re [-empyre-] from David Jhave Johnston, forward

Jhave wrote,

 the documenta conundrum concerns me at a curiosily personal level

on june 19th, i received an email (from someone i know nothing of) to
donate videos into an archive on 'bare life' ("take part in the
Documenta with us.")

yes, I got this in my mail too.

the project seems to be affiliated with a non-profit social services organizations and the only video online when i received the invite was a brief excerpt from a nursing home.... since i knew nothing of the org (except thru the seemingly auspicious lustre of documenta's name), i wrote back enquiring if i was to video some homeless folks (around where i live in vancouver's downtown east-side, there are 1,000 of folks on the streets round here who live a 'bare-life') would there b any funds to donate to a charity here or directly to participants who i filmed?...

Well, first off, the solicitation you got is from Thuringia, which is a different land (state) than that of documenta 12, which is in Hesse. That's a clue that it probably is something marginal or not in the mainstream of documenta 12.

reply said: no funds available

but they look fwd to receiving my

now at ethical levels its contentious problematic and just
down right weird to feel the weight of this great diffused call for
volunteers especially when that seems to involve video taping folks
with dementia (as in their first videos) or at risk street folks (as i
was thinking to do even before documenta popped up with this request)?

yes, very problematic.

so question for christine (since you have been so lucidly candid)

inspired u to give 4 months of work to documenta12?

beyond social capital and art for art's sake is there something i've missed ?

Definitely it's about social capital in part. Please see Melinda's comments just now for a bit of history:

The whole documenta project looked like a fantastic opportunity when
-empyre-s participation was first proposed to us by Alessandro Ludovico in
l. As has been said this whole model of free artist labour is
conflicted as it is at once stimulating and exciting and exhausting and
exploitative culturally and individually.

To expand on this a bit; we ( -empyre- moderating team) received a formal invitation from the organizers of the documenta 12 magazine project 2 years in advance. unlike the strange emails you and I have got from this weird nursing home thing, which you can probably guess are sketchy.

We considered it an opportunity to grow the list in ways it had not been able to before. We could build a stronger participatory network , in part by attracting new voices / writers to our list, by offering them a chance to engage in a critical discourse that would be widely read, nonlinear and interactive, international, and not limited to barriers of rhetoric that divide professional groups. A chance to build on our strengths. For me personally it was a chance to bring together artists and theorists whose work i find fascinating and to learn from them, simple as that. I was making a living via other work in commercial photography; was able to afford to take some time as part of my fine art practice to develop these critical themes via empyre; especially, I was working on a related "bare life" thematic in connection with a site study of vernacular memorials index.html. Melinda and the other moderators helped by being present to the list and programming during other months, so they helped a great deal too as sustaining supporters. Melinda also formally participated in the January 2007 discussion on education, as director of ANAT.

Like many objects of desire, documenta attracts a lot of strangeness and the solicitation you mention seems to be part of that weird buzz.

thanks for asking


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