On October 6, 2014, a symposium titled “documenta 14, Kassel: Learning from Athens” was held at Kunsthochschule (Academy of Fine Arts) in Kassel, Germany, at the invitation of the academy. Organized by the team of documenta 14, and led by Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk, the symposium presented key members of the next documenta organization, as well as discussed essential ideas and thematic concerns of the exhibition project as a whole, scheduled to take place in 2017.
The city of Kassel has been the host of documenta since its inception in 1955. Likewise, over the past thirteen editions, documenta has served as host to many artists and cultural practitioners from around the globe. But, ultimately, this position of host—with all the privileges involved—appears to be no longer tenable and begs to be questioned, if only temporarily. To this end, Szymczyk introduced documenta 14’s planned twofold structure: In 2017, documenta 14 will establish a second site—Athens—bringing Kassel and the Greek capital onto equal footing as the two locations of the exhibition. Thus documenta’s undisputed position as host will be abandoned for another role, that of guest, in Athens.
Szymczyk noted that the main lines of thinking behind this move are manifold. They have to do with the current social and political situation both in Europe and globally, which motivates artistic action. Further, they indicate the need to embody in documenta 14 the palpable tension between the North and the South as it is reflected, articulated, and interpreted in contemporary cultural production. The challenge involves avoiding the traps of binary logic, while resonating with changing realities. To that end, instead of the singular spectacle, with its clearly designated location and temporal order, typical for great international exhibitions, documenta 14 will comprise two iterations set in dynamic balance in space and time.
The distance between Kassel and Athens will fundamentally alter the visitors’ experience of documenta 14. A feeling of loss and longing brought about by geographic and mental displacement created by two distant iterations of the exhibition might change the visitors’ perception of the show, working against the idea of rootedness and countering the widespread, normative assumption that such an exhibition must sustain the unity of action, place, and time. Challenging this state of things, documenta 14 will attempt to encompass a multitude of voices in, between, and beyond the two cities where it is situated, reaching beyond the European context from the vantage point of the Mediterranean metropolis, where Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia face each other. The diverse and diverging locations and socioeconomic circumstances of Kassel and Athens will come to bear on the very process of creation of the exhibitions, while inspiring and determining its individual works of art. For documenta 14, the participating artists will be invited to think and produce within the dynamic between these two cities.
The working schedule envisages documenta 14 to open in Athens in April 2017; it will then be inaugurated two months later in Kassel, on June 10. This will ensure that there will be a month of overlap, with two parts of the exhibition running in parallel. Moreover, though each iteration of the exhibition will be developed as an autonomous project, they will inform each other’s content while not repeating the form, with several distinctive venues in Athens, as in Kassel. Documenta 14 intends to learn from the city of Athens and its citizens, instead of parachuting a prepackaged event from Kassel into one or several picturesque venues. Rather than being merely a sum of two destinations, documenta 14 will unfold in a three-year-long process of learning and producing knowledge, while also engaging in the process of instituting spaces for public life in both locations. In this process, both cities’ communities will become involved, contributing to the project. Already, over the course of 2013 and 2014, several instructive meetings have taken place in Athens with a number of the city’s cultural producers who represented the diversity and contradictions of the Greek context today, beginning an ongoing discussion of collaboration with certain institutions there. In parallel, similar discussions have been led in Kassel.
Greece in 2014 is not an isolated case; it is emblematic of the fast-changing global situation, and it embodies the economic, political, social, and cultural dilemmas that Europe must face today—much as Kassel in 1955 embodied the need to deal with the trauma of destruction brought about by the Nazi regime and simultaneously served as a strategic location at the onset of the Cold War. If Athens exemplifies the current issues that extend beyond the proverbial notion of the “Greek Crisis,” these problems—which are as much European and global as they are Greek—remain unresolved. Yet they present us with an opportunity to open up a space of imagination, thinking, and action, instead of following the disempowering neoliberal setup that offers itself as (non)action implied in the (non)choice of austerity. While the specific timing and choice of locale of Kassel in 1955 were precisely the factors that allowed documenta to develop into a now half-century-old venture, those sociopolitical parameters that made documenta urgent are no longer in play. This sense of urgency, then, must be found elsewhere.
