documenta 14 Day 2 – Stark Contrasts to Learn to Unlearn
In my previous post, I mentioned that I could not clearly define how I feel about documenta14. Well, it was good that I did not give up on my hopes, because I had a great day yesterday exploring the exhibits at Neue Neue Galerie and the area around the Grimmwelt.
After two days of rain and freezing constantly (I was too excited about June in Europe (I thought it would already be really warm and ended up only bringing one thin jumper), Kassel finally presented itself in the sun.
My first stop was the Neue Neue Galerie North of the main Königsplatz. When I entered, I was immediately captivated by the huge mural Murriland by Gordon Hookey. Part of it is actually oil on canvas and is a flow of scenes of the history of Queensland, Australia. According to the artist, he could not limit himself to a small square, his artwork had to be big. He uses symbols such as bricks – to not only relate to land but to land that has been burnt, a reference to the Aboriginal people.
Right next to it, six paintings with colourful squares matching the small tables in front of them caught my eye. And guess whose work it was? Rasheed Araeen! I first heard about him in a lecture at the University of Vienna and since then I have fallen in love with his works. “The Reading Room” consists of the six paintings and tables in front and volumes of “Third Text”, an art publication. Unfortunately, I have not found any description of the work yet but it made me reflect on the way we define and discuss art. Sometimes simple things like colourful squares are dissected and given a meaning.
I passed by a curtain of reindeer skulls by Maret Anne Sara which is also connected to a big necklace made of skulls as well, and entered a room with the work “Heimat” by Ahlam Shibli. He juxtaposed pictures of people with various backgrounds but one common theme: they had to leave their home for economic or political reasons. He depicts Germans who were expelled from the Sudetenland or a wedding of a Turkish couple in Kassel. I really liked this work because it builds a bridge to current discussions across Europe about refugees or migrants who are “unwilling to integrate”. Shibli tries to counteract by showing similarities rather than applying an aggressive approach.
There were many more interesting works such as those by Bangkok-based artist Arin Rungjang or the curtain with a replica of Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass” by Beatriz González.
After the Neue Neue Galerie, I headed over to the Gießhaus and watched the video installation. I then headed towards the South towards the main train station – you can walk into a container and downstairs into a former train station. It was a creepy but cool at the same time. I then headed to Königsplatz in the centre with the obelisk by Olu Oguibe. On my way to the Hessisches Landesmuseum, I passed the Torwache which is covered and looks like a building hiding during war. One of my favourite pieces was the ceramics sculpture by Nevin Aladag reminding me of trips to Turkey.
The Weinberg-Terrassen offered not only a documenta14 exhibit by Nathan Pohio but also a beautiful view of Kassel.
I was not too touched by the documenta works at the Grimm world but decided to check out the museum about the Brothers Grimm, who have spent the majority of their lives in Kassel. If you come to Kassel, I highly recommend to visit this museum: it not only takes you back to your childhood with all the fairy tales but also gives you a totally different perspective of the two brothers. I did not know that they were the ones who started the German dictionary which is used until today.
After a quick visit to the Museum für Sepulkralskulptur, I walked along Schöne Aussicht towards the Orangerie in a huge park. It was such a beautiful place and I am not surprised that the Grimm brothers with all these forests in and around Kassel had been inspired to put together the German fairy tales. I really liked the vibe of the Orangerie: inside, there was a video installation with orthodox singing prayers. Outside, the band was playing Latin American music.
I ended my day with a dinner near the Parthenon of books – in the centre, there are so many streetfood stands for documenta and it is a lovely atmosphere to have dinner and drinks.
To sum up, my impressions of documenta 14 on my second there could not be more different compared to day 1. After feeling sad and even a bit angry, the works I saw on the second day were giving me a lot of food for thought. I would not say that it was because the topics themselves were “easier” or more positive. I think it was more the way how the artists occupied themselves with the topics. Maybe this extreme contrast was an intention of the documenta14 team to make us “learn to unlearn” to quote artistic director Adam Szcymczyk.
In light of this experience, I highly recommend you to visit Kassel at this year’s documenta14 – not only because of the artworks but also because of the overall experience and the strangers you will meet.
documenta 14 is currently open to accredited press and guests and will be open to the public from tomorrow, June 10th, 2017 onwards.