Documenta 13 image set 3 – updated with international commentary

Michel Dantini

Documenta 13 review

The entrance to Documenta 13 is devoted to the large, empty atriums of the installation by Ryan Gander, the English artist famous for his reinvention of exposition practices and his partiality to Absence; it is a polemical opener to the exhibition, challenging excessive production and the reduction of artworks to merchandise. Noteworthy initiatives hover at the edges of the visitor’s field of vision: first and foremost, this year’s Documenta is displaced, with sections being held in Kabul, Alexandria, Cairo and Banff. It proposes educational and artistic-artisanal projects. It has expanded its activities to become not merely an “event” or a container of events, but an agency of education and cultural cooperation, an agency of redistribution. This is enough to lend curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s edition a connotation of “social activism” and mutual benefit. There is a great desire for political content and the consecration of art as testimonial. The exhibition is decidedly broad and perhaps too disparate, for reasons that at times seem arbitrary. And so, we must try to select and recognize the constellation of artists who lend meaning to this Documenta. Here are at least three.

The Void, Nothingness, the Feeble Voice

Gander is the first we encounter: his installation, as already noted, is a simple alteration of the Void or of Nothingness. A persistent breeze blowing through the ground-floor exhibition halls of the Fridericianum is the only trace of his intervention. The installation’s title, which we’ll come back to, is sibylline and lends itself to multiple interpretations: “I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorise (The Invisible Pull).” In the Rotunda, a (brief) monographic exhibition on Giorgio Morandi awaits, unexpected and thus all the more incisive. Still lifes and a landscape, a view of the courtyard in Via Fondazza. Then, in a display case, a few pitchers used by the painter and a collection of books dedicated to the Masters of ancient and modern art, Chardin and Cézanne. These are the first books we find in the course of the exhibition; there are many others. As a complement to Morandi’s compositions we have a text by Francesco Matarrese, a conceptual artist known for his radical anti-system stance (he abandoned the profession in the early 1970s) and an interpreter of “profound refusal.” That Morandi and Matarrese should face off, or rather, dialogue with one another, in the context of the exhibition, seems revelatory: in his Challenge, Matarrese asserts that there can still be “a breath of a voice, a thread of a feeble voice” opposing the “commercial device” of art. Could we interpret Morandi as this “thread of a voice,” a testimony given at the threshold of silence and disappearance, the most plausible interweaving of aesthetics and politics? Christov-Bakargiev does just this: while distancing herself from the macho-Guevara-ist rhetoric of 1960s “activism” (which is, not unintentionally, absent, with many poveristi in the exhibition), constructs the era of her Documenta on the witness-bearing practices that artists, in her view, are electively called to interpret.

Like bureaucracies

Is there a nostalgia for “good intentions,” cultural heroism, unthinkingly modernist positions? In large part, yes, we must admit. A didactic and educational tone is quite in evidence. Considered as a whole, Documenta 13 seems to function as a sort of oversimplified scholastic textbook that lists conflicts, “turning points, disasters, catastrophes and crises” from often predictable points of view, with limited or fragmentary arguments and “good guys and bad guys” on hand. Let us look again for a moment at Gander’s title: it may seem a malicious parody of art intended as a superficial manual for social use, an educational device serving the pedagogical and self-promotional needs of progressive administrations, a technique of planned and shared memory – the art work as pretext for recall and “discourse,” a simple hook. This is what Kassel effectively risks being today, with curatorial choices that insidiously call upon artists to operate on the same level as political-cultural bureaucracies. A number of skeptical, ironic or simply disjointed points of view emerge. Susan Hiller collects a hundred songs of political protest and revolution in a juke-box, almost as if to grasp the historical distance of moments of heroic social mobilization. Andrea Büttner carries out a devious investigation of the Little Sisters of Jesus, a female order established in 1936 by Magdeleine Hutin. But even Salvador Dalì turns up among the social planners, with paintings dating to the Spanish Civil War years. His presence in the exhibition may seem surprising, but it appears – albeit amid misunderstandings or distortions – to support the curator’s convictions regarding the artist as producer of historical-political allegories.

