For his guerrilla art project, “Red Stars Lighten Europe,” CAI QING set up a table on Friedrichsplatz in front of the Fridericianum museum on the opening days.
A local marching band welcomed guests to the official opening of Documenta, a casual, folksy affair, held at the Rathaus (town hall).
A poster in a nightclub, satirizing Documenta director Christov-Bakargiev, while promoting a weekend of concerts.
The Fridericianum is traditionally the main site of Documenta, and this year, visitors were greeted by a strong wind blowing through the sparsely installed ground-floor galleries (courtesy of RYAN GANDER), and the smiles of Documenta staff workers, who had received training in “etiquette and civility” from artist ANA PRVACKI.
PRATCHYA PHINTHONG’s Sleeping Sickness (2012), in the vitrine, consisted of two dead tsetse flies (a fertile female and sterile male) lying in an embrace.
A highlight of the Fridericianum was SOPHEAP PICH’s installation of bamboo and burlap wall-sculptures, encased in wax-covered soil samples collected from around Cambodia.
A large gallery in the Fridericianum contained works from two members of the Papunya Tula Artists collective: WARLIMPIRRNGA TJAPALTJARRI’s paintings on the walls and DOREEN REID NAKAMARRA’s paintings on a wooden dais.
In the Zwehrentrum, which survived the Allies’ bombing of Kassel during World War II, there were several pieces about objects that have, or have not, survived destruction. EMILY JACIR’s series “Ex Libris” (2010–12) consists of photographs, taken with a cell phone, of Palestinian books (an estimated 6,000) that were looted by Israel in 1948, and are now kept in the National Library in West Jerusalem, in the “Abandoned Property” section.
Also showing in the Zwehrentrum, MICHAEL RAKOWITZ was one of the artists whose projects took him to Afghanistan. He worked with restorer Bert Praxenthaler and student stone carvers near the area of Bamiyan, in Hazara—home to the massive sixth-century CE Buddha statues that were razed by the Taliban in 2001—to recreate books from the Fridericianum library that were destroyed or lost during World War II bombings.
Another display case from MICHAEL RAKOWITZ’s project “What Dust Will Rise?” (2012), containing objects saved from the bombing of Kassel, a few fragments of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and small tablets from ancient Babylon.
At the neo-classical Neue Galerie, several galleries were given over to Documenta. Here, a visitor stands in front of FÜSUN ONUR’s Dance of the Crows (2012), an embroidered curtain showing birds circling over a village.
Canvases from GORDON BENNETT’s “Home Decor” (2010) series, which are enlarged versions of gouaches painted by Margaret Preston in the 1920s based on Aboriginal designs. The originals are seen on the left by the door. In the foreground, people attending STUART RINGHOLT’s “anger workshop,” held in a custom-built room in the middle of the space, had left their shoes outside.
STUART RINGHOLT, smiling, after finishing one of his “anger workshop” sessions, which feature loud house music, screaming at each other, then hugging and reconciliation.
At the Documenta Halle, a curving modern building, the Lebanese poet and painter ETEL ADNAN presented 38 paintings of Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, made between 1959–2010, as well as two tapestries.
ETEL ADNAN being interviewed in front of her paintings.
YAN LEI produced a painting a day for one Chinese calendar year (360 days) for his “Limited Art Project” (2011–12), and then displayed them to resemble an ersatz museum-storage. Each day, one of them will be covered over with car paint at a nearby Volkswagen factory.
At the far end of the Documenta Halle was NALINI MALANI’s installation of video projection and rotating drums with reverse-paintings, title “In Search of Vanished Blood” (2012), which together created an immersive shadow play.
The Orangerie (built circa 1700 as a summer palace) during a rain shower. The building houses a collection of scientific instruments, which served as a contextual backdrop to a number of the artists’ projects shown there.
The sun came out in time for TAREK ATOUI’s performance with four newly designed sound mixers, which respond both to his bodily movement and to a large archive of sampled sounds.
In the former Elisabeth Hospital building were works by Afghani artists, either living in Kabul or abroad. MOHSEN TARASHA, born in 1991 and a graduate of the Kabul Faculty of Fine Arts, filled vitrines around the top of the wall with 40 drawings, a selection of which are shown here.
