project image
Johannes L.Schröder

first performed on May 5, 2012
To Be Present, AIR Besiendderhuis, Nijmegen, Netherlands
performed six times in 2012


Berlin, Germany


I show analog photos of people pointing at something/someone with their index finger. Then I choose one member of the audience and point at him for a while with my right index finger. I take my smartphone and take a picture of that person with my finger in the photo. Finally, I show this image to every member of the audience.

“Indexical” is a minimal performance, to be repeated with variations in different contexts while collecting the pictures that document it along the way. Afterwards, these photographs will generate a documentation of documentations that questions itself.

This performance stems from my collection of second-hand family pictures of people pointing at something or someone with his or her index finger. In the gesture of pointing with your finger there are several iconographic echoes, which allowed me to explore this gesture in a performance that would dialogue with the photographic medium. Therefore, “Indexical” investigates the forefinger and the inherent indexicality of photography and performance, taking as a starting point one of the most apparently naïve manifestations of photography: the snapshots destined for the photo album. “Indexical” refers to a determinate context in which a certain enunciation or gesture achieves a specific meaning. Therefore expressions such as “I,” “you,” “here,” “there,” “now” and “this” are considered indexicals for antonomasia. Indexicality is one of the essential properties of a picture or a performance, in other words, it is its intrinsic semantic dependency in a given situation and context.

As Roland Barthes states, every photograph is an extension of the gesture of signaling with your finger and this pure deictic language is impossible to avoid. Photography says: this, this is, it is like that, like this… Something similar could be said about a performance: it happens here and now, this and that happens, it addresses an actual “you”… Drawing a hermeneutical loop, this performance comes from photography to go back to it; this is, to become framing, bi-dimensional surface, captured instant, fragment, abstraction: documentation of documentations. As performance and photographic documentation, it faces fingers that often point out of the framing, thus denoting certain a impossibility of knowing, from the present time, about “that” which was pointed at in, and through, the picture. This loss of referent highlights once again the conflicting relation between performance and photography, the immense contrast between being image and being in a real situation and the vastness of what is outside the photographic frame. So, “Indexical” puts its finger on the sore spot of photography.