Sunday, September 2, 2007

documenta XII

Was ist documenta? Every five years, the German town of Kassel puts on a three-month large-scale exhibition of (mostly) contemporary art. Both a display of new things and a summary of what “art” means at this moment in time, its always a major event, and we were geeked to have the rare opportunity to visit it without the purchase of a plane ticket.

Each successive documenta has its own curators and loose preoccupations. This year's organizers attempted to ruminate on three vague, open-ended questions far too verbose and imprecise for me to bother typing here. In brief, the interest this year is in what “modernity” means today, what aesthetic production's place in our great big world is, and how best to bridge the space between artist intent and audience experience. See, I sound like a tool just summarizing it. So yeah, it was just a grab bag of commissioned and compiled art, is what I'm getting at.

We spent two and half days in Kassel taking it all in. Naturally, a bunch of it wasn't too interesting (at one point it seemed like we'd been wandering bored for an hour), but on the other hand, a lot of it was really super. With this kind of show, there's always the temptation to gripe about the omissions. If it were up to me, I might've included Mike Kelley's Day Is Done. And without question, I felt that work by Jill Magid was missed. But its important to remember that this is but one exhibition, and not a Pitchfork Media list. As far as the “festival” presentation of documenta – with something like six venues, Corona beer gardens, ice cream trucks, souvenir shops, and busloads of sunblock-spackled tourists – it's weird and interesting and impossible to imagine in America, but better left for the experts to dissect. However, pertinent to that discussion, here's probably the best photo I took at documenta:

For those interested, I hope to post on some of the highlights over the next week or so. But, y'know, five hours a day of class really cuts into one's blogging time (yes, I do hear the sad, sad song of the world's tiniest violin). These highlights include but are not limited to: Harun Farocki's World Cup installation, Lili Dujourie's sculptures, Tseng Yu-Chin's almost-uncomfortable videos, Lu Hao's super terrific drawings of Beijing, Nasreen Mohamedi's gorgeous pen and ink geometries, and Trisha Brown's hippie choreography.

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