dOCUMENTA (13): On our way to the brain


dOCUMENTA (13) is happening and it’s not at all as bad as we feared after hearing Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev‘s (CCB) musings. In the coming weeks, we will present to you our pictures and thoughts of some of the exhibits in cooperation with art-savvy Niche Berlin. Let‘s start with our first impressions.

It didn’t start well: After all the ambiguous press prior to the opening we started at the Fridericianum with the so-called “brain”, the dimly lit rotunda stuffed with art works and artifacts is the nucleus of this years dOCUMENTA. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite capture the links between the densely arranged exhibits. As it turns out this is the whole point, but let’s maybe leave the discussion of CCB‘s holistic, non-logocentric approach aside. More importantly the contrast between the replete and confusing brain couldn’t have been striking to the blunt works in the entry halls we crossed on our way to the brain. The left wing‘s only visual exhibit is a handwritten letter of Kai Althoff, in which he explains why he had to withdraw his participation to this years dOCUMENTA13, and at the current state of his life he feels he wouldn’t be apt to produce something to meet his expectations. Indeed, although literally exposed, Althoff is not listed as a participating artist. Studying the written proof of his personal failure, visitors can hear a sound piece by Ceal Floyer consisting of the looped lines of a Tammy Wynette love-song whining “I’ll just keep on/till I get it right” (leaving out the central part “falling in love”). According to the guidebook, Floyers work Till I get it right (amended) (2012) somehow stresses the artists aspiration of perfection over a romantic (?) idea of artistic creation.

We were confused and not able to figure out whether CCB‘s choice of plumply pieces intended to make visitors susceptible to her „brain“ or whether she tried to be ironic – especially when we realised that what we first believed to be a cold draft in the ground floor was a deliberate breeze created by artist Ryan Gander. We were ready to like this for its subtlety – until we realized it was titled I need some meaning I can Memorise (The invisible pull) 2012…

And for a brief moment we feared all prejudice on CCB could become certainties, felt like everything was supposed to be confusing and meaningless at the same time.To make it short, after leaving the official entry halls of Fridericianum, we were prepared for the worst. However, we were suddenly excited about what we found beyond this major stage of CCB‘s curation. But we‘ll leave that for next week.

Want to know and see even more art in Berlin and beyond? Visit Niche Berlin.

This is the first part of Niche Berlin’s thoughts on dOCUMENTA (13), read part two, three and four.


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  1. Helen Berlin on


    Danke für die tolle documenta Berichterstattung! Ich fahre dieses Wochenende auch hin und werde sicherlich eure Tipps beherzigen. :)

    Vielleicht gefällt euch ja mein Streetart Blog:

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Viel Spaß in Kassel! Wir freuen uns auf deine Berichte!

  2. Sasha on


    Documenta is certainly overwhelming. When I visited I wore practical sneakers and felt like I was running a race in order to make it in time to skip lines and see artworks. That said, there was so so much good art and I enjoyed Stil in Berlin’s coverage as a good introduction to some of the highlights. It has been a great series!

    I really enjoyed Janet Cardiff and George Burres Miller Alter Bahnhof Walk. It evokes a unique sense of experience and it also nicely ties Documenta directly to Kassel (something that does not always happen even in some of the site-specific works). Etel Adnan’s paintings are real gems and I really appreciate that Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev revived a discussion of feminist modernism by including works by Emily Carr and Margaret Preston.

    Yes, there was shortly no shortage of good art. That said, did you discover any good restaurants or cafes to take breaks in?

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Dear Sasha,

      haha, I wish I could give you a better answer than: no, not at all. We just had a fun night at a bar called Lolita and after breakfast at McD… so unfortunately no tips at all.

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