Photo by Henrik Stromberg
The first Documenta exhibition was installed in 1955 in the bombed-out Fridericianum Museum, in Kassel, Germany, during a nearby flower show. Architect Arnold Bode brought the work of major modern artists not seen in Germany since Hitler’s rise to power, including Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Pablo Picasso. Since then, Documenta has taken place every five years, 100 days at a time. The 13th edition opened June 9 and will take place in Kassel (with outposts in Kabul, Alexandria-Cairo and Banff) through September 16.
Dedicated to research and documentation, dOCUMENTA (13) harkens back to the exhibition’s original role of reprising the major cultural shifts that had taken place in the world during Germany’s retreat from it. Artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has said that art’s role is not to provide answers but to “give uncertainty and questions… art is a form of research.” To that end, one will find much archival work, like the partly fictive documentary Altrauds Cave by Javier Tellez (pictured above). Mappa, an incredibly articulate world map of flags, represents tapestry-maker Alighiero Boetti, who died in 1994 and enjoyed a recent international resurgence. And Lebanese painter Etel Adnan, 84, has her first show here.
Documenta is organized around a spirit of discovery tinged with imagination and seeks to be a creator of a new international connectivity, as well as a chronicler of the past. How it will balance these roles in an age of tabloid-ready sale prices and sagging biennials will be seen over the next hundred days. d13.documenta.de