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1 documenta

16 July 18 September 1955

Art of the Twentieth Century. International Exhibition
Artistic Director
Arnold Bode
Museum Fridericianum
Incurring costs
379,000 DM
Arnold Bode (1955)
The German National Garden Show held in Kassel in 1955, for which
beds of roses were planted on the rubble heaps left over from World
War II, offered Arnold Bodea painter, designer, and teacher (who was
banned from practicing his profession in 1933)an opportunity to
realize his long-standing dream of organizing a major international
exhibition of modern art in Germany. The goal of the project was to
bring the avant-garde, which had been defamed and banned under the
National Socialist regime, back to Germany and reintroduce it to a
broad public that had been culturally deprived for a long time. The
event was to be the first exhibition of modern art since the Degenerate
Art show in Munich in 1937. Bode was inspired by world art exhibitions
such as the Armory Show in New York. Yet the aim of the event in
Kassel was not to present an overview of the art produced during the
first half of the twentieth century, but rather to reveal the roots of
contemporary art in all areas, as Bode wrote in the expos. Bode
wanted to develop a genealogy of contemporary art, generated from a
mood that might be described as a blend of postwar trauma and the
will to modernize. In that spirit, a series of photographs featuring
examples of early Christian and non-European art as precursors of
European modern art was presented in the exhibition foyer and
confronted with photo portraits of masters of the avant-garde and an
exhibition of architectural photographs from 1905 to 1955 on the third
level of the rotunda at the Fridericianum.

Poster of Bundesgartenschau (1955)

Ten years after the end of the war, a sense of optimism and new
beginnings had returned to Kassel, a city nearly destroyed by Allied
bombs. Totally burned out in 1943/44, the Museum Fridericianumthe
oldest museum on the European continent, built in the spirit of the
Enlightenmenthad only recently been provisionally restored. One
could hardly have found a more fitting symbol for the cultural-
educational disaster Bode hoped to reverse with documenta. The bare,
whitewashed walls offered him an almost spectacular setting for his
presentation. He used Heraklith panels as structural cladding and wall
drapes made of opaque black and semitransparent white plastic, which
regulated the incoming daylight. In some cases, paintings were hung
directly on these elements. Other unique features were the metal
steles on which paintings were mounted as if floating in front of the
wall or standing alone in the room (as in the case of the paintings by
the Futurist Carlo Carr) and thus assumed the character of being
works in their own right. Not only were works of art to be presented in
relation to one another, relationships were to be established between
works and viewers as well. One highly symbolic work, Wilhelm
Lehmbrucks Kniende (Kneeling Figure) from 1911, was exhibited in the
center of the rotunda. It had been shown previously at the Armory
Show in 1913 and the Degenerate Art exhibition in 1937. Paintings by
Oskar Schlemmer from 1920 were hung above it in the circular
staircase in the rotunda.

Henry Moores King and Queen (1952/53) was enthroned at one end of
the Hall of Sculptures on the ground floor. In front of it was a loose
arrangement of abstract sculptures by such artists as Hans Arp,
Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Barbara Hepworth, as well as mobiles
by Alexander Calder. Picassos Girl Before a Mirror was hung in the
large Hall of Paintings on the second floor, opposite the recently
completed Komposition vor Blau und Gelb (Composition Before Blue
and Yellow) by Fritz Winter, who was regarded as the father of abstract
painting in Germanya bold juxtaposition that was meant to symbolize
Germanys return to the world of international art but failed to stand up
to the test of art history. Seating was available in the form of small
stools designed by Bode and the furniture in the Caf Picasso on the
third level of the rotunda.

Museum Fridericianum
Photo: Erich Mller

Other important positions in painting included those of Max Beckmann

(represented by the Perseus Triptych [1941]), Giorgio de Chirico,
Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, and Piet Mondrian.
Women, including Paula Modersohn-Becker, Maria Helena Vieira da
Silva, and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, were the 8 1955 d exceptions. While the
classical main currents of the avant-gardeExpressionism, Futurism,
Constructivism, and Cubismwere represented, one could not fail to
notice that explicitly political, subversive positions like Dada (by John
Heartfield or George Grosz) were missing. The exhibition featured a
total of 670 works by 148 artists, most of them from Germany, France,
and Italy. Bode was assisted in the process of developing the exhibition
concept by a working committee led by the renowned art historian and
conceptual pioneer Werner Haftmann, who advocated a theory of
continuity in the development of abstract art. That tendency would be
reflected again in even more insistent form four years later at
documenta 2although no one was
talking about a second exhibition in 1955.

One may assume, at least, that Bode did give some thought to a
cyclical continuation of his international exhibition. In any event, the
overwhelming public success of the first documenta, which drew
130,000 visitors in 100 days, paved the way for such a plan.
II. documenta

11 July 11 October 1959

Art after 1945. International Exhibition

Artistic Director

Arnold Bode
Mitarbeit: Rudolf Staege


Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Schloss Bellevue






991,000 DM

Arnold Bode in front of Jackson Pollock (1955)

Where swastikas had dominated the scene in 1933, the ubiquitous

small d now graced posters and flags all over Friedrichsplatz in Kassel.
Documenta had become an established brand by the time of its second
presentation. The exhibition was institutionalized through the
establishment of a management company, documenta GmbH, and
would now take place every four years. Whereas the documenta of
1955, with its revival of the avant-garde following the lost years of
the National Socialist era, had been conceived by necessity as a
retrospective, the objective was now to bridge the gap to
contemporary art. Once again, Arnold Bode was assisted by Werner
Haftmann. The survey of art after 1945 was undertaken entirely in
keeping with the slogan Art has become abstracta concept that
stirred heated controversy within a climate dominated by a
fundamental debate on contemporary art, in which the opponents and
the advocates of abstract art waged bitter battles. Haftmann
substantiated his theory in two subsections: Master Teachers of
Twentieth-Century Art (which included only Wassily Kandinsky, Paul
Klee, and Piet Mondrian) and Pioneers of Twentieth-Century Sculpture
(Julio Gonzles, Henri Laurens, Henri Matisse, et al.). Although a
number of figurative currents were presented at documenta 2 (in
painting by such artists as Francis Bacon, Werner Heldt, and Rudolf
Hausner), Haftmann postulated in his concept a continuity in the
development of twentieth-century art that culminated in abstractiona
theory that did not stand the test of time in view of the diverse
manifestations of art in the twentieth century.

Museum Fridericianum (1959)

Realist tendencies were almost entirely overlooked at documenta 2

an unmistakably clear political statement at the height of the Cold War.
The abstract currents of Informal art and Tachism played a dominant
role at the Fridericianum. A particularly spectacular development was
the inclusion (some even spoke of an invasion) of abstract artists
from the U.S., featuring formats that appeared gigantic to Europeans at
the timeamong them Jackson Pollock, who, like Nicolas de Stal, Willi
Baumeister, and Wols, exhibited in a room of his own. The
Fridericianum was joined by a second exhibition venue: the ruins of the
Baroque Orangerie at the entrance to the Karlsaue, which had also
been destroyed by bombs during the World War II. Bodes enthusiasm
for grand productions was particularly evident in that setting. A
boulevard of sculptures was laid out in stylish white exhibition
architecture in front of the ruins of the Orangerie and spectacularly
illuminated at night. Ossip Zadkines bronze entitled The Destroyed
City (195153) stretched its arms toward the heavens in a highly
charged symbolic gesture outside the ruins. During the day, visitors
were invited to rest on organically curved reclining chairs beneath
sunshades and observe the fountains in a basin built expressly for
Picassos sculpture group The Bathers (1956). Sculptures (figurative
positions were predominant here, in contrast to those represented in
paintings) by Henry Moore, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Norbert
Kricke, and others were enthroned on pedestals in front of a
whitewashed wall. The broad reaches of the Karlswiese would not be
opened to sculptures until later documentas. In addition to the Painting
and Sculpture Committee (consisting of Bode, Herbert Freiherr v.
Buttlar, Ernest Goldschmidt, Will Grohmann, Haftmann, Ernst
Holzinger, Kurt Martin, Werner Schmalenbach, Eduard Trier, Heinrich
Stcke; and Porter A. McCray from the Museum of Modern Art, New
York, for the American artists), there was also a committee for print
graphics (comprised of Bode, Schmalenbach, and Heinrich Stnke),
which were presented in a separate exhibition at Schloss Bellevue.

