almost a diary, compulsory reading

Art & Life Documented (for the 11th time)

Dokumenta 11 logoYesterday I visited “Documenta11“, one of the most important exhibitions of modern art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. As the suffix 11 indicates, this is the eleventh of such exhibitions, whose broad aim is to provide either a thematic or temporal survey of modern art and artists.

I am by no means a qualified art critic and not usually interested in mostly pseudo intellectual debates about modern art. So all I can present is my opinion and so please remember – de gustibus non disputandum est.

Well. I went to D.9 and dX in 1992 and 1997. In 1992 I was a) 17 and b) went there with about 50 people from my Gymnasium, so I only remember a huge video installation and a tower constructed from wood. My overall impression was that art had lost it completely. My impression of dX was pretty much the same, I thought it was mostly bullshit presented by pretentious and impolite pseudo intellectuals calling themselves artists (note to myself: public discussion about the definition of artist necessary). The one thing I really remember was a project to have visitors paint cubist pictures and publish them online. Oh, and yes, they had living pigs to show that, yes, life can be art, too. How enlightening.

All in all, it was so horrible I did not want to go until two weeks ago, when I met this American artist Scott (can’t remember his last name) in Berlin. Scott is predominantly painting viruses. He told me that this time, Documenta would be *really different*, exhibiting lots of stuff with a *real meaning”. So I decided to give Kassel another chance.

Today I am glad I did. Scott told the truth, most of the art exhibited does have a message. As the artistic director of D11, Okwui Enwezor, holds, the underlying theme is a cultural discourse – mostly concerned with global distributive justice and the fate of Africa.

After decades of exhibiting meaningless stuff branded “made by famous artist X”, the art exhibited in Kassel is now art which considers people, politics and society as worthy of consideration. But while I enjoyed this change in attitude, the documentary character of many exhibits will again have people ask “what is art?”

No doubt, it is more important to have people watch a documentary regarding the Hutu/Tutsi genocide than to discuss the artistic value of pigs being fed by art tourists. But the question remains – is that art?

I am not going to answer it. I don’t care, as long as I like it. And this time, for the first time, I did like the exhibition. So I will again plead “de gustibus non disputandum est” and leave the discussion to others.