Documenta, hosted in Kassel, Germany, every four or five years since 1955, announced yesterday that 2017’s documenta 14 will add a second host city: Athens. The mega-exhibition won’t abandon its Kassel home, but rather will run its signature 100 days in both locations.
Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk hopes this gesture will address “the current social and political situation both in Europe and globally, which motivates artistic action.” Rather than dislocate the art world institution, the move will recenter documenta within a contested European self image.
The timely announcement comes as European leaders meeting this month express increasingly critical positions toward Germany’s insistence on austerity within the Eurozone. Unseating Kassel from the throne of documenta meshes with the very real need for different perspectives and strategies in the European conversation.
But the financial relationship between Germany and Greece, subject to worldwide scrutiny following the latter’s 2010’s EU bailout, is not central to Szymczyk’s decision. The Kunsthalle Basel director told Art News that he was more interested in Athens as a Mediterranean portal: “It borders Turkey, it has an influx of migrants coming all over the place—Asia, Africa, and so forth. It’s a figure of a larger situation that Europe has to confront, and I hope it will confront with this exhibition.”
Team documenta 14; Photo: © Nils Klinger, 2014
The quinquennial’s most recent iterations also looked beyond Kassel for more global perspectives. For 2002’s Documenta11, Artistic Director Okwui Enwezor held a series of pre-exhibition "Platforms" in Vienna, Berlin, New Delhi, St Lucia, and Lagos in an attempt to unsettle documenta’s historically euro-centric position. 2012’s dOCUMENTA(13) presented exhibitions, seminars, and a retreat in Kabul, Afghanistan; Alexandria, Egypt; and Banff, Canada.
What does this shakeup mean for would-be-visitors? Will viewers who cannot attend both sites experience a sense of “loss and longing brought about by geographic and mental displacement,” as suggested by the documenta 14 team? Certainly the notoriously large exhibition doesn’t need a second location to foster fears of missing out: dOCUMENTA(13) occupied some 31 venues including the train station, museums, cinemas, and parks, and recent editions have presented more time-based material than visiting hours covered by a standard two-day ticket. Viewers will always miss something, but in 2017 perhaps what goes unseen will have conceptual meaning for attendees.
The announcement follows a symposium held Monday at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kassel titled “documenta 14, Kassel: Learning from Athens.” The event introduced Szymczyk’s documenta 14 team and some of the key themes and ideas expected under his direction. The exhibition is tentatively scheduled to open in Athens in April followed by the Kassel show in June. Each will run for 100 days, overlapping for one month.
(Image on top: Photo: Andrea Alessi)
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