[-empyre-] re: goodbye documenta

It is troubling that people who presumably work with art for a living
lack faith in the possibility of non-verbal expression.

I don't think it makes sense to turn to Buergel and Noack's written
statements to understand their curating strategy. At the press
conference in June they said they wanted the exhibition to speak for
itself, and because of that I have understood their texts to be
purposefully vague, and I have not taken them seriously. They wanted
viewers to focus on the art rather than seek answers in text, but
apparently for many people the urge to revert to the curator's
statement is so strong that in this case they could not shrug it off.

All too often, curators and writers reduce works of art to social or
political statements. Documenta 12 reminds us that there is more to it
than that by redirecting attention to form. I think the use of light,
color and other "special effects" were meant to tie them into a visual
texture, rather than give them a visual autonomy in which they can be
related to an idea or a text that exists outside of aesthetics (i.e.,
an expression of national identity or a political affiliation).

Some contributors to empyre have suggested that Buergel and Noack did
a disservice to the artists by decontextualizing them. But in my
experience, artists tend to chafe at the political or ethnic
explications assigned by curators and critics, claiming to be more
interested in form and images.

I live in Moscow, and I regularly see Dmitri Gutov, an artist whose
works were shown at both the Arsenale in Venice and Documenta 12.
"Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind" showed Gutov's paintings,
including an oil-on-canvas copy of a page from one of Marx's
manuscripts. Documenta featured iron sculptures, one of which was a
welded version of the same page. (Of course, both series of works had
imagery besides Marx manuscripts, but I don't think a detailed
description of each piece is necessary here.)

It was interesting to discus Documenta with Gutov because, as he
acknowledged himself, his outlook is similar to Buergel's: "When I see
a Buddhist stone garden, I think of Marx's manuscript," Gutov told me.
"When I see Marx's manuscript, I think of a rusty iron fence. When I
see an iron fence, I think of a Buddhist stone garden." This aesthetic
hypersensitivity is at the core of Documenta; it is a trait that
Documenta attempts to cultivate in the viewer.

Gutov characterized Documenta as "aestheticism without snobbery – a
rare combination," which seems very precise to me.

Also telling was Gutov's comparison of Storr and Buergel. "Storr
picked what he wanted," Gutov said. "He took all the paintings that
had to do with Marx and Lifshitz. But Buergel asked me what I wanted
to contribute."

I just recently signed up for the empyre list, after learning about it
through the Documenta magazines project. Initially I was excited for a
forum to discuss Documenta, but it has been disappointing, since no
one is willing to discuss to exhibition in a way that actually engages
the curators' ideas, and instead more eager to air personal vendettas.
The Second Life thread seems more neutral so I'm looking forward to
discussion on it.


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