Glass knots and marble books

Hassan Kahn and Michael Rakowitz lend themselves, in several ways, to interpreting Christov-Bakargiev’s intents. The Egyptian artist combines sculpture and video in an installation that reflects on the micro-conflicts of everyday life and also yields to the logic of formal elegance: his glass Knot is striking in its metaphorical intensity. Rakowitz offers a virtuous atonement, translating into marble a few of the precious volumes destroyed in a fire at the Langravi Library of Kassel-Assia in September of 1941 (the fire was caused by British bombs). For Documenta, Rakowitz engaged craftsmen from Carrara and Kabul to sculpt travertine quarried from the hills of Bamiyan – hills famous for the giant 6th-century Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban. In the display cases accompanying the large installation are remains of volumes partially burned in the fire, and fragments of the Buddhas. And there are other instances in the exhibition where vestiges and ruins, rather than losing their status as art works as a result of their destruction, attain an enhanced symbolic meaning: not far from Morandi’s canvases, we find parts of various objects in bronze, glass, ivory and terracotta from the national museum of Beirut, which were damaged during Lebanon’s civil war.

“Public” art, historiography, memory

The American artist Geoffrey Farmer presents an installation-collage with images taken from Life magazine (from 1935 to 1985). The installation is a sort of visual contribution to the Great American Novel, and at the same time exemplifies a New Dada or Pop attitude to History: de-politicized, History is jumbled up and reduced to Citation, Personage, Face, Icon, Logo – a familiar, glossy assemblage of  “Celebrities”. Does something like this happen to the many other tragic events recalled in the exhibition, adopted as pretexts, reduced to ready-mades with attitudes somewhere between the preciously nostalgic, the opportunistic and the predatory? Not always, and not necessarily (we should note the reserved elegance of Emily Jacir’s installation, Ex libris, dedicated to the thirty-some-thousand books the Israelis took from the Palestinians in 1948) – but we cannot rule it out. In the context of a discussion on public art, which Documenta has always proposed to be, there must certainly be some sort of critical reflection on the relationships between art and historiography; but it is not enough to fleetingly recall an event or to capture an imprint or an impression of an Event to meaningfully contribute to the collective process of working through Trauma or Grief.

Participating with an installation dedicated to the trial of the members of the Autonomia operaia or “April 7th” group, Rossella Biscotti has earned significant critical and institutional recognition for her work on archives and her contribution to the political and post-ethnographic focus in recent Italian art. Walking amid the cement casts of the now-defunct Rome bunker-courtroom, we can make out bars, seats, stairs. A recorded voiceover takes us back to the courtroom debate as an on-stage interpreter translates depositions and declarations into German. Processo was important in triggering a reflection on the most recent Italian art and the difficulties of authoritatively positioning oneself in historical and political terms, establishing genealogies and marking out caesuras; no doubt about that. At the same time, it must be said that the technique of the cast and monumental rhetoric of the piece seem to narcissistically crystallize Grief, dogmatically passing it down to future generations and disengaging it from expert and detached historiographic initiatives (like those that certain thirty-to-forty-year-old Italian historians have at length and commendably undertaken on the “years of lead”). An excess of formalism is of no use to processes of empowerment, be they social or generational.

In the installation Repair From Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures by the French-Algerian artist Kader Attia – one of the most-commented-on works at Documenta -, a series of gigantic wooden heads with grotesque features is arrayed on metal shelves along with colonial ethnographic and modernist primitive texts. Attia’s thesis is that “other” cultures could have been appreciated by early-20th-century aesthetes, snobs and connoisseurs only on condition that they demonstrate Ethnic Purity and Tribal Primitiveness. The social, political and economic processes of non-western communities or nations were deliberately ignored. What we might call modernist ethnographic prejudice was widely recognized and contested in post-colonial studies and postmodern ethnography; in other words, Attia’s observations hardly constitute a scoop. On the contrary, widespread awareness and long-standing modifications in tastes may be to his advantage. But his stance is not that of the modest educator. The installation is completed by photographic images of WWI wounded, disfigured by post-trauma plastic surgery interventions. Attia proposes these images of victims as exemplifications of a practice of domination that causes war and destruction and at the same time proposes to dissimulate its own harmfulness by means of plastic surgery and abusive “repairs.” The deformed heads of Repair are, in effect, powerful images of humiliation: they correspond to the photos of the wounded soldiers and participate in the redemption of an anti-aesthetic of the subaltern body. And yet, if approached from an historical point of view, they partially refute the anti-western indignation enunciated by the artist in brief writings and press releases, instead proving to be inventive remakes of early 20th-century caricatured busts (Duchamp-Villon, for example). We could legitimately contend that Attia, far from diverging from the ambivalences of modernist estheticism, practices sophisticated forms of appropriation and uses “cultural redemption” as a publicity technique. Young though he is, Attia is no outsider: his production of monumental works has garnered the attention of some of the most callous commercial galleries on the continent.

