie Young, Timo Herbst and Jakob Argauer. The five steps in the first room make it impossible for people with reduced mobility to enter the room, while the Architectural Heritage law prohibits any change to the architecture.

The ramps installed on the steps of Studio 1 address this dilemma by losing their assigned function through their installation. The especially created surface of the ramps refers to the relationship between the body and its traces, while focusing on gestures/movements that can be communicated through architecture.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Konrad Strutz
Lost Motion
Installation (installation with two videos), duration 5:00 min, HD/sound, 2018

… refers to a sequence of movements not strictly necessary in order to produce a product or make sense of an action.

The work records a reversal of this way of thinking: in it, neither acts of symbolic power nor the cutting of Gordian knots, nor didactic violence are the focus of investigation. Instead, nervous fidgeting, chaotic gesticulation and non-representational rituals are the protagonists of this video installation.
Elements of movement that provide little information about the preceding or following moment, clash with the numeric jumble of our computer desktops and raise the question as to whether any action can be (non)directional.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Timo Herbst & Marcus Nebe
Play by rules (Budapest, Istanbul, Hamburg)
5 channel HD-video, 18 min, 2015–2018

“Play by rules” depicts the development and communication between the media and participants in three different political situations: the refugees located at Keleti train station in Budapest 2015, the protest and celebrating supporters of the failed coup in Istanbul on Taksim 2016; and the protests and riots during G20 summit in Hamburg 2017. The video shows how international media, as well as private persons produces images of the dynamics in their area. The form of the installation rebuilds the setting of the reporter’s techniques. Except now, the recording-devices are replaced by playing-devices. there are beamers on tripods instead of cameras. Projection-canvases are on the tripods instead of the lights.

Part of Collection Kunstfonds Dresden and exhibited with kindly support of Kunstfonds Dresden.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Bahaa Talis & Timo Herbst
“Point of Coincidence”
Performance with Lifedrawing, 2018

In the performance “Point of Coincidence” Bahaa Talis presents his daily ritual of Islamic prayer on a paper area simultaneously drawn on by Timo Herbst. Both, Herbst and Talis, communicate through their different practices which shares body positions, concentration and occurring references they share for moments.

“The piece grows from a basic movement, several actions you do on a loop daily, five times. It happens every single moment we live, we live every second, we change every second. We invented something called art, which is the name of what we do daily, the name of the positive change and the good, useful change. Meanwhile we simultaneously separate this action from the other loop of actions, also undertaken every day. Let’s discuss the movements.” (Talis)

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Irina Kaldrack, Tobias Schulze
Dancing Fists, 2018

What manner of presence and public emerge in video-based network communities?

The fictitious third-party-funded project plants specific fist gestures in the social media app TikTok. The app enables users to create playback videos set to pop song snippets or film soundtracks and upload them to the associated platform. Typical hand gestures illustrate song lyrics, make use of the interaction of hand and camera movements or reproduce gestures of control.

“Dancing Fists” follows the spread of political fist gestures and evaluates their appropriation by users. This brings specific economies to light: the political gesture appears at the intersection of the creative industries, competition, living room work and self-representation.

What is the research project’s stance in this regard? “Dancing Fists” invites you to reflect on the relationship between presence, public spaces and economic functionality in digital cultures.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Justine A. Chambers with Laurie Young, Photos: Ryan Collerd
ten thousand times and one hundred more
30 photos of 13cm x 18cm, 2 posters of A3 size, 2018

Propelled by the groundswell of bodies resisting, this work draws from a subjectively held archive of protest images (iconic, incidental and personal) and asks the artist to haptically learn all the possible incremental micro movements leading up to (but stopping just short of) a recognizable expression of resistance. Supported by the theory of the minor gesture put forth by Erin Manning, the project pushes against the edges of legibility. Every gesture, no matter how banal, has the potential in our current time of being misconstrued, corrupted, condemned: ten thousand times and one hundred more reinserts the minor gesture of resistance into the habitus of daily life, a reminder of the privilege of mobility and nuance, and the urgency of political expression.

This work was originally a commission for Unwilling: Exercises in Melancholy exhibition curated by Vanessa Kwan and Kimberly Phillips for the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

Dina Boswank
Zentralperspektive/Central Perspective
Installation, 2018

In the wake of the plundering of a supermarket at the G20 protests in Hamburg, press photographer Thomas Löhnes captured a widely-circulated photograph for the photo agency “Getty Images”. Using a central perspective, the image provides insight into the vandalized supermarket in which individuals wearing black balaclavas are seen carrying away objects.

“They could have rearranged it, too. Wouldn’t that have been an even stronger political statement?”

Friends of the artist spent long hours reading descriptions of the protagonists’ hand and arm movements aloud, commenting on them and linking them to processes of image description and the political necessity of the operation, paying close attention to their own voices while reading. An associative work edited into a dialogue that addresses our daily confrontation with “ethically unsettling” imagery.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

“Throwing Gestures” – Interventions

Explicit references to popular culture are present in many of the works presented: gestural dance movements in social media channels, game engines that serve as film studios, distributed coverage of the G20 demonstrations or the media phenomenon of space travel.

