In her film, video and sound works, Pola Sieverding examines the human body as a bearer of historical narratives, which in turn shape contemporary discourses on the social body. Fundamental to this is the idea of portraiture in the sense of an interpretative reading of cultural inscriptions in human bodies, be they ancient torsos, wrestlers or protagonists of different sub- or countercultures.
One of the most powerful elements of Pola Sieverding’s work comes from the potential of the body and it’s desires. By defining the body linguistically; as an alternative to words, she exploits the classical ideal of the body as locus of pleasure and power. Typically she is attracted to extremes and socialized emotions, something felt when the body switches between looking and being looked at, touching and being touched. Her images explore the body as an expressive element, the way we alter our behavior when we feel ourselves to be acting, performing or just being.
Pierre Bourdieu calls this bodily hexis where the body is a ‘site of incorporated history.’ It is a state of body and being, a repository of ingrained dispositions that seem natural (gestures, moves, postures.) Clinically it is tied directly to the body’s motor functions, in the form of a pattern that is individual and intuitive, a basic dimension of social orientation. For Sieverding this close to the body reading is fixed throughout her work, in images that materialize the insights that conventional language cannot. These include moments that are rooted and difficult to consciously alter, euphoria and rage, decline and liberation.
From the beginning Sieverding had an intense relationship to the camera, developing a metaphor between skin and screen. Often her photography is in rich blacks and chiaroscuro, exploring the lens’ capability to eroticize everything. Favoring images from male body culture and classical antiquity, she registers the formal within the support of the body. In parallel Sieverding’s videos are seldom directed or scripted, but build on her early training as an actor to work collaboratively. Importantly there are almost never rehearsals, like in bodily hexis where actions are improvisations (jamming) that become a matter of routine and we can act without explanation.
She studied at Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, the Surikov Institute Moscow and graduated with a Master's degree from the University of Arts Berlin in 2007. She has been invited as an artist in residence to Ramallah, Prague, Lisbon and Nairobi, and as a guest lecturer at the International Academy of Art Palestine. From 2016-2020 she taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In 2020 and 2022 she is part of the curatorial team for düsseldorf photo+ Biennial for visual and sonic media.
Her work has been exhibited internationally at Aram Art Gallery, Seoul; Art in General, New York; Lumiar Cité, Lisbon; Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin; Anat Ebgi Gallery, Los Angeles; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin; Palmengarten des Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Dubai Photo Exhibition, Dubai; NAK Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen; Video Art at Midnight, Kino Babylon, Berlin; Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach; MAK Museum für Angewandte und Gegenwartskunst, Vienna; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; NRW Forum, Düsseldorf; Villa Schöningen, Potsdam; Centro de Arte Contemporaneo in Quito, Ecuador; KNUST KUNZ Gallery, München; signs and symbols, New York et.al.
Pola Sieverding lives and works in Berlin.
Galerie Sabine Knust
Knust und Kunz GbR
Ludwigstrasse 7, D-80539 München
Anne Schwanz / Johanna Neuschäffer
Waldenserstr. 2 – 4, D-10551 Berlin
signs and symbols
249 East Houston Street
New York, NY