Pablo Picasso, Les baigneurs (1957) Pablo Picasso/VG Bild-Kunst

Photo: Gnther Becker

The exhibition featured a total of 1,770 works by 336 artists (of whom
only eleven were women), primarily from Europe and the U.S. Drawing
134,000 visitors, documenta 2 attracted more guests than its
predecessor (and the number of visitors rose continuously up to and
including the thirteenth and most recent documenta in 2012), although
public response was no longer as consistently positive as it had been in
1955. Public opinion was highly polarizedas reflected by the camps of
the opponents and the advocates of abstract artand ranged from
enthusiastic approval to outright rejection.
documenta III
28 June 6 October 1964
International Exhibition

Artistic Director

Arnold Bode


Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Alte Galerie, Staatliche







1,860,000 DM

Arnold Bode in front of Henry Moore, Liegende Figur Nr. 5 /

Seagram (1963/64)
Carl Eberth documenta Archiv

Due to in-house problems, the third documenta did not take place as
planned four years after the second, but instead five years lateran
interval that would become the standard from 1972 onward. Arnold
Bode served as art director for the third time in succession, and once
again, Werner Haftmann was his adviser on theoretical matters on the
multimember committees for painting and sculpture and for drawing.
With its focus on the traditional genres of painting, sculpture, and
graphic art and its emphasis on abstract art, documenta 3 wasagain
further removed from its time than the previous exhibition. In 1964,
Pop art was the up-and-coming movement in the U.S., Nouveau
Ralisme was in vogue in France, and a new avant-garde led by Fluxus
and Capitalist Realism was on the march in Germany. Action art,
happenings, concerts, and process art were the new, in some cases
radically innovative, categories. The guiding principle of the Museum
of 100 Days, as it was now described by Bode for the first time, was
that art is what famous artists makea concept presumably
intended to underscore the autonomy of art. Thus fewer specific
currents and trends in contemporary art were explored, while
considerable attention was placed on specific artists. Although the
Nouveaux Ralistes were represented in the exhibitionby Arman,
Csar, Yves Klein, and Jean Tinguely, for examplethey were not
presented as a group, but rather in different individual contexts. Joseph
Beuys was also represented
at documenta for the first timenot as a Fluxus artist, of course, but
instead in the sections devoted to drawings and Aspects 64, which
featured more recent artand such artists as Ellsworth Kelly and
Morris Louis (as exponents of Color Field painting), as well as Robert
Rauschenberg as an early representative of American Pop art (which
was totally misunderstood by Haftmann at the time).

Norbert Kricke, Grosse Mannesmann (1958/61)

Photo: Herbert Blochel

Documenta 3 was divided into five sections. Older modernists were

presented in individual exhibits on the upper floor of the Alte Galerie
(formerly the Gallery of Paintings, later the Neue Galerie). The
Drawings section occupied a special place on the lower level, as was
emphasized repeatedly. The extremely elaborate presentation in
showcases featuring multiple passepartouts was a source of irritation
in some cases. The generation of forty- to sixty-year-olds (as Werner
Haftmann described this group in volume one of the catalogue,
Painting and Sculpture) was presented on the ground floor of the
Fridericianum, the younger generation under Aspects on the second
floor. This section also included an exhibit entitled Light and Motion
on the third floor, for which Bode was solely responsible. Presented
here were such artists as Harry Kramer, Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, Jean
Tinguely, Gnther Uecker, and the Zero group, which, although not
mentioned by Haftmann in his introduction, was definitely one of the
most innovative and experimental presentations at this documenta.

The Painting and Sculpture in Space section was shown as part of a

thematic exhibition in rooms at the Fridericianum and in the ruins of
the Orangerie, which, as in previous exhibitions, was reserved for
sculptures. Particularly evident in this section was Bodes love of
unconventional presentations, which imbued individual works with a
striking aura. Thus we are striving to create spaces and spatial
relationships in which paintings and sculptures can express themselves
to the fullest, in which their colors and forms, their moods and
radiance, can be intensified and flow outward. Among the most
spectacular examples were the Three Wall Paintings for the Staircase
at the Kunsthalle Basel (1956/57) by Sam Francis (presented in an
elevated hexagonal wall construction) and Ernst Wilhelm Nays
monumental Three Paintings in Space (1963), works created
specifically for the exhibition, which were hung in a rhythmic,
staggered arrangement at an oblique angle under the corner and thus
lent the space an almost religious aura as a ceiling painting. The
presentation of Emilio Vedovas installation, composed of paintings
hung at differing angles to one another in a black-painted room, was
probably most closely associated with the new category of
environmental art. Sculptures were exhibited in and especially outside
the ruins of the Orangerie in an architecture consisting of white walls
and translucent ceiling constructionsa modern extension of the
remaining architectural ruins that established a unique link between
indoor and outdoor space. According to Bode, a setting consisting of
walls, niches, recesses, and elevated elements with structured views
and water basins was needed for a presentation of modern sculpture,
whose sensibility might otherwise be lost in the confrontation with
plants, trees, grass, and sky. Attracting some 200,000 visitors and
generally positive international coverage in the press, documenta 3
succeeded in spite of its outdated artistic concept (Justin Hoffmann in
his essay on documenta 3) in asserting and institutionalizing its leading
role in the presentation, documentation, and reception of
contemporary art.
4 documenta
27 June 6 October 1968
International Exhibition

Artistic Director

Arnold Bode


Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Karlsaue, Galerie an der Schnen







2,817,000 DM

Dan Flavin, Schwarzlichtraum Dan Flavin/VG Bild-Kunst

Photo: Werner Lengemann

The fourth documenta, and the last for which Arnold Bode was chiefly
responsible, was presented under the somewhat overly youthful-
sounding slogan The Youngest documenta Ever. A considerably
younger documenta advisory board was expected to bring the
International Exhibition in Kassel into
closer harmony with the spirit of the times in 1968. Absent for the first
time was Werner Haftmann, one of the forefathers of documenta. Will
Grohmann left the board along with him, followed later by Werner
Schmalenbach and Fritz Winters. Following the retrospective focus of
the 1955 documenta and the attempt to pick up the thread of
international developments in art four years later, the time had come
for a fundamental reassessment of position after the third exhibition, at
the latest. In the aftermath of several internal disputes, a twenty-six
member team was chosen to render decisions on the selection of
artists in keeping with ground-roots democratic principlesnot from a
safe historical distance that went hand in hand with a latently
authoritarian art-historical assessment, as had always been the case
before, but with a consistent focus on the contemporary, i.e., the four
years that had passed since the last documenta. Many of the works
presented were completed shortly before the exhibition or actually
produced specifically for documentaa trend that would continue.
Now, in 1968, Pop art made its grand, though somewhat delayed,
entrance in Kassel, along with Color Field painting, Post-Painterly
Abstraction, Op Art, and Minimal Art. In an imposing presentation that
extended over two stories in the staircase of the rotunda, James
Rosenquists Fire Slide (1967) established its place in the visual
memory of documenta 4. The slogan size matters was affirmed even
in the titles of Roy Lichtensteins Big Modern Painting (1967), Tom
Wesselmanns Great American Nude No. 98 (1968), Robert Indianas
The Great Love (1966) in the Main Hall of the Fridericianum, and Claes
Oldenburgs Giant Poolballs (1967) in the Galerie an der Schnen
Aussicht. Robert Morriss L-Shapes (1967), Sol LeWitts expansive 47
Three-Part Variations on Three Different Kinds of Cubes (1968), and the
paintings by Barnett Newman (Whos Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue II,
1967) and Morris Lewis also impressed visitors
with imposing formats.

James Rosenquist, Fire Slide (1967) James Rosenquist/VG Bild-Kunst

Photo: Werner Lengemann

All in all, roughly one third of the entire exhibition was devoted to art
from the U.S., as represented by fifty-one artists, a fact that earned
documenta 4 the nickname Americana. In 1968, the year of student
protests and antiVietnam War demonstrations, this triggered massive
counterreactionsalthough the demonstrations in Kassel were
relatively harmless compared with those that accompanied the
Biennale in Venice that same year. Students waving red flags disrupted
the opening addresses at Friedrichsplatz, and the morning press
conference was effectively transformed into a Happening by a group of
artists led by Wolf Vostell and Jrg Immendorf. Among other things, the
activists protested the total absence of such contemporary currents as
Fluxus, Happenings, and performance art at the official exhibition. And
indeed, the omissions of documenta 4 with regard to the German art
scene were glaring compared with the gaps in the presentation of U.S.
art. While the conceptual art of a John Baldessari or a Joseph Kosuth
was overlooked, as was performance art (Vito Acconci, Dan Graham),
the most important exponents and movements in the fields of painting,
sculpture, and environmental art were represented by Ed Kienholz,
Robert Rauschenberg, and George Segal. Although Joseph Beuys did
present a spatial installation, the group of German artists selected for
presentation, including Horst Antes, Joseph Albers, and Erwin Heerich,
for example, was not particularly innovative. Important artists of the
1960s, including Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel, and
Blinky Palermo, were absent, not to mention Fluxus and Happenings. A
number of names were missing from the list of women artists, among
them Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, and Rebecca Horn. Four of the 149
artists presented were women: Jo Baer, Louise Nevelson, Marisol, and
Bridget Riley.
Outdoors, documenta ventured for the first time onto the Karlswiese,
which was used extensivelyprimarily for the presentation of more
traditional, semiabstract sculptures. It was evidently still too early for
Land art in 1968. One particularly memorable work featured there was
Christos (Jeanne-Claude was not yet mentioned as coauthor at the
time) spectacular 5600 Cubicmeter Package (1968), which introduced
at least the rudiments of a new concept of sculpture. Following multiple
failed attempts, the air-filled tube finally proved capable of standing
upright and rose like a phallus to a respectable height of fifty-eight
meters (thereby earning various fitting nicknames from the people of