The curators have installed additional examples derived from popular culture in Studio 1, extending the spectrum of ideas with historical representations of gesture. Early documents of the cinematic reproduction of gestures of power are shown courtesy of shrewd entrepreneur and film producer William K. L. Dickson. Dickson’s popular films relied on the patronage of viewers. In 1898, his film titled “Pope Leo XIII in his Chair”, presented the reigning international pop star of the day.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,

The prayer gestures depicted in the surviving album of French colonel Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gentil (1726–1799) date back to the 1870s. The French army had dispatched the officer to mount a resistance to the advance of English East India Company troops. Gentile’s take on local rites, festivities, sporting activities and many other facets of India stands in sharp contrast to current military reconnaissance images conveyed to us via drones.

The two historical references are accompanied by newer and recent examples from popular culture, in which an increased aestheticization of protest gestures can be observed. In the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show, featured artist Beyoncé took to the stage together with dancers in costumes reminiscent of the Black Panther movement of the 1970s. With the performance of her song “Formation,” Beyoncé joins in the tradition of political gestures at major sporting events, chief among them the iconic “Black Power” salute used by athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games. Smiths and Carlos’ courageous statement finds its echo in Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 refusal to stand for the national anthem while waiting on the pitch. His “take a knee” protest created a widely discussed symbol for the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Political positions can be referenced and communicated in the sporting arena, thus offering resourceful companies a welcome source of income.

Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin,


  • Eye Film Museum Amsterdam: “Pope Leo XIII,” FLM209234
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, London: “Rites and Festivals of Muslims and the main Hindu Castes” in Gentil; Manuscripts, Faizabad, c. 1774, IS.25: 27-1980

The Project

The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics is a research project investigating the interdependencies that exist between bodily movements or gestures, and ubiquitous, globally networked technologies.

To display and displaying oneself gains greater significance within the context of the unrestricted and instantaneous global exchange of video material as well as in an everyday world increasingly defined by sensors and computers. Thus the meaning of presence and publicness changes, evolves and new forms appear.


The Publication

Throwing Gestures examines the recent intensification of interest in gesture and the entanglement between gesture, media, and politics.

The gestures discussed pass from body to body and between states of medial representation. Protest movements, the respective aesthetics specific to those movements, the perpetuation of socio-economic crises over many decades, the plight of gig workers in precarious employment and mechanisms for the quantification of work and leisure are some of the issues addressed.



Workshop I / Braunschweig

From April 24 to 28, 2017, the project participants met for the first workshop in Braunschweig. During several days of intensive collaboration, we presented our materials and methods, as well as preliminary research results, identified common interests on the basis of selected case studies and tested various methods to acquaint ourselves with them analytically.

Workshop II / Hallein

The international art and design festival “Schmiede Hallein” was the setting for the second workshop of the research project “The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics”, held from September 20 to 30, 2017. In one section of the extensive grounds of the former salt refinery, the project team created a space for experiments involving physical gestures, technology and spatial installations.

Workshop III / Berlin-Köpenick

The third workshop took place at Lake Studios, Berlin Köpenick from May 15–19. Our task was to work intensively on installations, lecture performances and choreographies. Eventually, we concentrated on consolidations and aesthetic shapings after having explored and experimented on our focus topics and case scenarios in previous working phases.

Workshop IV / Berlin-Kreuzberg

From September 4 to 10, 2018 we met for the fourth and last workshop at the Art Quarter Bethanien (Kunstquartier Bethanien). We worked intensively on our collective and individual installations for the exhibition in December.

Symposium: Throwing Gestures

By Christian Schwinghammer / Daniel Stoecker, research college SENSING: On the Knowledge of Sensitive Media, Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften (ZeM), Potsdam

Kunstquartier Bethanien, Studio 1, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin. Symposium December 8th, 10 am–7 pm.

Exhibition: Throwing Gestures

Review of exhibition „Throwing Gestures“ in Studio 1, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin. Vernissage 7 Dec 2018, open 9–16 Dec 2018


Book presentation “Throwing Gestures”

On May 19, 2022, the book presentation of “Throwing Gestures. Protest, Economy and the Imperceptible” took place at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Marie Artaker, Gerald Bast (rector), Florian Bettel, Ernst Strouhal and Konrad Strutz spoke.

Final publication: Throwing Gestures

The final publication, „Throwing Gestures,“ was published by Verlag für moderne Kunst in September 2021. Editors are Florian Bettel, Irina Kaldrack and Konrad Strutz.


Durchgeführt an der Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig; gefördert durch die Volkswagen-Stiftung im Rahmen des Programms Arts & Science in Motion; unterstützt von der Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien.