Can you fail in the 9th ICSE?

documenta tour (1) - Can failure be productive?

"Dear Carolyn, I am writing to you with a bad conscience because I have the feeling that you might think that I have betrayed you." You can't tell the artist Kai Althoff I made it particularly easy when he canceled his participation in the Documenta (13): On several handwritten pages he explains to the artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev why he cannot accept her invitation. Basically, he has no idea how things will go on in his life, and anyway he has already promised far too much for 2012. Skepticism, refusal, failure and the rejection of opportunities will often be encountered at this documenta. "It's about sowing doubts, questioning securities," says Christov-Bakargiev.

Read everything about Documenta Kassel in the June issue of Monopol-Magazin. Now at the kiosk, in the online shop or directly on the iPad




Kai Althoff's letter is spread out in a display case, the display case is in a large, otherwise empty room in the Fridericianum, the venue for the original Documenta from 1955. It is the first thing you see when you start your tour of the Kunsthalle . A statement. This announcement is blown by the air of this old exhibition building, which is created by the artist's wind machine Ryan Gander is moved. The airy, the vague, the incomprehensible in the interviews with the curator were criticized in the run-up to the Documenta (13). Here it becomes an exhibition - and actually claims its own beauty.

This is increased to perfection by a song from the neighboring room: the sound work "Til I get it Right" by Ceal Floyer. She cut out the words "falling in love" from a line of a Tammy Wynette song so that the verses now read: "I'll just keep on / 'til I get it right".

[gallery: Collapse and Recovery - dOCUMENTA (13)]

So prepared for failure - which is of course a little flirtatious from the exhibition organizers - it goes through the house. In the next room, the visitor meets the first scientist: epigenetics researcher Alexander Tarakhovsky has set up a machine that produces human DNA samples, which are displayed here in 80,000 plastic tubes. The "new man", the goal of many artists in the long history of art, has long been designed by science as well. Two paintings by the surrealist are probably supposed to show that this reality is hardly tangible for a normal person Salvadore Dali testify (which seem rather pale in this laboratory atmosphere - but this Documenta is really not about aura).

Experimental set-ups on the first floor too: this is where the quantum physicist shows Anton Zeilingerhow light can be represented, namely as a particle or as a wave. Both representations are equally right and wrong. In another experiment, two entangled photons are sent into two neighboring rooms, and lo and behold, they remain connected to one another and yet behave differently in each case. Such results indicate "a renewal of the discussion about the definition of reality", says the Documenta guide. And quantum physics would share this quality with art. The only difference is that you have to believe the measuring devices and the interpretation of the assistant provided, without actually being able to see it as a layperson. But that's in the next room with the artist's work Mark Lombardi, who depicted the entanglements of the financial world and politics on large-format drawings (the current issue of Monopol dedicates a portrait to him), no different.

Read on about the heart of the Documenta ...

But the change from abstract and concrete, cool and atmospheric, empty and dense succeeds here in the Fridericianum. The centerpiece of the exhibition here, perhaps the centerpiece of the entire Documenta (13), is the rotunda of the house, in which small objects are presented closely placed that refer to the themes of this edition of the world art show: destruction and reconstruction, materiality, feminism and the Understanding between nature and people. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev calls this exhibition in the exhibition "brain" and not heart, but much is revealed not only through the intellect, but also in very loose associations: Here you can see objects destroyed in the Lebanese civil war, the famous picture taken by the photographer Lee Miller, bathing in Hitler's Munich apartment in 1945, a lettering from Lawrence Weiner, Princess figures from present-day Afghanistan, which were created in 2000 BC and which can be put together to form larger units. And in this cabinet of curiosities the visitor will find - oh, miracles! - a picture of Kai Althoff, which he sent shortly before the opening.

[gallery: Collapse and Recovery - dOCUMENTA (13)]

The Documenta in the Fridericianum seems a little strained. As if something should be proven. That failure can be productive, for example, that the question of the nature of art must be redefined today, how trauma and war can be overcome through the will to express, how artists create cosmopolitanism and connect with the past. Nevertheless, the courage to face such questions with mood and atmosphere is evident in this house (Christov-Bakargiev would probably call it "poetry"), for example in the rooms in which the gouaches of those who died in Auschwitz are Charlotte Salomon on the flamboyant drawings and collages of the nomadic people Anna Boghiguian to meet. Or in the installations of Squad Attiain which he takes up ethnological forms of presentation. And sometimes the exhibition creates something like aura, for example with the embroidered map of Alighiero Boettithat the artist Mario Garcia Torres Hanged here and was unable to show Boetti when he took part in Documenta 5 in 1972 because it was not finished on time (the June issue of Monopol also tells this story).

But as announced, this documenta expands our concept of what an exhibition is. This is why a shot of two visitors to the second Documenta in 1959 appears almost nostalgic, as they are making sculptures Julio Gonzáles consider. This picture hangs in another very empty room on the ground floor, and these three works are on display next to it. Basically, not much has changed: The challenge of understanding something like art was enormous even then.

Documenta, Kassel, June 9th to September 16th. TheArt magazineMonopoly dealsin the 6/2012 editionin detail with theContemporary art exhibition.

Tour (2): In the Documenta Hall
Tour (3): In the Kulturbahnhof
Tour (4): bunkers and terraces, Friedrichstrasse, Grimm Museum
Tour (5): New gallery