Christo, 5450 m cubic package (1967/68)

Photo: Stadt- und Kreisbildstelle Kassel

One novel work with a claim to social relevance was Bazon Brocks
Besucherschule (Visitors School), in which he aimed to make the
changing references to reality in contemporary art comprehensible to a
broad public. With his didactic, performancebased venture into art
education, he exerted a lasting influence on the educational activities
involved in subsequent documenta exhibitions.
documenta 5
30 June 8 October 1972
Artistic Director
Harald Szeemann (Secretary-General)
Museum Fridericianum, Friedrichsplatz, Neue Galerie
3,480,000 DM
Ben Vautier, Kunst ist berflssig (1972) Ben Vautier/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Manfred Vollmer
After the first steps toward fundamental structural change were taken
within the context of documenta 4, Harald Szeemann was appointed as
the first art director and sole curator of the exhibition in 1972. That
marked the end of the Arnold Bode era. With his selection of
Questioning Reality Pictorial Worlds Today as the exhibition title,
Szeemann gave documenta 5 an unprecedented programmatic focus.
The original concept of a 100-Day Event developed in 1970, which
had replaced the idea of the Museum of 100 Days with an actionistic,
performanceoriented program, was abandoned, perhaps in response
to experience gained from earlier exhibitions, such as Happening and
Fluxus (1970), which had been closed in response to massive popular
protests. Yet it came as a surprise at first that Szeemann retreated with
his exhibition from the illusory freedom of the museum in the streets,
returned to the hallowed halls of art, and presented a predominantly
intellectual concept in tabular form in lieu of the planned action-
oriented event. His concept distinguished between 1. the reality of the
visual representation, 2. the reality of the subject, and 3. the identity or
nonidentity of visual representation and subject. Bazon Brock
provided the theoretical foundation in an eloquent Audio-Visual
Foreword projected on twelve screens, accompanied by a ninety-
minute lecture. In the Museum Fridericianum and the Neue (formerly
Alte) Galerie, Szeemann and his team (Jean-Christophe Ammann and
Bode from the working group, assisted by Brock, Ingolf Bauer, Johannes
Cladders, Klaus Honnef, Eberhard Roters, Kasper Knig, and others as
freelance consultants) designed an archipelago of diverse pictorial
worlds that appealed to viewers through the juxtaposition of high
and low to decide for themselves what is art and what is not.
Haus-Rucker-Co, Oase Nr.7 / Air-Unit Gruppe Haus-Rucker Co/VG
In an approach that was more or less antithetical to that of the first
documenta exhibitions devoted largely to abstract art, reality
however it may be constitutednow entered the picture. It was
represented in painting by Photorealism (Robert Bechtle, Chuck Close,
Richard Estes, and Franz Gertsch) and in sculpture by lifelike tableaux
vivants and environments (John De Andrea, Duane Hanson, Edward
Kienholz, and Paul Thek). Kienholzs Five Car Stud (196972), a
nightmarish depiction of racist lynch-mob justice in the United States,
represented an entirely different concept of reality from Theks
expansive and death that had a formative influence on Szeemanns
concept of individual mythologies. These individual mythologies
were juxtaposed with parallel visual worlds: worlds of piety, political
propaganda, trivial realism (kitsch), advertising and product aesthetics,
and the art of the mentally ill. Everyday trivia and personal
obsessions coexisted as equals. These were complemented by the
model for Marcel Duchampss Boteen-valise (193541) and a section
featuring artists museums, including Claes Oldenburgs Mouse
Museum (1972) and Marcel Broodthaerss Muse dArt Moderne,
Dpartement des Aigles, Section dArt Moderne (Museum of Modern
Art, Department of Eagles, Modern Art Section, 1972).
Edward Kienholz, *Five Car Stud * (1971)
Photo: Manfred Vollmer
Conceptual art and Happenings also contributed to shaping the image
of documenta 5, and although the exhibition concept was not realized
in its most radical form, the program featured a number of works that
were activated through the medium of performance during the entire
100-day event: Joseph Beuyss Bro fr Direkte Demokratie
durch Volksabstimmung (Organization for Direct Democracy by
Referendum), works by Gilbert & George and Ben Vautier (who took up
residence at documenta 5 as living sculptures), Vito Acconcis
performance space in the Friedericianum, and Anatols Arbeitszeit
(Work Time, 1970), a workshop installed in the courtyard. James Lee
Byars presented his Calling German Names performance, Jannis
Kounellis created a tableau vivant featuring a violinist and a ballet
dancer, and the Vienna Vienna Actionism artists associated with
Hermann Nitsch were also represented. Considerably more sober was
the action carried out installation entitled Arc, Pyramid (1971), a
spiritual cycle of life by Hans Haacke, who conducted a sociological
survey on the profiles of visitors to documenta 5 in collaboration with a
computer center.
Vito Acconci, Cross-Fronts (1972)
On the whole, documenta 5 achieved lasting recognition, if not cult
status, with the unforgettable poster designed by Ed Ruscha with its
lettering composed of teeming armies of ants. That may be
attributable above all to what Szeemann himself referred to as its
subversive core. Astonishingly, documenta 5 was criticized in its time
by both conservatives and left-wing camps. For the one group, it was
too process-oriented and too sociological; for the other, it was too art
affirming and not radical enough. Szeemanns profession of belief in art
pour lart was viewed as a provocation in 1972. Many artists, including
both participants and nonparticipants in the exhibition, expressed
severe criticism of documenta 5 as an exhibition of an exhibition that
aimed to anoint itself as a work of art and exploited art for that
purpose. In a sharply worded letter, Robert Morris forbade the
exhibition of his works, which were selected and presented without his
approvalmisused, he wrote, for the purpose of illustrating misguided
sociological principles and categories of art history. Along with Carl
Andre, Hans Haacke, Donald Judd, Barry Le Va, Sol LeWitt, Dorothea
Rockburne, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, and Robert Smithson, he
signed a declaration in opposition to documenta, which was published
in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on May 12, 1972. Except for
Andre, Judd, Morris, and Sandback, all those who signed were
represented at documenta, however.
By replacing the defining authority of art history with
individual mythologies, documenta 5 represented an upheaval in any
case. And in spite of, or precisely because of, the controversy
and inherent contradictions associated with the event, it continues to
serve as a model for contemporary exhibition practice and the role of
the exhibition maker.
documenta 6
24 June 2 October 1977
Artistic Director
Manfred Schneckenburger
Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Neue Galerie, Karlsaue
4,800,000 DM
Museum Fridericianum (1977)
Photo: Manfred Vollmer
Although documenta exhibitions take place in a regular sequence, each
exhibition does not necessarily build on the previous one. Every
documenta invents itself anew, as Annelie Ltgens quite rightly
pointed out in an article about documenta 6. In a certain sense,
however, documenta 6, curated by Manfred Schneckenburger,
elaborated on a theme that had been heralded in documenta 4 and 5,
namely that of an expanded view of the field of art. The latter two
exhibitions introduced such currents as Pop art, Photorealism, and
Fluxus to a broad public in Germany for the first time. Documenta 6
then proceeded not only to secure this newly conquered aesthetic
terrain through a process of reflection on everyday life in the capitalist
system but to extend its boundaries as well. Thus, for example, artists
books and historical photographs from 140 years of photographic
history were exhibited at a documenta for the first time in 1977, and
Autorenkino celebrated its premiere. The Utopian Design section
offered visionary reflections on the problems associated with motor
vehicles and prospects for their further development, and never before
had so much video art been presented at a documenta. The latter
aspect, of course, was a direct outgrowth of the exhibition concept,
which, as Manfred Schneckenburger wrote in his exhibition proposal,
was concerned with an idea born in the media-critical 1970s. The
(technology-obsessed) enthusiasm for the mass media that had
prevailed in the 1960s gave way in the media world of the 1970s to a
critical attitude focused on the growing power of the media and its
tendency to distort reality. In much the same way that the world
reacted increasingly to the media, rather than the media to the world,
this new trend had become evident not least of all in the strategy of
the terrorist Red Army Faction, which succeeded in exploiting German
television, in particular, for its own propaganda purposes. Yet
documenta 6 did not confine itself to far-reaching media criticism; it
also undertook an investigation of the media qualities of art, of the
self-reflection of artistic media, as Schneckenburger wrote in his
introduction to the catalogue. Thus paintings about painting were
presented, as was film that exposed its own visual grammar, and
sculptures that reflected on the options available to them in public
space. The resulting self-referential character of many of the works
exhibited explored both the limits and the opportunities of art in
postmodern event society. And it emphasized the distinctive formal
qualities of the arts that emerge from their respective media structures
rather than relying on their more or less disturbing substantive
content, as had been the case in previous documenta exhibitions. It
was precisely this aspect that distinguished this exhibition from
documenta 4 and 5.
Ulrike Rosenbach, Herakles - Herkules - King Kong. Das Klischee
Mann (1977) Ulrike Rosenbach/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Dieter Schwerdtle
Only a few of the 2,700 works of art exhibited can be discussed here
by way of example. The presentation devoted to painting began with
an in-house scandal. Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, A. R. Penck, and
Markus Lpertz removed their works from the walls the day before the
opening because they were not satisfied with Schneckenburgers
presentation. On the other hand, painters from East Germany were
represented for the first time ever: Werner Tbke, Wolfgang Mattheuer,
Willi Sitte, and Bernhard Heisig exhibited paintings whose aesthetic
substance was variously indebted to realismand which spoke of the
options available to art in a real socialist state. The selfreflective
painting mentioned above was represented by such works as Gotthard
Graubners Farbraumkrper (Color Space Bodies), Palermos
reductionist pictures, and the Abstract Expressionist paintings of
Willem de Kooning.
Manfred Schneckenburger (1977) Galerie m
Works of cinematic art by such directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder,
Martin Scorsese, and Stanley Kubrick were presented at Kassels Royal
Cinema, and the choice of this venue alone was a demonstrative
appeal for an opening of noble art to popular forms. Much the same
