Saturday, July 1, 2017

Great Art in Small Places - bye:myself at the 14th documenta in Kassel

One day might be far too long for Kassel on a normal day, but it's quite short while the documenta is taking place.


The Parthenon of Books - bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Marta Minujín The Parthenon of Books
Argentinian Artist Marta Minujín built a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, ‚decorating‘ it with 25,000 books that were or still are banned somewhere in the world. To gain enough material, there was a public call to action by the artist herself.

As God created Kassel, after giving it some baroque buildings and gardens, he ran out of pretty. To make up for it, he placed Kassel right in the middle of Germany so although it's just another dreary town, every German has to go through or by it a couple of times in his or her life. (By train from Frankfurt 1.5 hours, from Hamburg 2 hours, from Berlin 3 hours, and from Munich 3.5 hours).

It's thanks to Arnold Bode that Kassel gets kissed by the arts, hence glitters for hundred days every five years.
Arnold Bode, born in 1900 in Kassel, studied art in his hometown and did as a member of the Kassel secession organize first international art exhibitions in the 1920. Ten years after WWII he curated the first documenta in 1955 as well as the subsequent three issues.


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Gerhard Richter Arno Bode
A Portrait of the father of the documenta, Arno Bode, painted by the notorious Gerhard Richter who claims his visit to the 2nd documenta has been a turning point in his development as an artist. He painted this portrait on the occasion of the 3rd edition in 1964.

The purpose of the first edition was not introducing contemporary art but presenting works and artists that were vilified by the Nazi for being "degenerated". The main focus was abstract art from the 1920s and the 1930s.


Hans Haacke Fotonotizen documenta 2 Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Hans Haacke Fotonotizen documenta 2
Visitors photographed by artist Hans Haacke during the 2nd documenta in 1959. Today the art afficionado in the prawn will be about 68 years old - and does hopefully not have to be pushed in something with wheels again.

After Bode co-curated the first four editions (1955, 1959, and 1964 together with art historian Werner Haftmann, 1968 as a member of a council of 24 curators), beginning with the fifth edition, every documenta has been curated by a different director. Therefore the individual issues have very singular and varied focusses and social and political impacts.

This year, the 14th documenta is being curated by Polish born Adam Szymczyk who was i. a. director and leading curator of the Art Museum (Kunsthalle) Basel for 2003 to 2014.

The number of documenta visitors is constantly rising, in 2012 860,000 guests came to see the 13th edition.

Nowadays the documenta is one of world's most important exhibitions of contemporary art, and due to its length of time it's also called 'the museum of 100 days'.
This year it takes place in two cities: it started in Athens on April 8 and goes on till July 16, meanwhile it started at home in Kassel on June 10 and can be visited till September 17. Some works already came travelling up North, others will stay in Athens; but don't you worry, there is a lot to see in Kassel even without them!


Marta Minujín The Parthenon of Books Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Marta Minujín The Parthenon of Books
This central work bridged cleverly Athens to Kassel

I always thought that the Venice Biennal's info and maps were not so great. "Schlimmer geht immer" (it can always be worse) - the documenta's web info is a mess, especially since links are not working properly and accessing pages takes forever. But once you get there, they supply you with a free map and to get more info on concepts and artists, there is a wide range of special issues of art magazines and books.

I've been to the most important venues - starting of course with the

I - FRIDERICIANUM


Fridericianum Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
The Fridericianum where the exhibition on loan from Athens was displayed.
On the roof a leftover from the IX documenta - Thomas Schütte's Die Fremden (The Strangers) 

Not to be missed at the Fridericianum: Bill Viola's video "The Raft" (read also my review on Viola's current exhibition in Hamburg), Mona Hatoum's installation "Fix It", and Costas Tsoclis' painting-video-installation "Portraits" and "Harpooned Fish".


II - NATURKUNDEMUSEUM im OTTONEUM 

(Museum for Natural History at the Ottoneum)

 sorry, these pictures had to be removed for legal reasons

III - documenta-HALLE



Guillermo Galindo, documenta, Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Guillermo Galindo Fluchtzieleuropahavarieschallkörper 
Did anybody really think that a major art event would, should, could take place without thematizing the refugees topic and situation?! Guillermo Galindo, coming from Mexico where the topic of fleeing suffering to supposedly better shores has a much, much longer tradition than in Europe, started his project ‚Border Cantos‘ in 2012 by collecting along the border between the US and Mexico what was left from people crossing illegally and assemble this remnants to instruments.
This basis of these particular 'instruments' are the remnants of a refugee boat from Lesbos - and with this reference to the documenta also taking place in Athens, the circle closes. 


Britta Marakatt-Labba, documenta, Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Britta Marakatt-Labba Historja 
Don't judge a work by its technique: Swede Britta Marakatt-Labba is stitching on 23,5 m (equals 77 feet) cultural, ethnic, and political scenes from her native Sami land. The Sami are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people, and indigenous means like always hardship and discrimination, and somewhere between her many, many cute and almost childlike stitches, Britta Marakatt-Labba tells us about it.