Szymczyk and his team concluded by noting that documenta 14—in its temporary displacement and doubling of perspectives—would enable those artistic strategies that reach toward the reality of a contemporary world, one understood as a place for a multitude made up of individuals, and not as a territory defined by hegemonic relationships that make it a place of suffering and misery for many. It is this world that will be addressed in the exhibition, the world larger than Germany or Greece.
documenta 14 is organized by Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk together with a team whose first members have now been announced:
Pierre Bal-Blanc, Curator; Marina Fokidis, Head of Artistic Office Athens; Hendrik Folkerts, Curator; Henriette Gallus, Head of Communications; Annie-Claire Geisinger, Coordinator Communications Office Athens; Quinn Latimer, Editor of Publications; Andrea Linnenkohl, Assistant to the Artistic Director; Hila Peleg, Curator; Christoph Platz, Head of Exhibition Department; Dieter Roelstraete, Curator; Fivos Sakalis, Press Officer/Greek Media; Katrin Sauerländer, Head of Publications; Monika Szewczyk, Curator; Katerina Tselou, Assistant to the Artistic Director.
The visual identity of documenta 14 will be changing over time and in response to the development of the project, in the process involving the design offices of Julia Born & Laurenz Brunner, Berlin;Mevis & Van Deursen, Amsterdam; Vier5, Paris & Kassel; and Ludovic Balland Typography Cabinet, Basel.
Pierre Bal-Blanc is an independent curator, director of Contemporary Art Center (CAC) Brétigny, and organizer of the “Phalanstère Project” (since 2003), a series of site-specific proposals that aim at a critical rethinking of the logic behind accumulation of art works. His exhibition sequences La Monnaie Vivante/Living Currency (CAC Brétigny/Micadanses, 2005–06; STUK, 2007; Tate Modern, 2008; Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Berlin Biennale, 2010), and Draft Score for an Exhibition (Le Plateau, Artissima, Secession, 2011; Index, 2012) negotiate current and historical analysis of the body and performance strategies in the visual arts. The three chapters of Reversibility (Frieze, 2008; CAC Brétigny, 2010; Peep-Hole, Milan, 2012) reflect on the consequences of the art object’s materiality and the role and shape of the cultural institution today. The Death of the Audience (Secession, 2009) reveals processes of emancipation and alienation occurring between the figures of the artist and the spectator. He is currently preparing Soleil politique, an exhibition for Museion in Bolzano, Italy.
Marina Fokidis is a curator and writer based in Athens. She is the founding and artistic director of Kunsthalle Athena, and founding and editorial director of the biannual arts and culture publication,South as a State of Mind. A curator of the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale for Contemporary Art (2011), she was the commissioner and curator of the Greek Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale (2003), and a cocurator of the 1st Tirana Biennial (2001). Since 2013, she has been a curator for exhibitions at Art Space Pythagorion, Schwarz Foundation. Her essay writing has appeared in various edited collections, in artist and exhibition catalogs, and in such international art magazines and publications as frieze, art-agenda, Artinfo, Flash Art, Art and Australia, and Manifesta Journal. She has contributed to the booksThe State and the Arts: Articulating Power and Subversion (2008), Empires, Ruins + Networks: The Transcultural Agenda in Art (2005), and Urban Ecology: Detroit and Beyond (2005), among others.
Hendrik Folkerts has been Curator of Performance, Film, and Discursive Programs at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam since 2010. He studied art history at the University of Amsterdam, specializing in contemporary art and theory, feminist practices, and performance. From 2009 to 2011, Folkerts was coordinator of the Curatorial Programme at de Appel arts centre in Amsterdam. His texts have been frequently published in journals and on platforms such as The Exhibitionist, Metropolis M, Art & the Public Sphere, Afterall Online, and Tubelight, and in publications of the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. Folkerts is guest editor of The Shadowfiles #3: On Curatorial Education (Amsterdam: de Appel arts centre, 2013) and coeditor of Facing Forward: Art & Theory from a Future Perspective(Amsterdam: AUP, forthcoming 2014).