can be said of the broadcasts of various artists videos on the Third
German Television Programs. Experimental film, represented by
Michael Snow and Wilhelm and Birgit Hein, among others, was
presented on the top floor of the Fridericianumthe long-established,
traditional white cube of documenta. Video installations by Bill Viola,
Nam June Paik, and Bruce Nauman, for example, inquired, as did the
experimental films, into the structural laws that govern the motion
picture. The film and video presentations also gave rise to a
constructive dialogue between high and low art, and hierarchies that
barely still applied at the time were stripped permanently of all validity.
With his legendary Freie Internationale Hochschule fr Kreativitt und
interdisziplinre Forschung (Free International University, 197388),
which sought to fulfill its political-educational mission during the 100
days and at the center of which the Honigpumpe am Arbeitsplatz
(Honey Pump in the Workplace) was in operation in the rotunda of the
Fridericianum, Joseph Beuys broke through other boundaries, namely
those between political activism and performance art. Works that
remain in Kassel today include Laserscape (1977) by Horst A. Baumann
and two sculptural works in outdoor space: the oversize double picture
frame entitled Rahmenbau (Frame Construction, 1977), also known as
Landscape in Slide, by Haus-Rucker-Co, erected above the Karlsaue,
and Walter de Marias underground Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977).
While the costly process of boring a hole 1,000 meters deep and filling
it with brass rods triggered a scandal at the time, this significant work
of Land and Conceptual art is now one of the icons of the documenta.
documenta 7
19 June 28 September 1982
Artistic Director
Rudi Fuchs
Museum Fridericianum, Neue Galerie, Orangerie, Karlsaue
6,957,977 DM
Joseph Beuys, 7000 Eichen. Stadtverwaldung statt
Stadtverwaltung (1982-1987)
Photo: Udo Reuschling
With his exhibition, Rudi Fuchs, the Dutch artistic director of
documenta 7, hoped to restore the dignity of contemporary artnot
by emphasizing its sociopolitical responsibility, but by focusing on the
aesthetic autonomy of art. Thus with documenta 7, Fuchs unleashed
a kind of dialectical countercurrent to its predecessors, in which art
was presented above all as a medium of social change, both within the
system of art and in real life. Fuchss documenta had neither a title
nor a theoretical curatorial concept. Instead, he presented his
documenta with subtle yet provocative poetic metaphors as a stately
gliding regatta, relying on such tried and true categories as beauty
and artistic individualism. The re-embrace of conservative values
in the best sense of the words was reflected in the relative weighting of
the media presented at documenta 7: Fuchs selected primarily (large-
scale) paintings and sculptures. Works of Conceptual and performance
art were exhibited as well, although their presence was markedly
reduced. Almost as if he wished to contradict the media documenta,
Fuchs presented only one (!) video installation at his exhibition, namely
PM Magazine/Acid Rock (1982), a work by the U.S. artist Dara
Birnbaum. It was no mere coincidence that this reorientation of
documenta toward conservative values took place in the early 1980s
in the very same year in which Helmut Kohl began his sixteen-year
term of office as Germanys CDU chancellor. The student movement of
the 1960s and the humanist hopes associated with it were now
permanently relegated to the past, and the long march through the
institutions had long since taken the place of revolutionary uprisings
and protests. The same applied to major areas of art. The museum
suddenly regained a measure of importancethanks not least of all to
imposing new buildings such as the Museum Abteiberg in
Mnchengladbach and the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. To an increasing
extent, relatively conventional works took the place of the more
openended projects of Fluxus, Conceptual, and performance art, and
the decade witnessed the emergence of the first highly successful
international art market, comprising a gallery system that also lusted
after salable works of art.
Rudi Fuchs (1982)
Foto: Lothar Koch
Representational painting was a major focus of attention at documenta
7. Worthy of particular note in this context were the representatives of
the Italian Transavantgarde and the opulent paintings of such artists as
Enzo Cucchi, Franceso Clemente, and Sandro Chia, as well as the
expressive, dilettantish pictures by Elvira Bach and Salom of the
German Neue Wilde (New Wild Ones) and their quasi-predecessors
Georg Baselitz, A. R. Penck, and Anselm Kiefer. The event represented
a breakthrough for the Neue Wilde, although the movement was
virtually forgotten only a few years later. New at the time (and this is
the real curatorial achievement of Rudi Fuchs) was the presentation of
these representational paintings in a dialogue contextas in the case
of Jonathan Borofskys sculpture Five Hammering Men (1982), which
was hung between the graffiti canvases of Keith Haring and paintings
by Salom und Martin Disler. Fuchs presented these works in the
company of classicist sculptures from museums in Kassel, emphasizing
the principle that even the most recent art emerges from the traditions
and conceptual context of art history.
Surely one of the highlights of documenta 7 was Marcel Broodthaerss
installation Schlacht von Waterloo (Battle of Waterloo, 1975) in the
rotunda. In the midst of a replicated idyllic allotment-garden setting,
the Belgian Conceptual artist presented set pieces from the Battle of
Waterloo, which he then confronted with modern armaments, such as
machine guns arranged in neat, orderly rows. Thus was Broodthaerss
reflection on all forms of historical reconstruction. Past and present
become fictions that influence each other reciprocally, wrote Bazon
Brock with reference to this installation in his Besucherschule d7.
Hans Haacke then presented elgemlde, Hommage Marcel
Broodthaers (Oil Painting, Homage to Marcel Broodthaers,1982) in the
Neue Galerie a portrait of Ronald Reagan executed by the artist in oil
and placed behind a barrier cord from which a red carpet led to a photo
tapestry of an enlarged slide showing a scene from the anti-Reagan
demonstration in Bonn.
Marcel Broodthaers, Dcor (1975) Marcel Broodthaers/VG Bild-Kunst
Performances, including Opera Suite (1982) by Carlo Quartucci and
Carla Tat, were presented in the Staatstheater. Even though art was
exhibited primarily in the enclosed rooms of hallowed temples of
culture at this documentathe Fridericianum was thoroughly
renovated for the eventit is (as it was at documenta 6) above all the
works exhibited outdoors that are most vividly remembered, as they
remained in Kassel. These include Claes Oldenburgs Spitzhacke (The
Pickaxe, 1982), an oversize monument representing a pickax erected
by the U.S. Pop artist on the bank of the Fulda River, and of course
7000 Eichen (7,000 Oaks, 198287), Joseph Beuyss tree-planting
action. Citizens of Kassel were invited to plant 7,000 trees throughout
the city in this urban-greening project. A basalt stone was placed next
to each tree. Since the stones had been stored in advanceto the
dismay of the people of Kasselon Friedrichsplatz in Kassel, the
progress of the action could be monitored as the mountain of stones
grew smaller. The last tree was planted during documenta 8. Joseph
Beuys, who died much too young in 1986, did not witness the event.
The trees are still standing in Kassel today.
documenta 8
12 June 20 September 1987
Artistic Director
Manfred Schneckenburger
Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Karlsaue, Kasseler Innenstadt,
Kulturfabrik Salzmann, Renthof, Diskothek "New York", Karlskirche
8.960.963 DM
Hans Haacke, Kontinuitt (1987) Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Frank Mihm
Originally, Edy de Wilde and Harald Szeemann were supposed to share
responsibility for documenta 8 as co-curators and artistic directors, but
their collaboration ended prematurely due to substantive differences.
Manfred Schneckenburger took over as artistic director on short notice
and was thus the first and only personexcept for Bodein the history
of the documenta to hold that office twice. Because so little time was
left for preparation, Schneckenburgers documenta, like documenta 7,
dispensed with a theoretical concept. Unlike its predecessor, however,
documenta 8 once again clung stubbornly to the principle of the
sociopolitical responsibility of art; instead of emphasizing aesthetic
autonomy, many of the works presented focused insistently on the
functional integration of art, as Elke Bippus wrote in an article on the
exhibition. Schneckenburgers most notable achievement was to
ensure for the first time that the question of the political quality of art
was not addressed primarily with reference to the conceptual models
of modernism, but rather from a postmodern perspective. In other
words, Schneckenburger proclaimed the loss of utopia in advanced
capitalist society, while emphasizing at the same time the dissolution
of a hierarchical canon of style and form in art. Eclecticism was the
order of the day; an anythinggoes approach appeared entirely
possible near the end of the twentieth century. Both aspectsthe loss
of utopia and formal eclecticismled to the demise of the concept of
one grand narrative or, as Schneckenburger expressed it in the
catalogue, to the abandonment of belief in thematic encyclopedias in
which one theory solves all of the puzzles of the world at once.
Within the context of Schneckenburgers second documenta, this
postmodern approach amounted to a conceptual orientation that
required above all a no-holds-barred investigation into violence and
war. In addition, the reciprocal relationships between architecture,
design, and art were examined from a formal perspective. Thus it is not
at all surprising that paintings played a much less important role at this
documenta than they had five years earlier, and that videos and
performances, rather than sculptures and installations, occupied the
foreground of the exhibition.
Ian Hamilton Finlay, A View to the Temple (1987)
Photo: Wolfgang Pfetzing
Kontinuitt (Continuity, 1987), an installation by Hans Haacke,
exemplifies Schneckenburgers curatorial concept. Haacke staged a
setting in the rotunda of the Fridericianum that spontaneously called to
mind the entrance lobby of a large corporation. In the middle of the
installation stood the abstract logo of Deutsche Bank, enlarged and
configured as a sculpture, on top of which the artist also placed a huge
Mercedes star. A large-scale photo of a procession of black mourners
at a funeral in South Africa was hung behind this ensemble. Elegant
information panels and green potted plants framed the aesthetic
setting. In this work, stylish (interior) design and critical art joined
hands to illuminate the politically precarious presentspecifically the
scandalous role played by these two traditional German corporations in
the South African policy of apartheid. Both Deutsche Bank and
Mercedes-Benz had refused to comply with international appeals for a
boycott of South Africa during the 1980s. Instead, the principle of
business as usual ensured continuity in their unscrupulous business
policies. With his group of guillotines entitled A View to the Temple
