Displaying disconnect and confusion
KASSEL (GERMANY) “WHAT is it?” might be the motto of this year’s Documenta, the 100-day exhibition in Kassel, Germany which gathers in a single curator’s personal take on the best of today’s cuttingedge contemporary art.
A shimmering black-andwhite photograph shows a crowd outside a ruined royal palace near the Afghan capital Kabul in deep snow.
It takes a while to realise that the 17-metre-wide image is an Afghan carpet as you have never seen one before.
The tapestry by Goshka Macuga, hung in a sky-lighted rotundra at the Fridericianum Museum, typifies some of the trends at Documenta: lots of fabric art, frequent allusions to Kabul and realisations that things are not always what they seem at first glance.
That, it seems, is what the show’s artistic director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, was aiming for when she chose nearly 300 global artists and intellectuals to exhibit work at the prestigious show, which is only held every five years.
She was “aiming for dislocation and the creation of different and partial perspectives,” she told hundreds of reporters at a news conference in advance of Saturday’s grand opening. The show runs until September 16.
When a reporter posed a question by diplomatically beginning: “I’m confused about ...,” Christov-Bakargiev snappishly interrupted, “I think confusion is a very healthy position to be in.” The arts media, which often carps and gripes, has mostly given Christov-Bakargiev high marks since media previews began on Wednesday for creating a coherent show that is in touch with what artists do in the digital age: cope with a whirl of confusing impressions.
Beijing artist Yan Lei, on his second outing to Documenta, filled a 10 by 10 metre room with 360 images which caught his wandering attention while surfing the internet for a year.
During the show, one colour image per day will be deleted by spraying it with car paint.
In the room, which resembles a poster shop, Yan Lei, said he had been creating it since March 2011 when he was invited back to Kassel. He described the work, entitled Limited Art Project, as a performance.
Another installation, by Ida Applebroog, is also set to gradually deplete itself. The room contains more than 40 transport pallets of papers printed with scrawled messages.
Signs announce, “Free.
Take one.” It takes a while for the disoriented visitor to realize that these are not desirable free gifts: the papers contain remarks no one likes to hear.
A sample posted on the wall: “Teddy, sit up. I want a divorce.” Art selected for Documenta appears contemporary, but that does not mean all the artists are living.
A room of tapestries by the late Hannah Ryggen, a communist in Norway, were partly woven under Nazi occupation during the Second World War. She depicted soldiers, headless bodies and other horrors.