Henriette Gallus studied literature and philosophy in Berlin. She worked as a literary agent at the Simon Literary Agency from 2004 to 2009, specializing in fiction. From 2009 to 2011, she was Head of Public Relations at the independent publishing house Blumenbar, where she was also involved in the work of the editorial office. She managed PR and worked as scout for new books for the publishing house Rogner & Bernhard until her appointment as Press Officer of dOCUMENTA (13) in 2011. She was Head of Communications and International Relations for Monday Begins on Saturday, the first edition of the Bergen Assembly in Norway in 2013. She was responsible for the international media for the 3rd edition of Berlin Documentary Forum held at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin in 2014, where she also managed the editorial releases and magazine publication for the project. She is a founding member and Communications Director of the international digital publishing endeavor Fiktion.
Annie-Claire Geisinger studied political science and culture management at Sciences Po, Paris. From 2008 to 2010, she worked at the Bureau des Arts Plastiques of the French Embassy in Berlin, where she organized the first two editions of the gallery exchange Berlin-Paris. Following this engagement, she worked on the communications for the opening of the newly created sister institution of the Centre Pompidou in Metz, France. Since relocating to Athens she has worked on various projects, and among other activities is responsible for communications at the Economou Collection.
Quinn Latimer is a poet, critic, and editor based in Basel. She is the author of Rumored Animals(2012); Sarah Lucas: Describe This Distance (2013); and Film as a Form of Writing: Quinn Latimer Talks to Akram Zaatari (2014). A regular contributor to Artforum and a contributing editor to frieze, her essays and poems appear in many artist monographs and critical anthologies. Her lectures and readings have also been held widely, including at Chisenhale Gallery, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Kunsthalle Zurich; and Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; and her work has been featured at the Serpentine Gallery, London; CRAC Alsace, France; the German Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale, Italy; and Qalandia International, Ramallah/Jerusalem. She is coeditor, with Adam Szymczyk, of Stories, Myths, Ironies, and Other Songs: Conceived, Directed, Edited, and Produced by M. Auder (2014); Paul Sietsema: Interviews on Films and Works (2012); and Olinka, or Where Movement Is Created (2013); and coeditor of No Core: Pamela Rosenkranz (2012). In 2012, she was a Pushcart Prize finalist and an Arts Writers Grant recipient through the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation program. Latimer studied at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University in New York, and teaches at Haute école d’art et de design (HEAD), Geneva.
Andrea Linnenkohl from 2008 to 2011 worked as curatorial assistant and curator at Kunsthalle Fridericianum under Director Rein Wolfs, proceeding a term in the team of René Block at the same museum in 2006. Her current employment with documenta 14 follows two prior engagements with the event: in 2007 she was assistant to the Technical Director for documenta 12, directed by Roger M. Buergel; in 2012, for the thirteenth edition directed by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, she was a project planner in the installation office. In 2013, she worked on the anniversary edition of the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival. Following exhibitions at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, she has realized her own curatorial projects such as the group exhibition this is not the end (2012/2013).
Hila Peleg is the founder and artistic director of the Berlin Documentary Forum, a biennial event initiated at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2010 devoted to the production and presentation of contemporary and historical documentary practices in an interdisciplinary context. Peleg has curated solo shows, large-scale group exhibitions, and interdisciplinary cultural events in public institutions across Europe, including KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp; Iniva, London; and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Peleg was cocurator of Manifesta 7 (Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, 2008), and is currently curator of the film program at the 10th Shanghai Biennale (2014). Her debut feature film A Crime Against Art (2007) was screened in many festivals worldwide, including Berlinale, Hot Docs, and CPH:DOX, and presented at institutions such as Centre Pompidou, New Museum, and ZKM. Her new film, Sign Space, will be released in 2015. Peleg studied photography and video at the University of Westminster, London, and art history at Goldsmiths College, London.