(1987), the Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay created one of the best-
known works featured at documenta 8one that also had a convincing
impact by virtue of its anti-utopian stance. The wooden guillotines
equipped with bronze blades stood in rank and file, so to speak, on
the Karlsaue. The references to the French Revolution in the brief texts
Finlay wrote on the guillotines served as a reminder of how easily
utopian philosophies give rise to terror and violence.
The U.S. artist Barbara Kruger presented her photo piece Endangered
Species (1987), which displays three faces distorted in fear. Kruger
mounted a sign bearing the words Endangered Species above the
faces, thus bringing the possibility of an end to (human) history into
artistic play.
Although documenta 8 drew sharp criticism from some corners at the
time, due among other things to the supposedly random selection of
works (405 artists took part in the exhibition), it appears in retrospect
to have been a thoroughly worthwhile and memorable venture.
documenta IX
13 June 20 September 1992
Artistic Director
Jan Hoet
Museum Fridericianum, documenta-Halle, Neue Galerie, Ottoneum,
Orangerie, Kassel city centre, temporary pavillons at Karlsaue
18.645.501 DM
Jan Hoet (1992)
Photo: Dirk Bleicker
Documenta 9 is remembered as one of the most popular of all
documenta exhibitions, thanks not least of all to the influence of its
artistic director, Jan Hoet. The charismatic Belgian curator succeeded
in conveying his love of art and his enthusiasm for documenta with
maximum media effect. And in the process, he communicated
programmatic principles that touched even those less well versed in
matters of art immediately. Hoet wanted to make the human being and
our sensual, perceptual, agonized corporeality, which had been
progressively displaced by the digitized, virtual world, the focus of
attention at his exhibition. From body to body to bodies was the
meaningful, poetic motto of documenta 9. Hoet described his curatorial
mission in the following words: At a time in which the human race is
confronted more than ever with such dangers as AIDS and
multinational wars, nuclear catastrophes, and global climate disasters,
at a time in which threats are growing increasingly abstract and the
fears more and more diffuse, I see reflection on the physical conditions
of life as an appropriate answer. Hoet wanted to find that answer not
only in cooperation with his prominent curatorial team, composed of
Bart de Baere, Pier Luigi Tazzi, and Denys Zacharopoulos, but also
and this was a new twistthrough close collaboration with the artists.
Discussion within the context of this nonhierarchical cooperative effort
revolved above all around the position of the respective works of art
and the resulting dialogue between settings and works. As Barbara
Heinrich wrote in that regard, The artists were involved in the process
of creating the exhibition from the outset. Another novel outgrowth of
this documenta was criticism of its Western Eurocentrism. By then,
toward the end of the twentieth century, significant segments of the
population had finally become aware that very interesting art was
being produced in Asia and the Third World as well.
In his introduction to the catalogue, Hoet wrote that the ninth
documenta was a documenta of locations; their topography is the
framework that holds everything together. By virtue of its own unique
atmosphere, each location represented a specific themethe
Fridericianum, for example, was defined as a place of history,
enlightenment, and cultural potency, a place of drama. In the
Zwehrenturm at the Fridericianum, Hoet established a collective
memory of documenta 9 featuring works by Jacques-Louis David,
James Ensor, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Joseph Beuys, Barnett
Newman, and James Lee Byars on loan from museums and, in doing so,
presented a genealogy similar to that of the first documentaalbeit
not in accordance with systematic art-historical categories, but focused
instead on the role of these artists as representatives of revolutionary
Bruce Naumann, Anthro / Socio (1991)
Photo: Dirk Bleicker
Exhibited in the lobby of the Museum Fridericianum, Bruce Naumans
video installation entitled Anthro/Socio (1992) served practically as a
leitmotif for documenta 9. A manor a bald mans head, to be exact
revolves around himself, multiplied sixfold on monitors stacked in a
column, isolated from his environment, calling for help: The words
Help me, hurt me, Sociology, feed me, eat me, Anthropology were
recited on the endless-loop sound track. The opposing word pairs of
help and hurt, feed and eat, spoken by the man emphasize the
captivity of the human being within unresolvable existential conflicts.
The Austrian artist Peter Kogler installed his wallpaper Ants (1992) in
the same room. The technically generated, endlessly reproduced
images of huge ants charged the room with a threatening atmosphere.
Ilya Kabakov erected an accessible outhouse in the courtyard behind
the Fridericianum: Die Toilette (1992) was a hybrid consisting of a
typical Russian two-room apartment and a public toilet. The proverbial
live-in toilet had become a reality and, as a sculptural installation,
addressed the theme of (a)social living conditions in the field of tension
between private and public in existing real-socialist states.
Lothar Baumgarten Entenschlaf [Der groe Metaphysiker] (1991-1992)
Lothar Baumgarten/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Rene Ptzscher
The outdoor area as a setting for walks and mental excursions
announced its presence from a distance. Jonathan Borofskys Man
Walking to the Sky (1992) on Friedrichsplatz rose some fifteen meters
toward the heavens. Himmelsstrmer (Man Reaching for the
Heavens) was the name given by the people of Kassel to this man who
appears to be climbing resolutely up a twenty-five-meter-long steel
tube inclined at an angle of sixtythree degrees, as he and his body
appear to overcome all natural limitations. The sculpture was so
popular at the time that it was purchased by the city with the support
of donations. It stands today on the square in front of the main railway
station. Other works that remain in Kassel include Thomas Schttes
Die Fremden (The Strangers, 1992), a ceramic sculptural ensemble on
the projecting roof of the Roter Palais, Per Kirkebys Raumskulptur
(Spatial Sculpture, 1992), and two halved stones (Untitled, 1992) by
Jimmie Durham.
FLUSS (1992)
Photo: Dagmar von Sonjevski
Buildings were also erected specifically for documenta for the first
time, among them the temporary Aue pavilions in the park (Place of
Dionysian Lightness). As the Place of Democracy, documenta Halle,
completed only shortly before the exhibition on the hillside leading to
the Karlsaue, housed installations by Absalon, Jean-Pierre Bertrand,
Cildo Meireles, Matt Mullican, and Panamarenko, along with other
works. Rebecca Horn created an extraordinarily intense atmosphere
with her installation entitled Der Mond, das Kind, der anarchistische
Flu (The Moon, the Child, the Anarchist River, 1992) inside the former
Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule. The program of accompanying events also
caused quite a stir, as Jan Hoet incorporated jazz and baseball as well
as boxing matches into this art event. Hoet explained that boxing is a
physical activity that is closely related to life because it is an
outgrowth of life itself.
In spite of its popularity, or perhaps precisely because of it, documenta
9 drew heated criticism. Critics complained about the lack of a concept
(which Hoet himself had postulated at the outset), claiming that the
exhibition was conventional and random, ultimately an amusement
park due to its mix of styles. Yet most of the 608,000 visitors
remembered the exhibition as a sensuous experience.
documenta X
21 June 28 September 1997
Artistic Director
Catherine David
Parcours: Kulturbahnhof / Balikino, Unterfhrung Kulturbahnhof,
Unterfhrung Treppenstrae, Treppenstrae, Friedrichsplatz, Museum
Fridericianum, Ottoneum, documenta-Halle, Orangerie, Karlsaue
21.732.293 DM
Catherine David (1997)
Photo: Gitty Darugar
The last documenta of the twentieth century was the first directed by a
woman, the French curator Catherine David. As might have been
expected, she was awaited in Kassel with skepticism. Catherine Davids
intellectual approach to this major exhibition whose meaning and
purpose she examined in the catalogue and the critical assessment
of the political, social, economic, and cultural issues of the
contemporary globalized world for which she appealed, prompted fears
about the autonomy of art in advance of the exhibition. The poster, on
which the small d is crossed out by a large Roman numeral X, triggered
outrageas it was seen by many as an attempt to question the very
institution of documenta. In retrospect, one is astonished to realize
how little the critical reception of documenta 10 conveys a sense of the
exhibition as a manifestation culturelle.
Lois Weinberger, Das ber die Planzen/ist eins mit Ihnen (1990-97)
Photo: Bernhard Rffert
Instead of a genuine attempt to come to grips with the different
challenges and discourses to which the exhibition sought to respond
from the debate on postcolonialism (with such works as Lothar
Baumgartens Vakuum series [197880], or the documenta documents)
to the various models of urbanism (Aldo van Eyck, Archigram,
Archizoom Associati, Rem Koolhaas) to the meaning of the visual image
in the media society (as exemplified by Marcel Broodthaerss Sction
Publicit, Muse dArt Moderne, Dpartement des Ailes [Publicity
Section, Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles, 1968]) to
contemporary network art (Heath Bunting, Joachim Blank / Karl Heinz
Jeron) and her curatorial accomplishments, art critics repeatedly
cited what they regarded as an excess of theory, intellectualism,
and an alleged absence of sensuousness. The latter charge may well
have been directed toward Kassel itself, however. Indeed, David
presented the city of Kasselonce the most automobile-friendly and
thus most modern city in Germanyas a modern ruin in her
documenta walking course. Entirely fitting were the flourishing weeds
neophytes from southern and southeastern Europethat Lois
Weinberger planted as a metaphor for migration processes along the
disused tracks at Kassels main railway station, which was relegated to
the status of a regional station and converted
to commercial and cultural use as a culture station after the Kassel-
Wilhelmshhe Intercity Railway Station was built. The walking course
extended from there through underpasses and along Treppenstrasse
down to the Fridericianum, past documenta Halle and the Orangerie to
the Fulda River. The local blend of different social, economic,
environmental, aesthetic, and cultural systems was open to
investigation along this axis. The works of art installed there were not
conceived as event-oriented urban furnishings but were intended
instead to intervene subtly into public space with specific questions.
Jeff Walls Milk (1984)a light box showing the photograph of a man
sitting in front of a brick wall on the side of the street holding a paper
bag from which a fountain of milk sprayed forth, a banal scene at first
glance that turned surreal on closer examinationwas installed in an
underground pedestrian underpass. Christine Hill set up her
