Special project # 11, The Legacy of Allan Kaprow by Pasquale Polidori

Documenta 14 – Location and Topos. Pt II

by Pasquale Polidori |     20 July 2017

This is the second of  eight stages in Pasquale Polidori’s journey to Kassel on the occasion of Documenta 14, one of the world’s most important contemporary art events, which takes place every five years. Please visit here Location and Topos. Pt I, published on Arshake on July 18,2017.

It could be asked whether the deity protecting this overpowering toponymy of exhibition places is Baudelaire, Proust, or Benjamin: poet, storyteller or philosopher, in each case a travelling subject at the mercy of his obsession for places and place names. So visitors of documenta14 cross Kassel from north to south, from Nordstadtpark to Kunsthochschule, under the weight of the incomplete nature of the landscape (Athens is far away…), condemned to have to find meaning everywhere. “Nomadic and performative, working as a stateless heterotopia by means of multiplication and displacement…”: words that appear to clarify the status of visitors to documenta14, but that in reality define The Parliament of Bodies, a collective of people and associations that, through public discussions and events in different places in Kassel and Athens, during the showing of documenta14, are busy sensitising the public to the themes of antifascism, transfeminism and anti-racism. A comprehensive presentation of this programme is included in the central pages of the Kassel Map Booklet.

The Map Booklet that functions as guide to the visit/journey, being one of the most basic and concise of all Hand Books published in the last editions of documenta, is a 112-page pocket book, inexpensive, easy to use as reference and to keep in one’s pocket. Five maps summarise the possible routes to take from one of the 35 exhibition venues to another, and include the event dates and timings for all 7 film programmes, plus an intense series of radio shows. The Aneducation programme is inspired by the ancient philosophy schools, and related to debates and conferences on the relationship between “art, education, and the aesthetics of human togetherness”.

At the back of the Map Booklet, the artists are listed in a concise Checklist: name and surname, place of birth and date of birth / death; works exhibited include the title, material, size and place where the work is exhibited. There are no notes to explain the presence of the exhibiting artists or any other details about the work.

The Map Booklet primarily lists and briefly introduces all the exhibition venues, offering a historical and architectural profile, explaining why a particular place has been included in the exhibition route and, in some cases, examining the relationship between the place and the works on display there. This is all done in a way that is both succinct, and, some may say, rushed (a hastiness that may even have been interpreted as superficial or careless by some). There is little doubt, however, that with its indispensable maps and the emphasis placed on the complete cultural ‘occupation’ of the urban space, the Map Booklet is the real catalogue for documenta14. It is in the Map Booklet, in fact, that all the documenta14 places are tied to the different themes that led to the grouping of works, and the topography of the exhibition is revealed to be a topic of the curatorial rhetoric, where the mapping of themes overlaps with the urban map.

These are just a few examples: the main Kassel-Wilhelmshohe train station is reinterpreted as a local Acropolis where one can enjoy the view of the city of Kassel, together with the video triptych by David Lamelas, presenting live coverage of the Greek and German Parliaments; the Grimmwelt, a museum dedicated to the Grimm brothers, becomes the ideal place for a group of works that see themselves as critical and negative constructions of repressive, racist and patriarchal narratives (Roee Rosen, Bruno Schulz, Tom Seidmann-Freud, Asja Lacis) or examine questions that are more strictly linguistic (Susan Hiller); the Museum Für Sepulkralkultur gathers together works that are centred on the human body in its most recent and now acquired cultural meanings (Prinz Gholam, Terre Thaemlitz); in the main post office’s enormous empty warehouse, the works exhibited fabricate a discourse on History as a field of control, transmission and crossroad for information and cultural values (Ross Birrell, Beatriz Gonzalez, Daniel Garcia Andujar).

Does it seem as if the discourse/route might be too didactic and obvious? I wouldn’t know. Undoubtedly it is an atlas of representative and necessarily contemporary topics. The location, the topos, the type. (And speaking of ‘catalogue of types’, one of the films featured in the programme is Carmelo Bene’s Don Giovanni…)

… to be continued …


Pasquale Polidori is a multimedia and multidisciplinary artist and philosopher and an experimenter with every medium (technological and otherwise) which might extend his aesthetic practise – centred particularly around language -, Polidori embarks on the narration of a journey that starts with his visit to the exhibition and continues in a more intimistic sphere, where he reflects on the universal themes that revolve around art as a whole, and around his own way of occupying space, of reaching audiences through institutional channels (or of being kept away from them).
Documenta 14. Location and Topos. Part I., Arshake, July 18,2017

Documenta 14, curated by Adam Szymczyk with a team of about 18 curators, 10.06-1709.2017, Kassel, Germania (and Athens, until July 16,2017)

Images: (cover 1) Kassel, Former Underground Train Station (kulturbahnhof), Documenta 14, Kassel 2017 (2) Maria Eichhorn, «Rose Valland Institute», Documenta 14, Kassel 2017 (3) Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens, «Free Sidewalk Sex Clinic», collective action, 2017 june (4) Fridericianum, The Parliament of Bodies, Documenta 14, Kassel 2017 (5) Kassel, Lutherplatz, Documenta 14, Kassel 2017

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