According to Wikipedia “documenta is an exhibition of modern and contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. It was founded by artist, teacher and curator Arnold Bode in 1955 as part of the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Horticultural Show) which took place in Kassel at that time, and was an attempt to bring Germany up to speed with modern art, both banishing and repressing the cultural darkness of Nazis. This first documenta featured many artists who are generally considered to have had a significant influence on modern art (such as Picasso and Kandinsky). The more recent documentas feature art from all continents; nonetheless most of it is site-specific.
Every documenta is limited to 100 days of exhibition, which is why it is often referred to as the “museum of 100 days”.“
I was born in Kassel, Germany and have wanted to go to Documenta as long as I can remember. Every time I visited Kassel I saw signs of previous Documentas since one work of art is left to the city each year. One year an artist, Joseph Beuys, planted 7000 trees with a basalt column next to each tree.
dOCUMENTA (13) (Documenta 13) was full of variety, from paintings and sculptures to films and performance art. There was an emphasis on social and politically based works and the projects were generally interesting. One of my favorites was “For a Thousand Years” by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, which involved sitting with a group of people in the woods on padded logs listening to a wide variety of sounds-from a storm to sounds of war. There was a “Sanatorium” where you could participate in “therapy”. I made a “Goodoo” doll, visualizing good wishes for my son by benignly inserting a number of objects into an effigy of him. According to the artist, Pedro Reyes, “This positive folk magic allows the actor to give material shape to their emotions toward others”. Another favorite was a movie The Refusal of Time, William Kentridge’s installation dealing with the physics and metaphysics of time and our march to the abyss.
The art was all over the downtown area. It was impossible to see it all in four days.
I attended Documenta with my cousin, Bettina.
There was a cottage in the Karlsaue Park with art in every room. “Here & There” by Anna Maria Maiolino.
More art in the Karlsaue. “Idee di pietra” by Giuseppe Penone.
“The Importance of Telepathy” by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
“Clocked Perspective” by Anri Sala.
At the Fridericianum Museum you entered and a gentle but relentless breeze, courtesy of British artist Ryan Gander, blew through the first large room.
Bavarian pastor and artist Korbinian Aigner painted 400 postcard-sized paintings of different varieties of apple. Imprisoned for his anti-Nazi sermons, Aigner worked as a gardener in Dachau and Sachsenhausen, where he cultivated several new varieties, one for each year of his internment.
Geoffrey Farmer’s Leaves of Grass collage was made from pictures cut from five decades of Life magazine.
One evening I attended Documenta with an old friend, Astrid. I met her when I attended high school for a year in Kassel.
and her daughter Adrieanne:
Chinese artist Yan Lei painted 360 canvases that were gradually converted to monochromes: Each day a few were spray-painted at a car factory near Kassel.
A gallery is devoted to the small abstractions that the Lebanese-American poet and writer Etel Adnan has made since the late 1950s.
Michael Rakowitz’s “What Dust Will Rise?” was about the books that were destroyed during the aerial bombing of Kassel in 1941. Rakowitz’s installation was of carved stone books. In order to produce the books, Rakowitz worked in Afghanistan to educate Afghani stone carvers to reenact the old tradition of stone carving (a trade that was abolished after the Taliban), and to produce copies of the books with the stones that were taken from the quarries of Buddhas of Bamiyan, which was destroyed by the Taliban with an international showdown in 2001.
There was a room full of Aboriginal paintings by Australian artist Doreen Reid Nakamarra.
István Csákány exhibited Sewing Room, a roomful of sewing machine sculptures created solely out of wood with intricate detail.
Ceramic sculpture by Julia Isidrez
Uncomfortable Objects by Mariana Castillo Deball.
Plaster, pigments, stones, shells, masks, fabric, glass, wood, clay, diverse objects mounted on a steel frame.
Seven Parts Relief by Sopheap Pich.
I went to art installations on the Weinberg-Terrassen with Ditsch, my cousin’s husband. This picture shows him with an installation by Adrián Villar Rojas – Return the world – on
At the bottom of the Weinberg there was a former World War 2 bunker. Inside we watched a film by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla involving a flute that was carved by Homo sapiens 35,000 years ago from the wing bone of a griffon vulture. Unearthed at the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany in 2009, it is the oldest musical instrument found to date. The artists invited Bernadette Käfer, a flautist specializing in prehistoric instruments to play the flute in the presence of a rare living griffon vulture.
After the Weinberg Ditsch and I returned to the Karlsaue Park. Here is Ditsch on Christian Philipp Müller’s project for dOCUMENTA (13), which consisted of turning six barges from the Cold War into floating Swiss chard gardens, using sixty different varieties of Swiss chard from around the world. Müller added beneath the title “Swiss Chard Ferry,” “The Russians aren’t going to make it across the Fulda anymore.”
In one of the prefab houses scattered throughout the Karlsaue Park was Fiona Hall’s installation “Fall Prey”, which included a menagerie of endangered species in camouflage-hued hide or plumage. She described her exhibition spot as a cross between an army bunker and a hunter’s den.
Later that afternoon I met up with Bettina. Our favorite exhibit was “Fatigues” by Tacita Dean. She used a blackboard and chalk to recreate the mountainous landscape of Afghanistan in a former banking hall.
Is it art? Is it life? I am already looking forward to Documenta 14 in 5 years. I will be there!