Europe, or On Guilt

Documenta was born as a pedagogic initiative in post-war Germany, in a city devastated by bombing because it was a center of the Nazi-era military industry. It was intended to operate on political and cultural planes, make a decisive contribution to the westernization of Germany and at the same time rekindle a vigorous connection with the tradition of classical German humanism. Even the openness to American abstract expressionism that characterized the earliest editions of Documenta fit into a continental reconstruction project and raised questions about Europe’s political and cultural destiny within the context of the cold war and the standoff between blocs. In the current edition of Documenta, there is no trace of a European question. In this exhibition, an archeological and elementary geo-political imagery – in many ways seemingly stuck in the 1970s – continually marks out the boundaries between Good Guys and Bad Guys, Western and the Third-World, Americans and the Vietcong, dissolving differences and consolidating stereotypes, be they laudable or not. At a time that may be the prelude to a tragic economic and political dissolution, does it make sense to consider Europe always and only a continent of Accumulation and Domination, ignoring its political-institutional vulnerability or critical-democratic cultural heritage? Failing (and this from a Documenta that intends to thrust itself into the “digital future”) to stimulate a shift that would take us beyond the Protesting of Wrongs and the routine of Denunciation? The investiture of the artist as Testifier of the Horrors of History, although scholastically Benjaminian, fails to acknowledge the degree to which artists themselves may have participated, in recent decades, in the dilapidation of a cultural heritage of Intransigence and Non-Conformism: but it is for this very reason that the interconnection of art and activism today appears to be an enormously complicated issue.

Posthumous Retrospectives and Great Modernist Outsiders

Amy Balkin offers Documenta’s most persuasive project in terms of “activism” (environmental in this case): a formal request that UNESCO recognize the atmosphere as a world heritage site/object.  It is not by chance, considering the myriad aporias of contemporaneity, that some of the exhibition’s best sections are dedicated to retrospectives (often posthumous) of Modern Movement outsiders. Etel Adnan’s small oil compositions tell of an everyday practice of painting experienced as a joyous ritual and, with their predilection for broad, non-descriptive areas of color, recall the early-Twentieth-century “syntheticism” of Nabis in France and Munich’s Der Blaue Reiter, as well as De Staël. A pacifist and member of the Norwegian Communist Party in the 1930s, Hannah Ryggen (1894-1970) commented on international events of the Thirties, such as the rise of the Nazi Party and Mussolini’s war in Ethiopia, in wool and linen tapestries morphologically characterized by Klee-like mask-faces. Margaret Preston (1875-1963) and Emily Carr (1871-1945) introduce us to the Modernism of peripheral areas like 1930s and ‘40s Australia: the two painters’ vigorous recognition of native art and culture is one of the exhibition’s most touching contributions, resurfacing from a long-ago, pre-war and pre-Wall Street past. Finally, Metzger’s India ink and pastel drawings plumb the limits of a controversial and demanding period of work between European figurative tradition and American abstract expressionism. Dating to the years between 1945 and 1959-1960, rejected by the artist himself, they can once again be seen here, with a few too many concessions to fluctuations in terms of dates.

Image and word

A final consideration on the relation between art and research, of which a great deal has been said here in Kassel. Documenta often walks the borderline that separates image and word. So why cross that border from only one side of the fence? Numerous artists invited to participate practice textwork, and the curator’s aim of rewriting the history of the Italian neo-avant-garde from the visual poetry point of view clearly emerges from the exhibition. We would urge greater audacity. It seems reductive to show appreciation for border crossings that come solely from one side, maintaining unaltered the demarcation between “artists” and “critics”: for example, how should we consider Emilio Villa or Carla Lonzi (limiting ourselves to the Italian case in point), the former the author of calligrammes, and the latter of the innovative volume-collage Autoritratto, if not from the point of view of a precocious nullification of that difference? As we well know, textual acuteness and Socratic interrogation are quintessential techniques of “social sculpture”.

