Today, dOCUMENTA13 opens for professional views, putting an end to all that speculation about what exactly Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s sprawling project was supposed to accomplish (other than filling the world with those attractive little readers…)
Well, maybe didn’t “put an end to all that speculation,” so much as started new speculation, now with images for reference.
As Christov-Bakargiev has made clear, “There is no concept,” but the event still made for a rowdy press conference, with barbed references to a disrespect towards other cultures (“What about the meteor’s right? Maybe it would like to go to an art exhibition…”), accusations of censorship (“I did not ask the artist to remove his work. I just asked him whether he thought it was appropriate for it to be there.”) and just generally the curator’s ego (“I used myself as a decoy to allow the artists to work in peace.”) Christov-Bakargiev received the most enthusiastic applause when she concluded, “I’ve done all my talking. Now let the art have its turn.”
The program mimics the structure of Okwui Enwezor’s 2002 Documenta 11, emphasizing key terms – Stage, Siege, Hope and Retreat – through multiple geographic sites – Kassel, Kabul, Alexandria/Cairo and Banff. Still, the curator and her massive network of agents, advisors and artists are at their best when working directly with the city, locating pieces within the park, the train station or the municipal museums. The Fridericianum is, as usual, the focus, but Christov-Bakargiev plays with that concept by leaving the first floor more or less empty, except for a “breeze” by Ryan Gander and a letter from Kai Althoff, explaining why he would have to pull out of the show. Instead, works are crammed into the rotunda, where Bactrian princesses, Lebanese artifacts and masks by Judith Hopf share space with photos of Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub.
There is certainly much to see, and much more to talk about, but gratefully, Documenta gives its visitors 100 days. Work will be on view in Kassel until September 9, 2012, and a full program of events ensures that its not just opening guests who have all the fun.
For more information, check the site (and good luck navigating!)