Life: at Documenta 13 in Kassel it is the examination of life, the relationship between man and object, the relation of space and time and thereby the location itself that forms the focal point of the artistic reflections. It is therefore no small wonder that politics and social structures also come into play here, for the locations always likewise forge temporal links, which ultimately (and for the most part indirectly) reference political dimensions themselves. And on top of that, as called for by Documenta’s Creative Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, it would be nice if we could also take the perspective of other creatures into consideration too, dogs, for example, or bees. The question as to whether the outcome is art or not loses its relevance here, if only because everything that is done “could at least be taken up by art”. So there you go. Even if all the works in Kassel are not of an equal standard, following an initial review the rumors of a supposed lack of concept that marked the run-up to the world’s largest art exhibition appear have quickly subsided. The sheer number of participating artists is overwhelming, the range of works unsettling and refreshing at the same time.
On Friedrichstrasse, for example. The old Huguenot house there has finally had some life injected into it thanks to a project by Chicago artist Theaster Gates. Workers from Kassel and Chicago came together to render the building, which has stood empty since the 1970s, useful again. A project that is both social and practical; restricted in place and time. Right next door, Tino Sehgal has plunged a hall in the Grand City Hotel Hessenland originally designed by Arnold Bode into complete darkness, filling the beholder with fear; a fear that only subsides when helpers who are unseen but clearly audible direct you along an uncertain path through the darkness. The beholder suffers the loss of an entire level of perception, which leads them directly to a kind of enlightenment as regard relations and interdependencies.
In conclusion, Documenta 13 isn’t so easy to digest. The tour through Fridericianum, Documenta-Halle, Kulturbahnhof and the other exhibition spaces reveals how Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and her team delved deep into the complexity of political, social, historical and scientific connections, which often draw a link to local happenings or places that are in turn – either directly or via the exhibited works – connected with other exhibition spaces across the globe in Kabul, Alexandria or Alberta in Canada. However it is the works in the Karlsaue that prove that a depth of content can – but does not have to – go hand in hand with lightweight production. In order to access the works in the rambling park, the visitor has to quite literally set out on a journey. Widely scattered across the space, at times hidden, the works are waiting to be discovered. And here too time and space interlace for the visitor creating a very practical dimension.
From June 9 through September 16, 2012