(translated by Theresa Davis)


Kassel Central Station, known locally as the "Kulturbahnhof" ("culture station").


At dOCUMENTA, amateurs shed new light on art

What do a neurologist and politician have to say about art? For the first time, people from professions outside of the arts are giving visitors guided tours of dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel. DW went along for the ride.

The meeting point is the large industrial container in front of Kassel’s main train station, known locally as the “Kulturbahnhof” (“culture station”). Ina Lange is holding a yellow dOCUMENTA sign in her hand. She does a quick headcount before marching in the direction of the tracks. Fifteen visitors follow her.

Since only a small number of regional trains pass through the station, it’s being used as a satellite space for dOCUMENTA (13). Ina Lange likes to hang around in the Kulturbahnhof with her group because, she says, it’s roomier than the Friedricianum where she also works as a Worldly Companion. Here she can allow herself more time to examine the artworks. There’s no jostling for space as she gives her detailed explanations of the meanings behind the artworks.

That is what Worldly Companions is about – namely, instigating dialogue on art. “The classic museum guide is redundant,” said Ina Lange. “dOCUMENTA (13) wants to do things differently, to enter into a dialogue with visitors on equal terms.”

Worldly Companion Ina Lange, pictured here at dOCUMENTA (13)“The classic museum guide is redundant,” says Worldly Companion Ina Lange

A politician and 10 dogs

For that reason, dOCUMENTA (13) curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev devised the concept of Worldly Companions. She approached people working in professions that had nothing to do with art, who could bring their life experience with them. Ina Lange was one of 700 candidates. The 55-year-old mother of two is a neurologist at a clinic in Göttingen, and modern art has long been her passion.

Since January, Lange and her 180 colleagues have been reading up on the artists, artworks and history of the event. Together with high school graduates, car mechanics, architects, nurses, linguists, archaeologists and even agricultural scientists – the majority of whom live in Kassel – Lange attended seminars to prepare for her stint as a Worldly Companion.

Hans Eichel, Germany’s Minister of Finance from 1999-2005, was also involved in the project. Born and raised in Kassel, he is an important eye-witness to the history of dOCUMENTA, which has taken place every four or five years since 1955.

Besides the amateur guides, 10 search and rescue dogs also play an important role in this year’s exhibition and have been sniffing their way around the artworks in the Karlsaue Park, together with their trainer. Curator Christov-Bakargiev believes their natural instinct and curiosity make them great role models for human beings. There’s even a sculpture park for dogs at the south end of the park, which looks a bit like a miniature amusement park.

A sculpture park for dogs at dCOUMENTA (13) Natural curiousity? A sculpture park for dogs is part of dCOUMENTA (13)

Stamina and an awkward silence

One of the tours on offer is called the Stamina Tour and is the equivalent of the Iron Man for brave dOCUMENTA visitors. It starts at 10:00 and ends at 20:00. Ina Lange couldn’t manage such a long day on her feet in her lightweight sandals. She shows her group around 10 of her favorite artworks in the Kulturbahnhof. “We need to have a relationship to the artworks, also an emotional one, in order to inspire discussions,” explains Lange on the way to her first stop.

Cello music streams from the loud-speakers at the station, the cue for Lange to explain: “The string quartet is a composition by Pavel Haas, who was deported from this train station to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he died in 1944. The Nazis misused the piece by including it in a propaganda film.”

Suddenly, the past and present collide as the music fills the station. Ina Lange asks what thoughts or feelings the piece inspires in the members of the group. An awkward silence is the only response.

Kassel Central StationPavel Haas’ string quartet streams from the loud speakers at Kassel Central Station

A heap of mud and fabric sculptures

The selection process for the Worldly Companions was also a test of spontaneity and articulation. Candidates were asked to compose two texts – one about Kassel, the other about themselves. Ina Lange was successful. Her connection with the 1968 generation and the evolution of feminism impressed the panel. It isn’t her profession as a doctor that makes here right for the role of Worldly Companion, rather, her sensitive manner with visitors.

