Sunday 24 June 2012

Sheath your swords, dOCUMENTA 13 opens in Afghanistan today

National gallery, Kabul, Afghanistan
 For the first time, one of the biggest events in the art world's calendar, dOCUMENTA 13, holds outside Germany, in addition to its traditional Kassel home shows.
   While the Kassel section opened few weeks ago, 27 artists from 13 countries are gathering today June 24 to July 19, 2012 at the National Gallery Kabul, and Bamiyan in Afghanistan,. The Kabul and Bamiyan event is in collaboration with the Goethe Institut, Afghanistan.
  The breakdown of artists and the countries represented include Afghanistan (13), Argentina (1), France (1), United Kingdom (1), Egypt (1), USA (3), Germany (3), Italy (2), Mexico (2), Belgium (1), Lebanon (1), Poland (1), South Africa (1).
 Other parallel events outside Kassel hold in  Cairo, Egypt and Canada's Banff National Park.
 Kabul, according to the organizers will host an exhibition, film series and part of a photo collage whose second half can be seen in Kassel.
Directed by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the organisers explains that the 2012 edition explores spaces and places where rebuilding collapsed interests and recovery are of immediate priority.
  Christov-Bakargiev says “War creates facts, but art, too, creates fact of a different order, and art has a major role to play in social processes of reconstruction through imagination. The first documenta opened in 1955 after a terrible period of dictatorship and conflict. Although different and dissimilar to what has happened in Afghanistan, experiences are shared in the moment of rethinking one’s society, at the juncture of where art is felt to be autonomous and an international common language of shared ideals and practices.”
 With a target to attract more than 750, 000 visitors to the western German town of Kassel over its 100-day run, the main event was projected to attract more than 245 artists, scientists and curators from 55 different countries, displaying along a route through the city, winding through art galleries and churches to more unusual locations such as a cinema, and outdoors.
 On the 2012 edition, and the argument about what art and content,  Christov-Bakargiev states: "What some of these participants do, and what they 'exhibit' at documenta may or may not be art. However, their acts, gestures, thoughts, and knowledges produce and are produced by circumstances that are readable by art, aspects that art can cope with and absorb," explained Christov-Bakargiev to the press on Wednesday. "The borders between what is art and what is not art are becoming less and less important."
That is also a concept: "Documenta is a state of mind."
Work from anthropologists, biologists, theorists, engineers, political activists, a hypnotherapist, a psychoanalyst and a zoologist will be included in the show which deliberately plays with the question of what is art.
  Visitors expecting a fun, cultured day out could find themselves instead challenged though, as the event's artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev explained that "documenta in Kassel is intentionally uncomfortable, incomplete, nervously lacking.”
 "I think confusion is really wonderful," she added.
  "What these participants do and what they exhibit at documenta may or not be art," said the US-born Christov-Bakargiev. "The boundary between what is art and what is not has become less important."
  Participants include Germany's Rosemarie Trockel, who erected a "House for Pigs and People" at the 1997 edition, and South African painter and film-maker William Kentridge.
 China's Song Dong will unveil a garbage heap that has already been completely colonised by freshly grown grass while Frenchman Pierre Huyghe will be showing off a compost heap.
 An ambitious plan to display El Chaco, the world's second heaviest meteorite weighing 37 tonnes, was eventually abandoned. Instead, the attempt will be documented.
 Kassel, in the central state of Hesse, hosts the world-famous documenta art fair every five years.
 German President Joachim Gauck was there to mark the occasion, arriving early on Saturday. He was greeted by crowds of excited art-fans waiting in one of the city's main squares before taking a tour of the Fridericianum museum which is hosting part of the documenta.
     Christov-Bakargiev's concept of art is most closely allied to "antagonism." Her aversion to everything traditional, conventional, to the art exhibited at classic institutions, is so pronounced that everything else is secondary. This is evident in her writings and speeches.
The participating artists, however, are much less theoretical. At the beginning of documenta, it's fair to say that Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev herself appears to be a central piece of the art spectacle. But not so much so that the show collapses under the weight of her theoretical constructs.
 hristov-Bakargiev invited 160 artists to Kassel. Tino Sehgal, the London-born artist with an Indian father who currently resides in Berlin, is one of them. A choreographer and economist as well as professional artist by trade, Sehgal creates "a fleeting work of the art world and works consistently to produce the non-material" in his performances, at least according to the curators. And so his works play to Christov-Bakargiev's conceptions. Visitors look at, listen to and reacquaint with their own selves.

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