Christoph Platz is an art historian, project manager, and producer. He worked for Kunsthalle Münster, Westfälischer Kunstverein, and Sculpture Projects Muenster 07. In 2009 he received the Schloss Ringenberg curatorial grant and realized projects in Germany and the Netherlands. He has published the book Kunstverein im Umbruch (2011) on the post-war development of the Kunstverein in Germany, and has written on artists such as Franz Erhard Walther, Jeremy Deller, Prinz Gholam, Nedko Solakov, Sofia Hultén, and Wade Guyton. From 2010 to 2012 he worked in the Project Management department of dOCUMENTA (13), and as head of the Department from June 2012. He was Head of the Exhibition Department for the first edition of Bergen Assembly in Norway in 2013, and served as independent Strategic Advisor for projects such as the public art project Stadtkuratorin Hamburg or the Academy of the Arts of the World in Cologne.
Dieter Roelstraete is the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where he recently organized The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology (2013) and Simon Starling: Metamorphology (2014). From 2003 to 2011 he was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (MuHKA), where he organized large-scale group exhibitions as well as monographic shows, such as: Emotion Pictures (2005); Intertidal, a survey of contemporary art from Vancouver (2005); The Order of Things (2008); Liam Gillick and Lawrence Weiner: A Syntax of Dependency (2011); A Rua (The Street) (2011); Chantal Akerman: Too Far, Too Close (2012); and the collaborative projects Academy. Learning from Art (2006) and Kerry James Marshall: Paintings and Other Stuff (2013). From 2007 to 2011 he taught in de Appel’s curatorial training program in Amsterdam and at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Former editor of Afterall and cofounder of the journal F.R. DAVID, Roelstraete has published extensively on contemporary art and related philosophical issues in numerous catalogs and journals, including Artforum, e-flux journal, frieze, Mousse Magazine, and Texte zur Kunst.
Fivos Sakalis is a journalist and communication consultant who worked for several years in the area of consumer marketing before making a shift to work with art. He joined the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens as Press & PR Officer in 1998, where he remained until 2002. Since then, he has worked as a communication consultant at major Greek art institutions such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the Gagosian Gallery, both in Athens. From 2009 to 2011 he served as the Communication Director of Art-Athina, the International Contemporary Art Fair of Athens. Alongside these appointments, he also works as an independent art editor and has collaborated with many Greek and international publications. He is a member of AICA Hellas.
Katrin Sauerländer is an art historian and works as an editor and copyeditor for contemporary art publications. After completing her studies in Cologne, she worked in 1999 as a research assistant for theArt Worlds in Dialogue exhibition at Museum Ludwig, Cologne. From 2001 to 2003 she was responsible for press and publications at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, and from 2003 to 2006 she worked for the publishing house Revolver – Archiv für aktuelle Kunst in Frankfurt/Main. She has worked on numerous publications with various art institutions, artists, and publishers since 2007, and was Managing Editor for the 5th and 6th editions of the Berlin Biennale, in 2008 and 2010 respectively. From 2010 to 2012 she was Managing Editor for dOCUMENTA (13).
Monika Szewczyk is currently the Visual Arts Program Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, where she also lectures in the departments of Visual Arts and Art History. Her most recent exhibition at the Logan Center, Szalon, foregrounds art practices rooted in oral traditions and borderline aesthetic experiences. Previously she was Head of Publications at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (2008–11), Assistant Curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2004–07), and Exhibitions Coordinator at the University of British Columbia’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery Satellite Gallery in downtown Vancouver. She has taught at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (Vancouver), the Piet Zwart Institute (Rotterdam), and the Bergen Art Academy. Her writings have appeared in numerous catalogs as well as journals such as Afterall, Artforum, The Exhibitionist, and e-flux journal online.
Katerina Tselou studied literature and art history in Athens and continued her postgraduate studies in the theory of art at EHESS (École des hautes études en sciences sociales) in Paris. From 2007 to 2008 she worked as exhibition coordinator and international relations and film distribution manager at Argos, Centre for Art and Media in Brussels. From 2009 to 2013 she was curator of visual arts at the National Theatre of Greece, her work focusing on exploring the area between theater and the visual arts in the realm of interdisciplinary practices. She was cocurator and coordinator of the curatorial team for the 4th Athens Biennale in 2013. She has also organized projects as an independent curator in Greece, collaborating with such institutions as the European Film Festival, the School of Architecture of the University of Thessaly, and the Theatre of the South.
Photo: Team documenta 14, copyright Nils Klinger, 2014.