Lange poses and answers questions in such a way that members of the group have no need to worry about embarrassing themselves. She is as amazed by the heap of mud by American artist Michael Portnoy as those viewing the volcano with an integrated theater stage for the very first time.

“Aren’t we all the victims of capitalism?” Lange asks the visitors in front a group works by American artist Seth Price, who has sewn the logo of the Swiss Bank USB on the inside of fabric sculptures. It might sound naïve, but the question helps kick-start a discussion about the financial crisis and the banking system.

An artwork by American artist Seth Price at dOCUMENTA (13)An artwork by American artist Seth Price sparked a discussion about the financial crisis

Detours and the cherry on the cake

There is no jurisdiction of the official meaning of artworks. Art doesn’t explain itself, according to the philosophy behind dTOURS, as the tours with Worldly Companions are called. The name points to the experimental nature of the project. It is an attempt to reactivate the natural thirst for knowledge people are born with in order to inspire new ways of thinking.

In practice, the concept is as likeable as it is stimulating and sets itself apart in the unusual constellation of individuals with various fields of expertise from philosophy and history to education and medicine.

“We are proud of this artwork,” said Lange, referring to the film installation “Refusal of Time” by South African artist William Kentridge, as the group disbands in the darkened room. Kentbridge is the highlight of the tour for many visitors to the Kulturbahnhof. Here they can abandon themselves to a range of images and sounds.

For Ina Lange, the last stop on the tour is the cherry on the cake “that everyone should enjoy.” Away from her normal day job in the hospital, Lange appears to relish her role as a Worldly Companion to dOCUMENTA (13), namely the challenge of imparting the freedom of art.

Author: Sabine Oelze / hw
Editor: Kate Bowen

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

dOCUMENTA (13) – On our way to the brain

dOCUMENTA (13) is happening and it’s not at all as bad as we feared after hearing Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev‘s (CCB) musings. In the coming weeks, we will present to you our pictures and thoughts of some of the exhibits in cooperation with art-savvy Niche Berlin. Let‘s start with our first impressions.

It didn’t start well: After all the ambiguous press prior to the opening we started at the Fridericianum with the so-called “brain”, the dimly lit rotunda stuffed with art works and artifacts is the nucleus of this years dOCUMENTA. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite capture the links between the densely arranged exhibits. As it turns out this is the whole point, but let’s maybe leave the discussion of CCB‘s holistic, non-logocentric approach aside. More importantly the contrast between the replete and confusing brain couldn’t have been striking to the blunt works in the entry halls we crossed on our way to the brain. The left wing‘s only visual exhibit is a handwritten letter of Kai Althoff, in which he explains why he had to withdraw his participation to this years dOCUMENTA13, and at the current state of his life he feels he wouldn’t be apt to produce something to meet his expectations. Indeed, although literally exposed, Althoff is not listed as a participating artist. Studying the written proof of his personal failure, visitors can hear a sound piece by Ceal Floyer consisting of the looped lines of a Tammy Wynette love-song whining “I’ll just keep on/till I get it right” (leaving out the central part “falling in love”). According to the guidebook, Floyers work Till I get it right (amended) (2012) somehow stresses the artists aspiration of perfection over a romantic (?) idea of artistic creation.

We were confused and not able to figure out whether CCB‘s choice of plumply pieces intended to make visitors susceptible to her „brain“ or whether she tried to be ironic – especially when we realised that what we first believed to be a cold draft in the ground floor was a deliberate breeze created by artist Ryan Gander. We were ready to like this for its subtlety – until we realized it was titled I need some meaning I can Memorise (The invisible pull) 2012…

And for a brief moment we feared all prejudice on CCB could become certainties, felt like everything was supposed to be confusing and meaningless at the same time.To make it short, after leaving the official entry halls of Fridericianum, we were prepared for the worst. However, we were suddenly excited about what we found beyond this major stage of CCB‘s curation. But we‘ll leave that for next week.

Want to know and see even more art in Berlin and beyond? Visit Niche Berlin.

