Knut Asdam

Untitled, Pissing

1995

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Not on display

Artist
Knut Asdam born 1968
Medium
Video, monitor, colour
Dimensions
Duration: 30min
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by an anonymous donor 2013
Reference
T14323

Summary

Untitled, Pissing 1995 is a silent video which plays a series of fifty to seventy second sequences in a loop lasting thirty minutes. The camera focuses on a single colour image – of a clothed male crotch – which fills the whole screen. The only action on this otherwise unchanging frame is a growing damp patch caused by the protagonist urinating. The work was originally presented in 1996 as part of Asdam’s larger installation Heterotopia, which required the viewer to enter a minimalist-style box in order to view the work. The video can be shown either on a monitor or as a 1:1 projection on the wall to convey a direct relationship between the body of the viewer and that of the protagonist.

Untitled, Pissing presents the viewer with an embarrassing, uncomfortable situation, which the camera’s fixed and unchanging frame exaggerates. The film has been discussed as a representation of masculinity without recourse to the phallic, suggesting a failure of masculinity rather than strength or power. Art historian George Baker has discussed Untitled, Pissing in this way, writing: ‘it simultaneously presents the phallus as a “part object” – a bodily fragment whose anarchic equivalencies undo both corporeal unity and fixed identity – recoding the masculine body as a producer of flows and locating the aesthetic gesture not in the realm of mastery but in a loss of bodily control.’ (Baker 2000, p.107.) Baker goes on to discuss the architectural associations of this work particularly in relation to the minimalist structure that the artist built as part of Heterotopia. This built environment was one of the first that Asdam constructed to show his films. Oblique 2008 (Tate T14324) also originally included an installation element.

Untitled, Pissing corresponds with Asdam’s interest in the tradition of experimental structural filmmaking. The close-up view eliminates perspective and flattens the space to the extent that it becomes one with the screen, dissolving the possibility for identification with the protagonist or for a story to play out – both of which are characteristic of narrative cinema. Instead the video stages a scene that would not usually be seen publicly and not for so long a duration. In this way, it sets up an intimate relationship with the viewer and challenges them to look and confront the site of struggle and pleasurable release.

Asdam is considered one of the most influential artists currently working with film and video. Inspired by structural film as well as 1960s European New Wave Cinema, he has developed a distinct cinematic language which addresses the interplay of political and social forces within the context of contemporary culture. His practice, which also encompasses photography and installations, draws on numerous theoretical references such as feminism, queer theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Further reading
George Baker, ‘Piss Eloquent’, Artforum, vol.38, no.6, February 2000, pp.106–9.
Brigitte Kölle and Knut Asdam, ‘Conversation’, in Art Now: Knut Asdam, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2000.
Knut Asdam – Retrospective, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo 2006.

Gaia Tedone
December 2012

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