Not to be missed at the documenta-Halle: Aboubakar Fofana's installation "Fundi" (which means uprising) and the masks made by artist and indigenous chief Beau Dick who sadly passed away in March 2017.



IV - NEUE GALERIE (New Gallery)



Lorenza Böttner, documenta, Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Lorenza Böttner
For me a fascinating discovery is Lorenza Böttner, born in 1959 in Chile to German parents by the name of Ernst Lorenz Böttner. At the age of 8 the child lost both arms from an electric shock - and refused prostheses. Ernst Lorenz was interested in the arts such as painting, dance, and drama. He painted with his mouth and feet, studied at the art college in Kassel and graduated with the theses "Disabled?", questioning being labelled as a 'freak'. At this time he performed not only an artistic, but also a personal self-reconstruction by living her transgender identity openly and hence using the female name Lorenza. Lorenza died in 1994 due to HIV related complications. 
There are some photographs of her and some of her art work in the exhibition...

Lorenza Böttner, documenta, Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Lorenza Böttner
...like this self portrait were you actually can see her foot prints.

Sergio Zevallos, documenta, Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Sergio Zevallos A War Machine
And yet another discovery: Sergio Zevallos' "A War Machine". Peru born Zevallos is currently living in Berlin and obviously both nations - and their political and economic players - find their way into his rough, direct, and unveiled accusation who's to blame for the world's fate. In Kassel, unfortunately this part where German Defense Secretary Ursula von der Leyen's, Erdoğan's, Draghi's and other rulers' urine connects by flowing together is not on display. But there are still their shrunken heads and other niceties. I like it a lot when art is a raw statement without this 'look at me, look at me'-pseudo-scandal twist. ¡Way to go, Sergio!

Not to be missed at the Neue Galerie: Pélagie Gbaguidi "The missing link", Piotr Uklański "Real Nazis", Cecilia Vicuña's portraits (and installation Quipu Womb at the documenta-Halle).


V - NEUE NEUE GALERIE (New New Gallery)



Arin Rungjang, documenta, Renata Green. bye:myself byemyselftravels
Arin Rungjang And then there were none (Tomorrow we will become Thailand.) 
In a few days my travel review on Thailand will be posted on this site, and of course it will mainly deal with the touristy happy goes lucky side of the country. There is the beloved Royal family and the system of the constitutional hereditary monarchy - Arin Rungjang shows us portraits of Princess Sirikit and the late King Bhumibol who was at his dead the Head of State with the longest term in power (70). This pretty one dimensional political system might have its downsides, hence Arin Rungjang also shows other scenes from Thailand like the protests of 1976, its abatement, and the following massacre at the Thammasat-University.

Not to be missed at the Neue Neue Galerie: Gordon Hookey "MURRILAND!", Máret Ánne Sara "Pile o’ Sápmi"

Note: If I had to choose which venue I liked the best, my answer would be the Neue Neue Galerie; the art was the most imposing and intense, and I liked the multicultural, a bit run down neighborhood.


VI - STADTMUSEUM (City Museum)


sorry, these pictures had to be removed for legal reasons



VII - EHAMALIGER UNTERIRDISCHER BAHNHOF 

(Former Underground Train Station)



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Michel Auder The Course of Empire (2017/ Fourteen channel Video Installation)

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At the old underground train station - waiting for a train that will never come.

So these were the pieces that impressed me most - or just more than others.

Growth is always good; well, often. But growth makes also problems growing. I don't know how it was in 1955 when the first documenta opened its gates, but I know how it is now: Packed - with a capital P! To avoid uncontrollable hordes inside the exhibits, they let them stand in long lines till there is space again. That's certainly considerate to the art, but very inconsiderate to the visitors; especially if they have only a limited amount of time. They should for instance think about larger venues (like the Arsenale in Venice where there are crowds and you don't notice them that much since there is space).


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If you need a short break, you can rest right in front of the Neue Galerie....

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...or you walk about ten minutes to Viennese coffee shop "Die Kaffeerösterin". To sample some local food, try the hip yet down to earthy food restaurant "Heimat"

You still don't have enough? Okey, here comes a last extra-tip: The 14th documenta revives the theories of the promenade scientist (it just blows me away what you can research...) Lucius Burckhardt (1925 - 2003). His city planning concept is designed to focus on interchanging ideas while walking.
Joining guided walks with a 'chorister' is one option, following three different custom made walks from the internet another. These will guide you to art work remaining from past documentas.


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Trees? By no means! These two oaks are part of Josef Beuys' landscape design "7000 oaks", an art project that was introduced to the public during the 7th documenta in 1982. Over several years, Beuys and his helpers planted 7000 trees around Kassel. An extremely sustainable work of art. The 7000 oaks-project is included in the shortest of the three walks that goes around the Friedrichsplatz, Kassel's and the documenta's main square.


Note: It might strike you as odd that there seem to be pictures missing. Well, the truth is, they were press material supplied by the documenta and only allowed to be published till a couple of month after the show was over. I tried to replace them, but could not do so in every case. 
However,....


....if you choose to pin this post - as a reminder of the next documenta that will probably take place in 2022 - please use this picture:





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