Volksboutique (Peoples Boutique, 1996) in another underpass, while
Suzanne Lafonts poster displayed near the railway station laconically
traced the migration routes between the major cities of southeastern
and central Europe. The course ended near the Fulda with the Metro-
Net Skulptur: Transportabler U-Bahn Eingang (Metro-Net Sculpture:
Portable Subway Entrance, 1997) by Martin Kippenberger, who had
died shortly before the exhibition opened. The entrance to mobility
suggested in the title was merely mock-up, howevera symbol of
dysfunctional urban networks. Located near the Orangerie not far from
there was perhaps the most popular work of art presented at
documenta 10: Carsten Hller and Rosemarie Trockels Ein Haus fr
Schweine und Menschen (A House for Pigs and People, 1997). The
supposedly idyllic, interspecies setting combined subtly disturbing
evolutionary theory with the gruesome reality of profit-oriented mass
animal husbandry.
Carsten Hller and Rosemarie Trockel, Ein Haus fr Schweine und
Menschen (1997)
Photo: Bernhard Rffert documenta Archiv
In an effort to fix the position of the documenta at the end of the
century, David also conceived a number of retrospectives that shed
light on significant tendencies of the past postwar period in the sense
of a post-archaic, post-traditional, and post-national memory and
striving for identification (Marcel Broodthaers, Aldo van Eyck, yvind
Fahlstrm, Richard Hamilton, Gordon Matta-Clark, Michelangelo
Pistoletto, and Gerhard Richter, represented by Atlas [196296]), on
the one hand, and sought to expose the omissions of Western art
historiography (with Hlio Oiticica and Lygia Clark as representatives of
Brazilian modernism, for example). With these retrospectives,
documenta 10 took up the thread of the founding principle of the
documenta once again.
Jeff Wall, Milk (1984, exhibition copy 1997)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz
Aside from the film program and the publication of the documenta
documents, one of the most important features of the manifestation
culturelle was the series entitled 100 Days 100 Guests, to which
David invited guests from all regions of the globalized world to talk
with her about various matters every evening starting at seven oclock.
The discussions were held in documenta Halle, which had been built in
1992 as a multifunctional venue and recently furnished with chairs by
Franz West. The series began with Edward Said and proceeded with
Rem Koolhaas (on The New Urbanism), Okwui Enwezor (who would
succeed her as artistic director, on Biennials), Matthew Ngui, Suely
Rolnik, and others to Wole Soyinka (Art and the Ethnocentric View). In
an ironic allusion to the lettering on the neighboring Staatstheater,
Peter Friedl affixed the word KINO (CINEMA) in large red letters above
the entrance to documenta Hallea promise that consciously
anticipated its misinterpretation.
8 June 15 September 2002
Platform 5: Exhibition
Artistic Director
Okwui Enwezor
Museum Fridericianum, documenta-Halle, Kulturbahnhof / Balikino,
Binding-Brauerei, Orangerie, Karlsaue, Kasseler Innenstadt / Nordstadt
18.075.420 Euro
Okwui Enwezor (2002)
Okwui Enwezor, a native of Nigeria, was the first non-European art
director of documentaand the first documenta of the new millennium
was the first truly global, postcolonial documenta exhibition.
Documenta 11 rests on five platforms which aim to describe the
present location of culture and its interfaces with other complex, global
knowledge systems. Thus the exhibition in Kassel was the fifth and
last platform in the concept introduced by Okwui Enwezor and his
curatorial team, composed of Carlos Basualdo, Ute Meta Bauer,
Susanne Ghez, Sarat Maharaj, Mark Nash, and Octavio Zaya.
Transdisciplinary platforms devoted to different themes were
presented on four continents a full 98 2002 11 year in advance of the
official opening: Democracy Unrealized (Vienna, March 15April 20,
2001; Berlin, October 930, 2001), Experiments with Truth:
Transitional Justice and the Processes of Truth and Reconciliation (New
Delhi, May 721, 2001), Crolit and Creolization (St. Lucia, January
1315, 2002), and Under Siege: Four African Cities, Freetown,
Johannesburg, Kinshasa, and Lagos (Lagos, March 1620, 2002). Many
of the works of art later presented at the exhibition took up these
themes and other issues of global significance in different ways. In
keeping with the premise that Art Is the Production of Knowledge,
many of the projects were documentary in natureyet fears that the
show would be overburdened with theory (a prejudicial assumption
that had already been proved false at documenta 10) turned out to be
unjustified. The most noteworthy achievements of documenta 11, as
Wolfgang Lenk wrote in his essay, consisted in its questioning of the
unspoken hierarchies of attention in the Western exhibition scene, its
denial of the legitimacy of the Wests exoticizing view of the foreign,
and the confrontation of that perception with those artistic activities
that conflict with our projection. The foreigners were once the
object of our gazenow they are looking back. The shift of
perspective for which Catherine David paved the way in 1992 was now
finally accomplished.
Craigie Horsfield, El Hierro Conversation (2002)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz documenta Archiv
While space in documenta Halle was devoted primarily to artists
collectives and archive-based projects (Fareed Armalys and Rashid
Masharawis visual review of Palestinian history entitled From/To
[1999], the Huit Facets group from Senegal, Le Groupe Amos from the
Congo, Raqs Media Collective from Delhi, and Meschac Gaba with the
Library from his Museum of Contemporary African Art [2002]), the
works of art shown in the Fridericianum and the new venue at the
Binding brewery were staged on a generous scale. Nearly every work
of art occupied a room of its own. Video projections (Steve McQueen,
Yang Fudong) and expansive installations predominated, the latter
represented by such works as Georges Adagbos Lexplorateur et les
explorateurs devant lhistoire dexploration...! Le thatre du monde
(2002), an assemblage of objects created at the exhibition site;
Chohreh Feyzdjous Boutique (197393), and the rooms dedicated to
Mona Hatoum, Alfredo Jaar, and Dieter Roth. The juxtaposition of Doris
Salcedos chairs covered with heavy layers of lead and Leon Golubs
torture scenes painted on scraps of canvas evoked a particularly
disturbing, oppressive effect. Exhibited in the next room was Zarina
Bhimjis visually powerful video Out of the Blue (2002), which featured
images of abandoned military barracks, detention cells, and prison
rooms in a tropical landscape captured in slow camera sequences.
These images of desolation were accompanied by a swelling backdrop
of sound composed of excited voices and shotsan audiovisual re-
creation of the artists own memories. At the age of nine, Bhimji and
her family were forcibly driven out of Uganda along with other Asian
immigrants. Prominently displayed on the ground floor of the
Fridericianum, these three works served as striking reminders of
experiences with state-sanctioned violencean effect that was also
evoked by Tania Brugueras performance installation Untitled (2002), in
the Binding brewery. Visitors there were exposed to total darkness and
glaring light in alternation and thusrobbed of the ability to see
heard only noises, like the sounds of stamping military boots and rifles
being assembled. Outside the Fridericianum, Cildo Meireless mobile
ice-cream vendors distributed popsicles that had no flavor at all, as
they were made of nothing but frozen water. The title of this work,
Disappearing Element / Disappeared Element (Imminent Past) (2002)
alluded to the increasingly real shortage of water in many parts of the
Binding Brauerei (2002)
Photo: Werner Maschmann
The works installed in the Auepark also referred to complex issues far
beyond the context of their sculptural appeal. They included
Dominique Gonzalez-Foersters Sculpture Park consisting of a
telephone booth from Brazil; a rosebush from Le Corbusiers rose
garden in Chandigarh, India; a lava stone from Mexico; and other
objects, all of which combined to form an associative reference system
of cultural symbols. Also presented in the park was Rene Greens
Standardized Octagonal Units for Imagined and Existing Systems
(2002), an open-air pavilion consisting of eight units in which
audiovisual material on such seemingly disparate subjects as the
alphabet, Africa, color, island, food, woman, man, gender, etc., was
In a social-housing estate in the heart of Kassels Nordstadt, a socially
deprived area of the city, Thomas Hirschhorn erected his Bataille
Monument (2002). Built with cheap materials in cooperation with local
youth, this archive devoted to the French thinker, an advocate of
unrestricted consumption and a critic of utilitarianism, was open to the
publican experiment poised between success and failure that, by
virtue of the various issues it addressed, exposed the persistently
troublesome dialogue between contemporary art and the so-called
lower class of society.
documenta 12
16 June 23 September 2007
Artistic Director
Roger M. Buergel
Museum Fridericianum, Aue-Pavillon, documenta-Halle, Neue Galerie,
Schloss Wilhelmshhe, Kulturzentrum Schlachthof, Restaurant elBulli,
26.054.100 Euro
Sanja Ivecovi, Poppy field (2012)
Photo: Jens Ziehe documenta Archiv
For the first time in the history of the documenta, the major event in
Kassel was organized under the direction of a couple: Roger M. Buergel
as the designated art director and Ruth Noack as curator. They served
only unofficially as a two-member directorial team, however, as the
documenta statutes do not allow for the possibility of two co-directors.
Together, they developed a clearly defined programmatic concept
under the banner of The Migration of Forms. What that meant was
that, over the course of human history, visual culture has had only a
limited number of basic forms with which to workforms that have
been used in different contexts and with different conceptual focuses
throughout the history of art. Buergel/Noack pointed out that
contemporary does not mean that the works originated yesterday.
They must be meaningful for people today. Documenta 12 is concerned
with both historical lines of development in art and unexpected
concurrences. In order to bring these unexpected concurrences to
light, relationships were established between works of art from
different decades and cultures in which similar formal patterns have
emergeda process that has led to a migration of aesthetic forms
across temporal and cultural boundaries culminating in the art of our
postmodern world. This formalism was emphasized in the Neue Galerie
by walls painted different colors. In turn, this focus on the phenomenon
of migration resulted in the selection of a high percentage of artists
from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. New to the program was the
inclusion of old art, from fourteenthcentury Persian miniatures to global
art from recent decades. Artists already long since recognized in their
own homelands, such as Nasreen Mohamedi, for example, were not the
only ones presented to a broad public in Germany for the first time.
The works of several exemplary artistsJohn McCracken, Kerry James
Marshall, Charlotte Poseneske, and Gerwald Rockenschaubalso
migrated through all exhibition venues.

