Wants to Dance with Protons and Art

At yesterday's press conference Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev said that there are no concepts and that objects still take centre stage. Can dOCUMENTA(13) offer us a new way of viewing the world?

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.

The organisers behind the thirteenth incarnation of Documenta have played their hand close to their chest, specifically the chest of artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. In the absence of an artist list prior to the opening, a number of pictures of the curator were distributed in a press kit, prompting the set-up of a Tumblr account dedicated to Christov-Bakargiev, who has – in an aside – run the gauntlet in the German media after making statements about the similarities between people, dogs, and tomatoes.

Rumours about the list of participants at this year’s event have been plentiful online and in newspapers, but according to the Documenta press office all such lists have been incomplete. At the press conference, which opened with nail-biting performance, the full list of artists was revealed. No tomatoes or dogs were mentioned, but there’s a plethora of artists, curators, composers, and scientists, all peppered with curiosities such as “Objects damaged during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90)”. Even though several parties have been guessing at the names involved, the number of Norwegian contributors has been known with certainty for a while. There are more Norwegian representatives on the list than ever before; a fact that can be attributed to Marta Kuzma’s contribution to this mega-exhibition. The director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway has also contributed to the series of notebooks that has been the most visible and tangible manifestation of Documenta before the exhibition opens this weekend. Hannah Ryggen was the theme of Kuzma’s contribution, and indeed Ryggen is also included on the list of artists alongside Aase Texmon Rygh, Arne Nordheim, Toril Johannessen, and Matias Faldbakken. The latter has also published his own notebook.

From yesterday’s press conference in Kassel. Photo: Geir Haraldseth.


Press conference, dOCUMENTA(13). Artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev in the middle. Photo: Geir Haraldseth.

The wide-ranging geographic scope of dOCUMENTA(13) was also revealed at the press conference. The rumours about an exhibition in Afghanistan turned out to be true. Kassel will, of course, remain the centre of events, but under the heading “A Position: Kassel”. The other locations are gathered under the heading “Other Positions” and consist of Kabul – Bamiyan, Alexandria – Cairo, and Banff. Even the education programme has been given a title indicative of a certain doubt: “The Maybe Education and Public Programs”.

Overall, the framework for dOCUMENTA(13) is structured around a doubt which does not necessarily involve a decentralisation, but rather an alternative understanding of the world and an non-hierarchical approach to all kinds of knowledge. The four words used to indicate a structure are stage, siege, hope, and retreat. Or as Christov-Bakargiev continued to claim at the press conference: I have no concepts. A poetic position that nevertheless does not evade politics and ideology; the four words do touch upon such matters. How all this will manifest itself in Kassel will be addressed in Kunstkritikk in two extensive reviews of the exhibition.

Translation from the Norwegian by Rene Lauritsen.