Documenta 13

As I mentioned a few posts back, we recently visited the documenta in Kassel. There were a lot of groovy people everywhere. And there was me, looking like I’d stumbled down from an Austrian mountain without brushing my hair. Which was pretty much true. Felix lasted about half an hour before I came to the conclusion that he does not appreciate modern art. Michael and I alternated after that, which worked much better. (Having a whole afternoon and evening to myself to wander around art exhibits was blissful.)

One of the nicest things about the exhibition was the way the exhibits interacted with the spaces in which they were housed. In the Orangerie, which normally functions as a science museum, there was an exhibition about the man who built the first computer, Konrad Zuse, which included a replica of one of his models, but also several of his futuristic paintings. It was interesting seeing the paintings as a visualisation of his thought process.

In the Fridericianum, the largest exhibition venue, there was an amazing video by Mariam Ghani shown on parallel screens, one shot in the Fridericianum, and one in a ruined palace in Kabul. The buildings are very similar, and the Fridericianum itself has been destroyed by fire. In one video, a woman dressed in black ghosted through the corridors, in the other, a woman in white. There was a beautiful narrative telling you the histories of the two buildings. The Fridericianum was built as a museum but also served as a library and a parlament, and burnt down during the second world war. The videos gave you the eery sense of being in the past and the future at once, and meditated upon the intricate histories of buildings – of change and loss and reconstruction. How in rebuilding, something is lost, and in not rebuilding, something is also lost. How public spaces hold collective memories.

I also really loved a room full of stone books. Some of them were replicas of books that had been destroyed in the fire in the Fridericianum.

In one of the galleries there was a stunning piece constructed of cutouts from Life Magazine on little sticks.

There was technology,

psychoanalysis,

and some very sexy plants.

Michael visited many of the smaller exhibition spaces around the city and said it was strange to see the town of his childhood so transformed.

As people were transformed, too, wandering through it.

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