Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, curator of Documenta XIII, has designed a strange and cerebral mix for this year’s artistic event. In a similar style to Catherine David (Documenta X) as a journey through history and along the lines of the former curator Roger Buergel (Documenta XII), her Documenta XIII blends past and present, new and unknown and adds a scientific twist. Taking from Okwui Enwezor (Documenta XI), she has developed the idea of an artistic platform during the numerous meetings before the event itself, where one could find a versatile mix of ideas and artworks, ranging from the paintings of Salvador Dali to Konrad Zuse’s computer, not forgetting the many juvenile streams and the usual alternative platitudes, such as the heap of junk colonized by weeds called "Doing Nothing Garden" created by Song Dong that obscures the perspective view of the Orangerie.
The deliberately borderline choice between art and what is not does not work very well, because doing so opens up a very long path leading to loss of meaning which is easy to fall back on but not very functional. There is a return to wunderkamera, from the wonder to functionalism, from the chaos to the bric-a-brac, where everything seems justifiable, excusable and perhaps superfluous.
Difficult times and the generous budget available should serve to focus on new perspectives and not to repeat the same old rusty styles wrapped in different words. For too many years mayhem and chaos have been used as source of renewal almost as an excuse for lack of creativity. In an increasingly complex and painful reality, artists have gradually moved away from genuine commitment to appropriation and promotional use of others’ creativity drawing from anywhere they can (music, theater, dance, pain etc).
Even though some projects are certainly valid, the majority of them has become now obvious and weak. It is striking how all this "planning" before the even then dies off during the realisation phase, both as art and as "commitment." The art in this event has confirmed to more and more be detached from cultural action and more and more a commercial product that hypocritically plays with sentimentality. But we let’s see the works, starting with the Fridericianum, which collates small middle eastern sculptures from a distant past and objects that belonged to the German dictator, presented in a more spectacular than meaningful fashion. There are consolidated works by Man Ray and, located in a remote room, two paintings by Salvador Dalí. There’s another obvious homage to Boetti and a more valid one to Fabio Mauri. The idea of "brain" as an area for elaboration may be valid but here it seems more a mediocre gimmick: it degenerates quickly after the first few rooms that are too empty at the expenses of the upper floors which are in turn too full in some cases, without quite understanding why. Among the works that I am most definitely conquered about there are those of Michael Rakowitz, with its contrast between the worn books and those carved by time. I enjoy the Kader Attia's installation work that manages to make sense of his sculptures.
It goes a little better at the Ottoneum, where the play between art and science seems to work a little, even if it looks more like a scholastic exercise than a work of great artistic impact. See the work of Mark Dion that incorporates the tree-books made in 1771-79 with the project 'Xylotheque Schildbach'.
I really like the Documenta-Halle where ,apart from the large presence of Gustav Metzger’s works, there is a strong contrast between the works of Thomas Bayerle and Nalini Malani, but also the rooms devoted to painting have a dignity that is lacking elsewhere.
The Orangerie is too confusing whereas the Neue Galerie is somewhat more balanced, perhaps its spaces hold better as a whole. Here the works of Geoffrey Farmer, a selection of images from Life magazine from 1935, which creates a long history, and Wael Shawky’s installation, two videos that through the ceramic puppets tell the story of the Crusades, according to Arab culture, are among the most valid works, together with Sanja Ivecomivc ‘s "disobedient" work.
Nice idea to use the park, a little like they were pavilions in style of the Biennale di Venezia, shame about the far away location which makes them difficult to fully enjoy (I suggest you get yourselves a bicycle and you might be able to see some). Overall nice but trivial and obvious, as the quantity does not always mean quality. Among many, I recommend that located in the grove of Canadian artist Gareth Moore and the cave of artists Allora & Calzadilla.
Fra gli spazi paralleli ci sono dei negozi, la giovanilistica casa degli Ugonotti, dove c’è l’enfatizzato lavoro di Tino Sehgal (prossimamente alla Turbine Hall della Tate) che come al solito mi pare sempre più teatralmente autoreferenziale. Segnalo uscendo per l’allegra spensieratezza il lavoro di N.Solakov nel palazzo in fronte alla Neue Galerie. E mi piace l’intervento di Tacita Dean presente nell’ Echemaliges Finanzamt, grandi lavagne riportano profili di montagne dell'Afghanistan, semplice e bello.
Among the parallel spaces there are shops, the youthful house of the Huguenots, where there is Tino Sehgal’s emphasized work (soon to be displayed at the Tate’s Turbine Hall) that, as usual, I find more and more theatrically self-centred. I recommend N.Solakov’s work for its cheerful and light-hearted feel to it, which located in the building in front of the Neue Galerie. And I like Tacita Dean’s installation located in the Echemaliges Finanzamt, large blackboards picturing profiles of Afghan mountains, simple and beautiful.
In conclusione un evento sicuramente vasto e articolato con una buona serie di opere ben allestite. Ma rimane comunque una sensazione di abbondanza noiosa. Per cui alla fine si esce con la sensazione di una normale mostra, un poco troppo poco per un evento che aveva tante propositi.
In conclusion, certainly a vast and articulated event with a good number of works beautifully installed. But the feeling of dull abundance still remains. So in the end you leave with the feeling of a normal show, unsatisfying for an event that had many purposes.
After all the curator’s tirades, I was expecting something more courageous, new and experimental. Both the timeframe (the curator was appointed in December 2008) and budget (allegedly more than 20 million euros) would have allowed the much emphasized and much needed change.
I wonder why the internet, now so firmly eradicated in everyday’s life, is still not an active participant, and not just as simple informative diary, to art projects like this that have the aspiration to be a representation of contemporary culture. The real revolution of the last 20 years seems completely absent from the art scene.
There is actually a diverse art form on the web but it is marginalized by the "art system", perhaps because one could hardly do the usual speculations in the art market.
More pictures at http://www.equilibriarte.net/articles/1497