This is the first part of Niche Berlin’s thoughts on dOCUMENTA (13), read part two, three and four.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

dOCUMENTA(13) – Thoughts on the brain

Part two of Niche Berlin’s thoughts on dOCUMENTA (13):

The mise en scene of the »brain« and of its objects might not have been everybody’s favourite… but CCB’s approach to root her curatorial choices and thoughts in the past should only be appreciated. The immediate starting point of her research is Kassel’s dramatic destruction in WWII. Kassel’s numerous aircraft and tank plants constituted interesting targets for the allies who’s bombs destroyed around 80% of the city on October 22nd, 1943. The very first documenta in 1955 thus played a major role in the city’s rehabilitation. However, Kassel and its history serve only as a home base for dOCUMENTA (13). CCB’s idea that “collapse and recovery no longer seem as two subsequent moments in time, but often appear simultaneously, and that the precariousness of lives all over the world has become the norm” (press release, p. 10), results in her expansion of exhibition venues to Afghanistan and Egypt. The curatorial concept also draws inspiration from non-artistic processes and past emergencies being reflected in today’s crises. The theme “collapse and recovery” is not only to be found in a large number of exhibited works dealing with destruction and renewal – but most of the artifacts in the »brain«: One of the more obvious examples is the selection of »Objects damaged during the Lebanese Civil War« that have been melted into new forms. More loosely associated to this interest are the objects that war correspondent Lee Miller took from Hitler’s apartment after his defeat, like Eva Braun’s perfume bottle and compact powder.

While the relation of the current to the past is something that Roger Buergel’s and Ruth Noack’s documenta 12 also focused on, CCB zooms in and exhibits the work of two artists that are directly related to the history of documenta itself. Opposite of the left entrance hall – with Kai Althoff’s letter and Ceal Floyer’s sound loop –, she installed three bronzes by the modern Spanish sculptor Julio Gonzalez that had already been part of documenta 2 in 1959. Next to this vitrine, an anonymous photograph from the archive of two visitors in front of the sculptures is presented. Today’s beholder is being mirrored in the visitors of the past, and, as summed up in the guidebook, Gonzalez’s re-participation is “a recapitulation of the work of sorrow […] that documenta historically carried out in the realm of art and culture, following global destruction, and the reconstruction of Germany and Europe” in 1955 and 1959.

CCB also looks back to Harald Szeemann’s influential documenta 5 from 1972, by inviting Mario Garcia Torres. On the first floor, the young Mexican artist has installed a series of works about Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), an Italian artist who had originally wanted to exhibit the first of his »mappa « (1971), embroidered world maps, at documenta 5. But in the end plans were changed and a different work was shown. Garcia Torres brings the mappa into Fridericianum as part of his installation with a delay of 40 years, in which the political world map has changed severely. Boetti was also owner of a hotel in Kabul, one of the focal locations of this year’s documenta, from 1971 to 1977, whose traces Garcia Torres explores in his poetic audio-visual essay „Have you ever seen the Snow?“ (2010).

We found these tributes to former documentas and to Kassel’s history to be a nice way of entrenching the exhibition in its location, while at the same time addressing broader subjects relevant also to other parts of the world. Or is this, as some people have criticised about CCB, too loosely associated?

This is the second part of Niche Berlin’s thoughts on dOCUMENTA (13), read part one , threeand four.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

dOCUMENTA (13) – Kassel discoveries

Our favourite aspect: CCB’s inclusion of Kassel’s urban space. Plenty of exhibition sites are to be discovered besides the notorious venues of Fridericianum and Documenta Halle. The most acknowledged of those „off-site“ spaces is the derelict Huguenot House built in1826 that was handed over to Chicago based artist Theaster Gates. He is concerned with communal space and the cultural upvalue of poor neighbourhoods; in 2009 he turned an abandoned property in Chicago into the communal cultural initiative Dorchester Project. For his dOCUMENTA (13) project he brought building materials from abandoned buildings in Chicago to Huguenot House in Kassel‘s Friedrichstrasse and hired workforce-development teams to revive the historic building. The joint effort resulted in the giant installation 12 Ballads for the Huguenot House: Three floors are open for discovery and filled with self-made furniture from broken-down material, numerous sound and video pieces about musicians on all floors and countless little DIY details. Everything oozes an aesthetic of Berlin’s adventurous, improvised 1990’s art spaces. But the furniture is actually being used: The house serves as living space for Gates and his entourage for the duration of dOCUMENTA (13), where they are constantly hosting talks, concerts and performances. In exchange, parts of the Huguenot House will later be transferred to a construction site in Chicago.