Sakarin Krue-On, Terraced Rice Field Art Project Kassel (2007)

Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz documenta Archiv
Moreover, the program of documenta 12, which, incidentally, boasted
the largest share (roughly fifty percent) of women artists in the history
of documenta, was structured on the basis of three leitmotifs: First,
Is modernity our antiquity? Second, What is bare life? And third,
What is to be done? The first leitmotif asks whether and to what
extent our thinking and way of life are still pervaded by modern forms
and visions (Buergel/Noack). In a certain sense, the second leitmotif
takes up the theme of Jan Hoets documenta 9, as it is concerned with
the existential nature of the human being as a creature that is
continually threatened in the postmodern era by torture, terrorism, and
climate disasters. The third leitmotif shifted the problem of the
(discursive) communication of art, of aesthetic education (Buergel),
into the focus of consideration. With that in mind, Buergel/Noack
founded the international magazine project Documenta 12
magazines in cooperation with the Vienna art publicist Georg
Ai Weiwei, Template (2007)
Next to the Aue pavilion temporarily erected on the Karlswiese for
documenta 12 (the largest single exhibition space covering 9,500
square meters; the greenhouse conceived as a Crystal Palace proved
problematic not only in terms of climate control) stood Ai Weiweis
sculpture Template (2007), a tower built with centuries-old doors
recovered from destroyed Chinese houses (the tower collapsed during
a storm and remained in place as a ruin). For Fairytale (2002), the
Chinese artist had also invited 1,001 fellow citizens of China to visit
documenta in Kassel, an invitation that caused a major stir in light of
the political situation in China under its dictatorial regime and the ban
on travel abroad. Ai had a wooden chair from the Qing dynasty brought
to Kassel for each of the 1,001 invited guests. The chairs were
exhibited at the Museum Fridericianum, the Aue pavilion, and the Neue
Galerie and used as islands of calm for discussion within the context
of the educational program. Ais action placed the issue of migration
in a concrete political context, while engaging history, the present, and
timeless design in multifaceted dialogue at the same time.
Sanja Ivekovic planted his Mohnfeld (Field of Poppies, 2007), in front of
the Fridericianum. When the flowers burst into bloom, the field was
transformed into a Red Square, which in its ostensible beauty evoked
wide-ranging associations with the color redfrom the communist flag
to the bloodshed in Afghanistan in connection with the cultivation of
poppies for the production of heroin. Peter Friedls The Zoo Story
(2007) in documenta Halle was another of the more popular works
shown in the exhibition. The stuffed, threeand-a-half-meter-tall giraffe
came from a zoo in the West Bank. It had panicked, fallen, and died of
its injuries during an Israeli military operation. Friedl purchased the
amateurish taxidermic specimen fashioned by the veterinarian at the
zoo and had it shipped to Kassel, where it was placed among garden
carpets from Iran and stuffed-animal sculptures by Cosima von Bonin.
As a (political) work that is comprehensible only to those familiar with
its history, the zoo story interrupts the migration of media images.
Peter Friedl, Cosima von Bonin
With the inclusion of the Kulturforum Schlachthof in the Nordstadt
district and Schloss Wilhelmshhe, where artworks from documenta
were integrated into the old-masters collection (among them Danica
Dakics video El Dorado [2007], which was filmed against a background
of wallpapers from the Kassel wallpaper pattern collection), documenta
12 expanded far beyond the city limits of Kassel. In advance of the
event, an effort was made to establish especially close ties with Kassel
through the documenta Advisory Council. Composed of forty interested
citizens of Kassel, who were involved in various aspects of concept
development and communication, the council played a particularly
important role as an integral part of the curatorial composition.
9 June 16 September 2012
Artistic Director
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
Museum Fridericianum, Neue Galerie, documenta-Halle, Brder-Grimm-
Museum, Ottoneum, Orangerie, Karlsaue, Hauptbahnhof, Oberste
Gasse 4, Untere Karlsstr. 14
Off the Main Sites
Kabul, Alexandria-Kairo, Banff
30.672.871 Euro
dOCUMENTA (13) in Kabul (2012)
For the second time in its history, documenta was directed by a
woman. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who recruited agents from all
over the world for her team of advisors led by Chus Martnez from
Spain, caused confusion in the press prior to the exhibition with her
non-concept, eco-feminism, dog calendars, an absurd title that no
one could remember (The dance was frenetic, animated, clattering,
twisted, and lasted a long time), and the announcement of a parallel
exhibition in Kabul, Afghanistan. Taking the concept of platforms from
documenta 11 a step further, documenta 13 included not only events
outside the city of Kassel in advance of the exhibition but also a
concurrent event at a different location. Another venue was an equally
important element of the concept: the former Benedictine Monastery in
Breitenau outside Kassel, which had served as a labor and
concentration camp under the National Socialist regime and later as a
boarding school for girls and a psychiatric clinic. Between these two
locationsKassel/Breitenau and Kabul/Bamiyandocumenta 13
established a primary motif that recalled the original underlying idea of
documenta: Zusammenbruch und Wiederaufbau (Collapse and
Recovery)in other words, healing the trauma of war through art.
Many artists (all of whom had visited Kassel and Breitenau before the
exhibition, while several had been to Kabul and Bamiyan as well)
presented newly produced works that related specifically to these
venuesamong them Clemens von Wedemeyer, Mariam Ghani,
Goshka Macuga, Michael Rakowitz, and Omer Fast. In addition, the
results of workshops held in Kabul and Bamiyan were incorporated into
works shown at an exhibition devoted to Afghan artists in Kassel. The
exhibition in Kabul attracted 27,000 visitors, while the public was
excluded for the most part from the events in Cairo/Alexandria and
Banff. Christov-Bakargiev linked other states of being that were of
importance to the program of documenta 13 with these locations in
presentations that revealed their oscillating relationships: onstage
(Kassel), under siege (Kabul), hope and revolt (Cairo and Alexandria),
and retreat (Banff).
Structures were also reconfigured in terms of time as well. Documenta
13 officially began with the installation of Giuseppe Penones Idee di
Pietra (Ideas of Stone), a bronze tree with a boulder in its crown in the
Karlsaue in May 2010. This was Christov-Bakargievs reference to her
own roots in Arte Povera. Closely associated with documenta since
Beuyss time, the tree-planting motif reappeared at other points in the
exhibition in works by Korbinian Aigner and Jimmie Durham. Another
important theme of documenta 13 was anti-anthropomorphism, as
expressed in the form of seeds, apples, and dogs as well as people and
Giuseppe Penone, Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone) (2003/2008/2010)
Photo: Rosa Maria Rhling
Visitors entering the Fridericianum found the first two rooms on the
ground floor almost completely empty, freshened only by a cool breeze
a work by Ryan Gander (I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorize,
2012). The only items exhibited there were three sculptures by Julio
Gonzles that had been installed at the same place for the second
documenta in 1959 and a letter from Kai Althoff, in which he retracted
his pledge to exhibit at documenta 13 (although for completely
different reasons than Robert Morris had cited in 1972). One project
that had been in preparation for quite some time but could not be
realized was the proposal by the artists Guillermo Faivovich and Nicols
Goldberg to bring El Chaco, the second-largest meteorite on Earth,
from northern Argentina to Kassel for 100 days. Evidence of the plan is
preserved in the form of a pedestal that stands near Walter De Marias
Vertical Earth Kilometer of 1977 and a documentation of the project in
the Fridericianum.

