November 16th 2021, February 16th 2022

Duane Thomas Gallery is proud to announce the upcoming exhibition of a single installation work by Heinz Peter Knes titled “Gesture Studies” at our Tribeca gallery opening November 16, 2021.

Heinz Peter Knes (b. Germany, 1969) has been an active photographer since the 90s and garnered attention early in his career for the intimate portrayal of his siblings. In recent years, Knes engaged in collaborative works with artist Dahn Vo, and together embarked on a series of museum exhibitions including a highly regarded show at the South London Gallery in 2019. “Gesture Studies” is the culmination of many years of research by Knes to expose the performative potential of photography.

Obsessively drawn to gestures in his past portraiture, in 2018 Knes began collecting gestural forms from his past work, going to great lengths to compile and count each occurrence, finally cataloguing them in nine categories defining a narrow range of physical expressions that possessed the appropriate performative features for this new project.

He set out working with over 50 amateur models and over the course of three years asked them to perform for the camera the nine gestures he had isolated. These comprise arching one’s back, expressing one’s hand, to lay one’s head, gait, showing one’s knee, feeling one’s pulse, laying one’s body, rotating on oneself, and moving things from one bag to another.

These gestures at first appear generic and mundane. Some are more from the life of the body in the public sphere while others seem more private. Throughout the photographic sessions attention was focused on experiencing the body in the moment and finding how to consciously express what one does unconsciously. A desire to capture a body discovering its own command or lack of agency pervades the work.

While compiling this body of work, Knes extensively researched essays on gestures and stumbled upon a text by Judith Butler, When Gesture Becomes Event, which seemed to articulate the political framework of his fascination with the topic. In it she articulates her thesis: “The gesture, I will suggest, is an ethically consequential decomposition of the speech act characteristic of epic theater and that shares certain features with the performativity of gender.” Further expounding her thoughts on speech act and gender she writes “It is with an understanding of this primary corporeal susceptibility that we can, and do, describe and oppose some gender norms (…) This very domain of susceptibility, this condition of being affected, is what exposes us from the start to objectionable forms of power.”

Organizing the gestures from a spatial perspective allowed Knes to see through the array of the more than 150 photographs at first sight and isolate a single instance. While not overtly political or referring to a particular power structure or moment, Knes’ almost theatrical exploration of gestures invites the audience to meditate on the space our body fills in a contemporary setting – that inevitably of Berlin in the years 2018-2021 where most of the photographs were taken.

This exhibition will be open November 16, 2021.

For more information or press inquiries contact [email protected]