Re: [-empyre-] Documenta reviews : forward from Patrick Deegan

I am not in Kassel (nor Beijing), so I thank those of you who are for sharing your experiences and thoughts... in an art world with so much going on I find myself increasingly looking to lists like empyre for user generated first hand accounts and impressions, and to online photo and video sites for "non official" visual information. (Anyone posting your pics?)

Something that struck me in Jenny's comment was the notion that at least one of the evaluative criteria that should be attended to is the degree to which the exhibition (or individual works) "challenged our norm[al] excpetions of the 'white cube'". Weiwei's work and the chairs sound impressive enough in this regard (at a distance of course), but the problem I'd really like to know more about relates to whether the exhibition represents a sort of "steady state" for current conceptual and postmodern art (and curatorial) practices - i.e. the primary and fully normal expectation is that white cube art and major fairs *should* challenge the expectations of the white cube. (Or challenge other modalities of representation - refer the "Disrupting Narratives" show at the Tate...) Thus, making "challenge" itself the conventional and possibly conservative norm of our current period. Of course, arguable, but if so I'd love to hear if any are the signs of escape from this conventionality. (Accusations of which I think I was reading in earlier posts...)

Patrick's point that the work is being read very differently in Beijing is of course interesting... I'd like to hear more comparison of the status of the "white cube problem" (which feels so completely stale if not totally clichà to me), to see if any possibilities for escape are implied in the clash of cultural perspectives. (Or better, just implying something else - even "escape" is highly loaded.) Patrick, please do make it a two way street of usefulness - I would for one would love to hear from you on the grounds above, both white cube, and how the distant event is being read in China as mediated by online discourse and the internet... or other...

Cheers all,

Christina McPhee wrote:

hi all, this post was received in rich text format, here forwarded in plain text. -cm

From: "Patrick W. Deegan" <>
Date: July 11, 2007 11:03:11 PM BDT
To: soft_skinned_space <>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Documenta reviews : forward from Christiane Paul

Jenny et al.,

I should clarify, lest anyone who is not familiar with my work believes that there is some goofy agenda, i solicited people's responses and feedback on Ai Weiwei's work because 1) i am currently not in Kassel (though i wish i could be there to see it first hand), 2) i am in China completing my fieldwork on contemporary Chinese art, 3) and the reaction here is different so i wanted to get a feeling as to what the reaction there might be like beyond the newswire. so any preoccupation really is mine; and any information you might share regarding this preoccupation is, in fact, very helpful to me. Thanks to everyone who has posted reviews from D12 on any of its aspects.

--Patrick W. Deegan
University of California, San Diego
Dept. of Art History
La Jolla, CA 92093

China Contact Information:
äåïåä 102600
Patrick W. Deegan
ææçåç: 138.1747.8317

China Contact Information (English):
China, Beijing 102600
Beijing University, Software School
Department of Digital Art
Patrick W. Deegan
mobile: (+86) 138.1747.8317

On Jul 12, 2007, at 24:30:0, Jenny Marketou wrote:

Hi Everyone,
A big thanks to Christina fro bringing up the
Documenta discussion. A big thanks to Christiane for
entering the conversation and bringing our attention
away form the obvious about the "chairs" and the
"Chinese" people. I  was in Kassel before and after
the opening of Documenta 12 and I spent several hours
going through the exhibitions. I found the  approach
of the curatorial team and their meticulous attention
to detail at times esoteric but very strong and I kind
of like it very much ! As Christiane points out it
raised effectively a lot of  questions about  the
boundaries between exhibition space and the work of
art  as well about the fluidity of boundaries in
general. Also,I liked the subtle political climate and
the lush visuality  in Neue Gallery where it
challenged our norms excpetions  of the "white cube".

I am also surprised why we are preoccupied with the
the "chairs" and the "Chinese guests" instead of
discussing  extremely effective works of art  such as
the video installation " Lovely Andrea " of Hito
Steyerl at Fridericianum where actually the audience
could sit on the "Chinese" chairs to view the video or
the stunning installation "Phantom Truck " and  "The
Radio " of Inigo Manglano-Ovalle at Documenta Halle
only a few among many other brilliant works the
majority of which have no connection with art market.

--- Christina McPhee <>

[this post was received in rich text format, so here
is forwarded in
plain text... -cm]

From: July 11, 2007 1:44:38 AM BDT

List: From:

As far as I understand, the Chinese people also were the 'couriers' who brought in the chairs from China. The confusion about permission to sit on them was created intentionally. The white lines of tape on the floor that 'fenced in' groups of chairs and some of the artworks, actually were a separate artwork that (quite effectively) raised questions about boundaries in the exhibition space. Christiane

-----Original Message----- From: on behalf of Brian Holmes Sent: Tue 7/10/2007 6:08 PM To: soft_skinned_space Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Documenta reviews

I saw groups of Chinese everywhere, and on my last
day, met the Chinese
interpreter with whom I had the pleasure of
conversation in the only
language we shared, German. We puzzled over why it
was such a poor

I sat in the chairs throughout the exhibition, along
with all the other
weary ones.

Christina McPhee wrote:

To be frank I didn't notice groups of Chinese
people.  I was there
the several preview days and left on the
afternoon of opening day.
I wll
be going back next week for the magazine

What was strange though were Wei Wei's
conglomerations of antique
Chinese chairs. Grouped elegantly and
anonymously in the midst of
what sort of seemed like installations of other
art. Boundaries
completely fluid, differentiation between
different 'works' seemingly
treated as unimportant.

Unfortunately throughout the Aue Pavilion and the
Neue Gallerie,
seemed to be no places to actually sit when
exhausted, to wait for
someone, etc.

THe Chinese chairs intensified an atmosphere of
uncanny oppression
-- so
few human-scaled accomodations (architecturally)
to the needs of
visitiors, so many strange gestures.

Could you sit on the chairs ? or not? no one


On Jul 10, 2007, at 9:45 AM, Patrick W. Deegan

for anyone else there witnessing D12, i would be
interested in
firsthand reactions, assessments, news, or lack
of any of these
regarding Ai Weiwei's "importation" of 1001
Chinese to Germany
for one
part of his ouevre there.
empyre forum

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