Beyond Artistic Freedom: Halfway Point of documenta 14 in Kassel
Documenta 14 is an exercise in fragility, one which wants to learn from Athens today. After the official closing of the Athens part of the exhibition on July 16, 2017 the project continues in more than thirty venues and public sites in Kassel, documenta’s birthplace, on view until September 17, 2017, with several programs that assume presence in both Kassel and Athens.
Since its beginning with my appointment as Artistic Director at the end of 2013, documenta 14 has been a vulnerable, demanding, and daring affair: rather than producing a singular statement in the form of one exhibition alone – and thus reproducing the modus operandi of similarly large contemporary art festivals – the artists, the team of curators, and all participants engaged in a prolonged period of complex experimentation in both cities, Athens and Kassel: a unique endeavor, which begs for an equally complex response and engages multiple forms of receivership. In fact, documenta 14 was set in motion as early as the fall of 2015, with the publication of the first issue of documenta 14’s four-issue magazine, South as a State of Mind, which will continue until the fall of 2017. The magazine and conferences marking the launches of its subsequent issues were followed by a series of semi-public performative encounters between the invited documenta 14 artists and Athenian audience (specifically art students as well as the Academy’s faculty members) within the framework of Continuum, realized together with the Athens School of Fine Arts. These meetings prepared the ground for the exhibition in both cities and preceded the inception of The Parliament of Bodies, inaugurated at the building of Athens Municipal Gallery at Parko Eleftherias in Athens (located in the historical complex that formerly hosted headquarters, detention center and torture chambers of the Greek Military Police during the period of the Dictatorship Colonels, 1967–1974). The Parliament, currently convening at Museum Fridericianum’s Rotunda in Kassel (the former site of ephemeral proto-parliament of the Kingdom of Westphalia, 1807–1813) will remain the living site for many voices channeled through documenta 14 the Kassel part of the exhibition concludes on September 17, 2017. In the meantime, documenta 14 includes several formats that transgress the usual dimensions of an exhibition alone: among them is the weekly broadcast Keimena on the Greek public television station ERT, which has been viewed, so far, by more than 600,000 people throughout Greece and will continue until September 18, and the transnational multi-radio broadcast (in collaboration with Deutschlandfunk Kultur) Every Time A Ear di Soun, heard as far as Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta, Barranquilla, Beirut, Douala, Washington DC, Athens, and Berlin. Together with a trilingual (Greek, German, and English) set of publications, including The documenta 14 Reader and the documenta 14: Daybook, as well as handy exhibition map booklets for each city, and the documenta 14 website, where almost all of the content of the Public Programs is live-streamed, and multiple newly commissioned texts appear, these formats enabled a significant extension of the agency of documenta 14 beyond the conventional outreach of an art show and create new forms of participation. documenta 14’s aneducation – a counter-pedagogical exercise in understanding and forgetting the already-known, centered on Walks led by members of the documenta 14 Chorus with international visitors of all age groups and coming from all walks of life in both cities of documenta 14 – further enhances the experience of documenta 14.
Last but not least, more than 160 living documenta 14 artists have been commissioned to realize mostly new works in both locations during what Olu Oguibe (himself a documenta 14 participating artist, and recipient of the 2017 Arnold Bode Prize) termed the “documenta 14 season” – a multiplicity of experiences opposed to mega-exhibitions, which remain locked between their singular opening and closing dates and bound mostly to one place.
As Artistic Director of documenta 14, I am proud of what we have managed to achieve so far together with the artists, writers, and other voices and bodies constituting documenta 14, including the team that produced and sustained the project and the team of documenta gGmbH that facilitated its realization with rare determination and insight. The efficacy of a possible political gesture within art field lies in its capacity to produce debates that transcend this exclusive field, and documenta 14 has very soon found itself embattled in discussions that show the larger resonance of the questions we asked and embodied through the essential curatorial, organizational and political decisions taken early in the project’s development, adopting a decidedly anti-essentialist stance and exercising irreverence towards the actually existing modes of spectacle production and spectatorship. The present is here and now – and the future is ours to see and shape. Aware of the irreconcilable conflicts, contradictions, and sheer miseries that came to define the moment and ways we live now, we wish to thank the public for taking part in documenta 14 and we encourage your further participation in the weeks to come, and beyond." (Adam Szymczyk, Artistic Director)
Halfway Point of documenta 14 in Kassel
documenta 14, which opened on April 8, 2017, in Athens and on June 10, 2017, in Kassel, is showing works by more than 160 artists in both cities over the duration of 163 days. After documenta 14 ended in Athens on July 16, 2017, 339,000 people had visited the forty-seven exhibition venues in Athens.
On Saturday, July 29, 2017, which marks the halfway point of the exhibition period in Kassel, documenta 14 will have attracted some 445,000 visitors, seventeen percent more than the last documenta at the same point.
“Looking back at the course of documenta 14 so far in Athens and Kassel, we can be very satisfied. The visitor numbers in Athens exceeded our expectations, making documenta the single most visited contemporary art exhibitions in Greece.
After three years of preparation, documenta has reached both a large domestic and a broad international audience.
documenta 14 in Kassel is clearly benefiting from the enormous media attention, the many worldwide reports, and the occasionally controversial discussions in the press that accompanied the Athens part of the exhibition two months before the opening in Kassel. Athens boosted the interest of visitors from southern Europe in particular, but also from Latin American countries. In Kassel, the outstanding visitor numbers and the large number of people taking tours is very gratifying. The great demand for season tickets reflects the need of the public, in keeping with the aims of documenta, to thoroughly reflect on the themes again and again.” (Annette Kulenkampff, CEO of documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH)
On the tenth day of the exhibition in Kassel, 10,000 season tickets had already been sold and by the halfway point a total of 14,000 season tickets will have been sold. That already exceeds the number of season tickets sold at the last documenta.
The accompanying Walks have also been met with great interest. At the halfway point, more than 54,000 visitors will have taken part in Walks. In addition, 20,000 students will have visited documenta by this Saturday.