Gates’ poetic intervention at Huguenot House, combining an optimist and improvised aesthetic and the nostalgia of the ruinous, is not only a clever comment on the situation of marginally employed and marginalised artists, but also on Kassel’s rather sad urban development, which CCB has managed to revive at least in parts by choosing clever spots for artworks all over town.

Even more interested we are in this question: which was your favourite off-site venue?

P.S. Not so complex, but nonetheless enjoyable is Tino Sehgals performance in the backyard.

This is the third part of Niche Berlin’s thoughts on dOCUMENTA (13), read part one twoand four.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

dOCUMENTA (13): The Beach

After experiencing that being led by a chanting stranger through total darkness is not as scary as it sounds in Tino Sehgal‘s performance at Huguenot House, we decided to spend some time outside for a change. Some of you may not remember, but there was a time when summer days meant (heart) warming sunshine.

With perfect weather we made our way to the park Karlsaue, where the first water we saw was luckily not poured on us but gathered in a rectangular pool embedded in the ground. Howbeit, the work by Massimo Bartolini feels certainly not less contemplative than watching endless rows of raindrops falling towards the ground: Untitled (Wave) consists of a wave that is rhythmically swaying back and forth and sometimes spilling over on the surrounding grass. Bartolini’s work symbolizes the endless cycle of life being visible in constant transformation: the wave’s movement is infinite but always different in its outer appearance. Besides the spilled water nurtures the vegetation, thick grass planted rectangular around the pond. Furthermore, Bartolini’s little pool refers to the tradition of aligned water basins, a means that was popular when the Karlsaue was designed as a baroque pleasure garden in the 18th century. As well as to the fountains that can be found in the park, whose infinite circulation of water can be seen as a representation of the circle of life.

All that thinking about water and life made us realize that we were starving. Not yet familiar with CCB’s disposition of the 24 pavilions on the 125-hectare ground we just started walking, got lost and soon missed the guiding hands of our assistants from Tino Sehgal’s performance.

Luckily we stumbled over something that clearly looked like we could find some refreshment: A colourful tent structure. Immediately we were invited to eat some couscous inside. Was that some clever local that had the winning idea of making a business by selling food to the art enthusiasts who forgot to eat in the morning? It turned out to be the work of Robin Kahn & La Cooperativa Unidad Nacional Mujeres Saharauis: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking. The artist spent one month with the women of a Western Sahara settlement and published a book about their cooking. With the translocation of a solitary ceremonial desert tent stitched artfully by the women to Kassel, Kahn wants to invite people to learn more about the doom of that indigenous people that have been annexed by Morocco. Was that a piece of art? Maybe.

Summing up the last hours: we had sun, relaxed by the pool, had a nice snack in the cooling shade of a desert tent. And now the sun was going down behind something that looked suspiciously like a dune (Song Dong’s Doing Nothing Garden). Was Kassel partly recovered as the perfect 24-hour beach hideaway? The answer is always maybe.

This is the forth part of Niche Berlin’s thoughts on dOCUMENTA (13), read part one, two and three.


5 thoughts on “Documenta 13 image set 3 – updated with international commentary

  1. About dOCUMENTA (13)The thirteenth edition of documenta involves more than 300 participants. The exhibition in Kassel is presented at eight main venues, with many other projects located at sites throughout the center of the city. Over the coming weeks an extensive program of lectures, seminars, congresses, films, and poetry readings, as well as a writers’ residency and programs initiated by dOCUMENTA (13) participants, will be presented.

  2. About dOCUMENTA (13)The thirteenth edition of documenta involves more than 300 participants. The exhibition in Kassel is presented at eight main venues, with many other projects located at sites throughout the center of the city. Over the coming weeks an extensive program of lectures, seminars, congresses, films, and poetry readings, as well as a writers’ residency and programs initiated by dOCUMENTA (13) participants, will be presented.

  3. We found these tributes to former documentas and to Kassel’s history to be a nice way of entrenching the exhibition in its location, while at the same time addressing broader subjects relevant also to other parts of the world. Or is this, as some people have criticised about CCB, too loosely associated?

  4. Pingback: Documenta 13 images set 4 – updated with international commentary | fireplace chats

  5. Pingback: dOCUMENTA 13: Three Invisible Works : socks-studio

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