dOCUMENTA(13): Thoughts on the brain

The mise en scene of the »brain« and of its objects might not have been everybody’s favourite… but CCB’s approach to root her curatorial choices and thoughts in the past should only be appreciated. The immediate starting point of her research is Kassel’s dramatic destruction in WWII. Kassel’s numerous aircraft and tank plants constituted interesting targets for the allies who’s bombs destroyed around 80% of the city on October 22nd, 1943. The very first documenta in 1955 thus played a major role in the city’s rehabilitation. However, Kassel and its history serve only as a home base for dOCUMENTA (13). CCB’s idea that “collapse and recovery no longer seem as two subsequent moments in time, but often appear simultaneously, and that the precariousness of lives all over the world has become the norm” (press release, p. 10), results in her expansion of exhibition venues to Afghanistan and Egypt. The curatorial concept also draws inspiration from non-artistic processes and past emergencies being reflected in today’s crises. The theme “collapse and recovery” is not only to be found in a large number of exhibited works dealing with destruction and renewal – but most of the artifacts in the »brain«: One of the more obvious examples is the selection of »Objects damaged during the Lebanese Civil War« that have been melted into new forms. More loosely associated to this interest are the objects that war correspondent Lee Miller took from Hitler’s apartment after his defeat, like Eva Braun’s perfume bottle and compact powder.

While the relation of the current to the past is something that Roger Buergel’s and Ruth Noack’s documenta 12 also focused on, CCB zooms in and exhibits the work of two artists that are directly related to the history of documenta itself. Opposite of the left entrance hall – with Kai Althoff’s letter and Ceal Floyer’s sound loop –, she installed three bronzes by the modern Spanish sculptor Julio Gonzalez that had already been part of documenta 2 in 1959. Next to this vitrine, an anonymous photograph from the archive of two visitors in front of the sculptures is presented. Today’s beholder is being mirrored in the visitors of the past, and, as summed up in the guidebook, Gonzalez’s re-participation is “a recapitulation of the work of sorrow […] that documenta historically carried out in the realm of art and culture, following global destruction, and the reconstruction of Germany and Europe” in 1955 and 1959.

CCB also looks back to Harald Szeemann’s influential documenta 5 from 1972, by inviting Mario Garcia Torres. On the first floor, the young Mexican artist has installed a series of works about Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), an Italian artist who had originally wanted to exhibit the first of his »mappa « (1971), embroidered world maps, at documenta 5. But in the end plans were changed and a different work was shown. Garcia Torres brings the mappa into Fridericianum as part of his installation with a delay of 40 years, in which the political world map has changed severely. Boetti was also owner of a hotel in Kabul, one of the focal locations of this year’s documenta, from 1971 to 1977, whose traces Garcia Torres explores in his poetic audio-visual essay „Have you ever seen the Snow?“ (2010).

We found these tributes to former documentas and to Kassel’s history to be a nice way of entrenching the exhibition in its location, while at the same time addressing broader subjects relevant also to other parts of the world. Or is this, as some people have criticised about CCB, too loosely associated?

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


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