Photo Essay

dOCUMENTA (13) ... a review!

Modern woman of today and the Neanderthals

Since June and until the 16th of September in 2012, over 150 artist and other participants from around the world meet and present a variety of artistic practices, including sculpture, performance, installation, research and archiving, painting, photography, film, curatorial, text-based and audio works as well as other experiments in the fields of aesthetics, art, politics, literature, science and ecology. For the Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, dOCUMENTA (13) is a form of inquiry and indulgence in materials. Her intuitive approach re-samples that of the artists and other participants she has chosen to work with. Thus, the 13th edition of documenta is a surprising stage to present questions that shape our notion of life in the present. (d.13) - What we discover in other places like "late-adolescent romantic" or "too early-mature practicality", persuades in Kassel by a definition that has been proclaimed as "seemingly scientific": The translation of chaos as a process to interlace transfigurations. Carolyn Christov Bakargiev is guiding people back to art: In a virtual midway between the senses and the intellect.

It is impressing to realize that parts don't come accidentally to each other. A situational aesthetics is composed, which is also recognizable from various perspectives like the balanced density of a fascinating painting: The heterogeneous image of our time. Not in the drive to a maximum heterogeneity, as it prevailed more and more in the past productions, but in an optimal heterogeneity with "Generally comprehensible patterns" that offer this potentiality, where our actuality should grow out of. A discreet charm of intellectual and intuitive quantum struggles everywhere with the quantum of ignorance. What can be easily unmasked as a trap for the ingenuous, dances like a butterfly from a archaic story in front of our noses - takes us through an interpolation circuit. The question of Being-In-The-World for man is transformed into a radically existential question to everyone, and here it is less the Pavlovian dog in us, but Schrödinger's cat that points out on the human dimensions: the creature is as dead as alive. And: Only situational aesthetics reveal tangible states of reality.

This exhibition speaks about the uniqueness of our relationship with objects and our fascination with them. It explores the individual and troubled histories of these objects, and their shifting connotations. The materials of these objects are earthly: from solid carved stones to ceramics (permanent yet breakable). There are eccentric, precarious, and fragile objects, ancient and contemporary objects, innocent objects and objects that have lost something; destroyed objects, damaged objects and indestructible objects, hidden or disguised objects, objects on retreat, objects in refuge, traumatized objects. The "riddle" of dOCUMENTA (13) is a paradox, a space of many secrets, a space of violence, and a space of potential healing. What superficially appears like a "mixed aesthetics calculation", turns out to be a "cognitive autonomy". The diversity of the layers can thus be operative as a kind of meta-programming, and for that reason remain open opportunities to experience images and spaces very differently, and although interpret, analyze or explain this experience in a wide rage. (d.13) - Also a challenge for photographers to document the event.

Holger E. Dunckel

PS: This interpretation is shaped by my own experience with trans-cognitive exhibition concepts since the 1990th (A GOURD FULL OF ASHES) until today (SCALA2020). Though personally I don't like all the works, and I would have omitted or replaced several by others, the issue of substance is convincing as such in any case, there is a situational aesthetics that actually moves with the spectator. Only a "cognitive miser" will travel back to his barren homeland without any pleasure or spiritual profit ...

First line: Yan Lei has selected one image a day for an entire year – 360 paintings corresponding to the Chinese calender – transferring each to a single canvas. This diary of sorts was brought to Kassel and arranged throughout a space at the documenta-hall. The team serially removes the source-image paintings throughout the exhibition, getting them painted over with a mono-chrome finish at the VW car factory near the city and then returning them to the space.

Second line: "Leaves of grass" - 50 years edition of the American "Life" magazine" have been cut into several images by Geoffrey Farmer. They are composed historically, by themes and color, representing a kind of forest of fans. The worlds history from 1935 to 1985 showing up in an multiple image, talking to the beholder in its very special language, and located at the arcades of the "Neue Galerie".

Third line: Shinro Ohtakes constructed a kind of "Witch's Kitchen" (Hexenhaus), made by many objects he came across with throughout his trips around the world and in Kassel. A very popular place at the end of "Karlsaue", in a huge park near the river Fulda that crosses Kassel, where a lot of other installations and surprising cabins offer contemporary art under the sky to the multiple visitors.

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