Song Dong, Doing Nothing Garden (2010-2012)

In terms of content, the various conceptual strands of documenta 13
came together in the Brain in the rotunda. There, the Bactrian
Princesses (stone miniatures from Central Asia dating from about 2000
BC) converged with such works as photographs of Adolf Hitlers
bathtub by Lee Miller taken on April 30, 1945, and Vandy Rattanas
photos of bomb-crater lakes in Vietnam on bottles painted by Giorgio
Morandi as models for his paintings.
Aside from new works produced by contemporary artists, historical
positions represented by women artists of the modern era (including
Hannah Ryggen and Maria Martins, for example) set significant accents
in the Fridericianum and the Neue Galerie. The subject of science was
represented by experimental models created by the physicist Anton
Zeilinger. Yet documenta 13 evoked some of its most memorable
impressions at locations at which long-forgotten places in downtown
Kassel were reactivated: in the derelict Hugenottenhaus, which had
been vacant since the 1960s and was temporarily transformed into a
living work of art by Theaster Gates and his cohorts with building
material from Chicago; and next to it Tino Sehgals 100-day
performance in the dark side room of the historical ballroom of the
Hessenland; Francis Alss miniature painting from Afghanistan in an
empty shop, and Tacita Deans atmospheric chalk drawings of Afghan
landscapes in a former bank vault. Pierre Huyghes compound in a
hidden corner of the Karlsaue inhabited by hallucinogenic plants, a
sculpture of a woman with a beehive on her head, and a dog with a
pink leg (Untilled [2012]); Lara Favarettos industrial-junk sculpture
behind the north wing of the main railway station (Momentary
Monument IV [2012]); and Susan Philipzs fragmentary sound
installation at the end of a railroad platform, which was based on the
Studie fr Streichorchester (Study for String Orchestra), a composition
by Pavel Haas, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944, were among
the most impressive works featured at this documenta.
Pierre Huyghe, Untilled (2012)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz
Having expanded to numerous locations apart from the traditional
institutions of the Fridericianum, documenta Halle, and the Neue
Galerie to include museums with collections of their own, such as the
Naturkundemuseum (Museum of Natural History) in the Ottoneum, the
astronomy exhibit in the Orangerie, and the Brder-Grimm-Museum, as
well as the two wings of the former main railway station and the entire
Karlsaue (on which small, temporary prefab buildings had been
erected), documenta 13 could hardly be taken in completely in just a
few days. Visitors were also treated to an elaborate program of events
and films, as well as numerous living works of art presented as
continuous performances. The 12,500 season tickets sold bear witness
to the extraordinary response on the part of the local public.
Particularly noteworthy features of the Maybe Communication
Campaign and Other Programs carried out during documenta 13 also
included the Worldly Companionscitizens of Kassel from different
backgrounds who, after completing their schooling, passed their
personal knowledge about documenta 13 on to visitors during d-
Drawing 905,000 visitors, documenta 13 was yet another documenta
that broke all previous attendance records. Yet the long lines, which
ultimately made it impossible to visit all venues despite the expansive
layout of the exhibition, raise doubts about whether attracting more
visitors to Kassel makes sense or is even possible.