Documenta 14 Kassel – Kunststadt
Any Caucasian, heterosexual individual, living in a wealthy country, would feel their conscience hanging heavy when confronted with the proposals of Documenta 14. “This Documenta is not as ‘light’ as the previous, in which one could feel the grandeur and the glamour entangled in a perspective made to convey peacefulness”, this was something that could be heard on serval remarks regarding this event, one that, for many, in addition to being hard to grasp and assimilate, causes pain, is far from comfortable, being raw in a clash against the current times.
In the city, the prevailing message is political, not only in several exhibitions, but also in the external messages inherent to political campaigns in the election period. To reflect on the art one is able to see on Documenta 14 means to reflect the world’s current state of affairs and, if the message reaches the wide audience which has visited Athens and Kassel over the last three months, perhaps we will witness some change. Despite not providing a solution, Documenta of Adam Szewczyk (artistic director) shows the real world, naked and with its guts hanging out. As Claire Bishop would say, this is “food for thought”.
The painful exhibitions are more than just simply displaying a work. “They mostly deal with the way people treat each other, the repression of minorities enforced by majorities. I felt guilty…”, Corinna Seeger has said, a design student at Kunsthochschule Kassel (University of Arts). In the last days, it almost became impossible to visit the several exhibitive spots, given how long the queues were, showing an ever-growing interest for contemporary art; even if people do it out of curiosity, it is worth it.
The proposals have thrived immensely throughout the city, which prepared itself to host the biggest events of contemporary art. There are 12 rooms – with a wide array of proposals: exhibitions, talks, movies – and several installations (check Umbigo #61), among them the iconic The Parthenon of Books of Marta Minujín, a central piece of the whole Documenta. A decisive symbol of resistance to all banished writers and their persecutors. To make it, more than 100.000 books, censored all over the world, were needed, and its basis is the episode which took place on Friedrichplatz in Kassel – the place of the installation – on May 19, 1933, where 2000 books were burned by the Nazi regime, in the so-called “Campaign against the Un-German Spirit”. The installation, made of donated books, was built as a replica of the Acropolis, symbolizing the ideal aesthetic and politicians of the first democracy. It was around it that the whole Documenta filled itself with meaning and significance and, on September 10, few days before the end, a performance took place, one that will remain as part of art history. A queue of people was created around the “Literary Parthenon”, encircling it, aiming to reach the several columns padded with books, with the intention of taking them home. A raucous which lasted for several hours – from 12 pm to 8 pm – in an act to return the forbidden books to the people, creating a new historic and political milestone.
With the end only a few days away, the sadness starts to be perceived in the inhabitants of Kassel, since the city changes itself with each new Documenta. Visitors from all over the world arrived, new shops and restaurants open their doors and everything becomes vibrant. “Before the 90s, this sort of euphoria was not witnessed, since people did not understand the works exhibited, they got angry and did want the Documenta here. Now the opposite happens, the city is proud of hosting the event, politicians included. The sense of well-being is everywhere and nowadays one can easily tease them”, Corinna said. Documenta and Kunsthochschule Kassel have become in the last years a strong part of the city’s identity. “The university fills Kassel with life, the students get together, open restaurants, galleries and create a series of cultural programs. The city currently has 25.000 students, when 10 years ago had 15.000”.
At the city’s entrance, there is a yellow sign that reiterates this idea: Documenta Stadt Kassel.
See you in 2022!