In the vitrine are ceramic objects made by Afghani students of Barmak Akram; the walls were painted a purplish-brown by ZAINAB HAIDARY, on top of a design of floral motifs.
Berlin-based JEANNO GAUSSI hired a professional painter to create family portraits based on old photographs, for the series “Family Stories.” They were accompanied by metal plaques explaining the painter’s speculations about who the person in the picture is.
LIDA ABDUL’s two-channel video “What We Have Overlooked” (2011) depicts a man carrying a red flag as he walks into the middle of a lake outside of Kabul.
The doorway to a TINO SEHGAL piece in the back courtyard of the Grand City Hotel. Visitors are led around an almost pitch-black space by chanting, singing or talking performers. Occasionally the lights come on.
At the Ottoneum, a natural history museum, AMAR KANWAR’s installation “The Sovereign Forest” (2012) addressed the problem facing Indian farmers over land rights and seed rights in the eastern province of Odisha. Along with a new film, Kanwar displayed 266 varieties of native, organic rice seeds, and books with videos projected on their pages telling the stories of activists from the region.
CEVDET EREK’s “Room of Rhythms” (2012) occupied the empty top floor of a C&A department store. Various kinds of speakers positioned throughout the space created overlapping fields of percussive beats, which are each “sonic timelines.”
PAUL CHAN exhibited more than 600 of the 1,000-plus paintings from his “Volumes—inncompleteset” (2012) series, which are small gray-hued Chinese landscape paintings painted onto the covers of old books.
WARWICK THORTON’S video “Mother Courage and Her Children” (2012), which was screened in the back of this van, is based on Brecht’s 1939 play but stars an Aboriginal woman—selling paintings—and her son.
RENE GABRI and AYREEN ANATASI’s display of notebooks and collages detailing their meta-contemplation of what it means to participate in Documenta, to make work after the Arab Spring, etc. They don’t call it “Document”-a for nothing.
A mini-survey of WALID RAAD’s recent productions includes a shrunken architectural model of his “Atlas Group: 1989–2004” works, wall panels dedicated to forgotten Lebanese painters, and, in the background, new photographs of the “reflections” of objects in the Qatari royal family’s collection.
At the Staatstheater Kassel, RABIH MROUÉ performs a live version of “A Pixelated Revolution” (2012), about the use of cell phone cameras to record Syria’s civil conflict.
SONG DONG’s, “Doing Nothing Garden” (2010–12) is described as a “bonsai mountain,” made from rubble and trash, on the grass of the Karlsaue, an English-style park filled with outdoor pieces and small huts containing artworks.
ARAYA RASDJARMREARNSOOK’s “Village and Elsewhere: In This Circumstance the Sole Object of Attention Should Be the Treachery of the Moon” (2012), is a compound in which the artist is living for three weeks with dogs. Video monitors on the exterior show Bangkok street dogs. You can “donate for Dog-umenta” through the slot.
One of the Karlsaue mini-pavilions was filled with private drawings made by members of the Vietcong (many of whom produced official propaganda). Organized by DINH Q. LÊ, “Light and Belief: Voices and Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War” (2012) included interviews with some of the artists.
SHINRO OTAKE’s “Mon Cheri: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed” (2012) is custom-decorated hut based on a “snack bar” (a kind of local hostess bar in Japan) in Uwajima.
Inside, the snack bar was filled with a large scrapbook of the artists’ paintings, bicycle wheels and a collage-covered guitar and amplifier.
In the forest cabin, CAMP screened their film “The Boat Modes” (2012), made from video footage taken by sailors, about trade routes on the Indian Ocean.
HAEGUE YANG’s hanging venetian blinds in the train station. They were motorized, and programmed to periodically rise and lower in a brutalist, industrial form of choreography.
In a building on the south side of the Hauptbahnhof, SIMRYN GILL’s “Where to Draw the Line” (2012) was made of up seven densely typed texts.
BANI ABADI’s film “30 Degree Angle” (2012) tells the satirical story of an artist producing a large commission for a local politician.
A tent set up on the lawn of Friedrichsplatz. Seems like someone was making a curatorial proposal for the next edition of Documenta, in 2017.