Press Résumé: July – Monthly review on art reviews. // non-proof-read.
- NO SUCH THINGS GROW HERE
The surprisingly bold answers of art historian Bénédicte Savoy in an interview with Jörg Häntzschel for the SZ, on the the upcoming cultural district in Berlin, the Humboldt Forum (1), polarized opinions towards the opening of the Humboldt Forum, where the patrons tend to promise an experience of the world in its entirety.
„To begin with, there is the reconstruction of the Schloss. The architecture conveys that history is reversible. But when people ask for the return of stolen objects they are told that history cannot be reversed. It’s an irreconcilable contradiction that will always haunt the Humboldt Forum“,
mentions Savoy as one of the reasons why she has left the advisory board. Based on 300 years of collecting, the Humboldt Forum should accommodate its main purposes to the international society it is being build, where cultural appropriation needs to be urgently put into question. The interview puts provenance research as the revolutionary task within the vast museums landscape in Europe, starting with the ‚Preussischer Kulturbesitz‘.
This is another reason why the documenta 14 aspired to point at from the very beginning, in a broader sense of research field. Commissions like Maria Eichorn's Rose Valland Institute, as well as Sammy Baloji’s photographies at the Neue Galerie in Kassel, are example cases of dismantling the origins of what is known as cultural heritage. Revolutionary in its core, the documenta 14 has being justifiably criticized for the lack of orientation for the visitors through their curated constellations, and unfairly referred to as the worst Documenta ever. Cornelius Tittel wrote a warning for Die Welt (2):
„Just one more Documenta like this and it’s international reputation will be ruined“.
Tittel's nonsensitive argumentation is based on the clichés created by an irresponsible handling of facts and numbers, referring to the 34 million Euros that the documenta 14 has cost as the scandalous price of some ‚Street Folklore‘. He also mourns the lack of relevance that painting has gotten within the show. He ends anyhow pathetically, referring to his own nostalgia of missing his old heros like Matthew Barney or Albert Oehlen, but most of all: Taste!
Fortunately, not only for Adam Szymczyk, the documenta 14 is the vivid example of enabled new forms of participation, where the pedagogical exercise attached to global exhibitions does not respond to what people like Tittel expect of institutions. That is, the elitarian and eurocentristic reposition of a traditional art discourse above everything else. This documenta 14 goes ‚beyond artistic freedom' which is the name of their halfway point newsletter sent on July 27th, balancing the state of things in the middle of this long run competition during the so called Kunstsommer of 2017.
On my second visit to documenta 14 in Kassel, I could experience the exhibitions of the documenta 14 beyond the always nervously loaded previews days. It is impressive how many visitors walk through the venues led by members of the ‚Chorus‘. A slightly different kind of engagemnet of the espectator? Documenta 14 won’t led space for speculations nor spectacles, but a pure experience of an old dilemma: It's useless to take care about the arts if the world is not in it.
Aware of the irreconcilable conflicts, contradictions, and sheer miseries that came to define the moment and ways we live now, we wish to thank the public for taking part in Documenta 14 and we encourage your further participation in the weeks to come, and beyond. (Adam Szymczyk, Artistic Director)
Revolution is for Alexander Kluge only a matter of long-term resistance, and not a results-oriented, instant overcoming of a crisis. In his visual essay for the Kulturstiftung des Bundes journal (3), Kluge brings together Lenin, The Beatles and Odysseus to state that revolutions are nothing from the past, but a constant, a latent state that endures at least 800 years. So - Let it be!
The political art of recommencement‘: We humans can’t handle it. We bumble. Even though we belong to a history of humanity (the Humboldt-Forum hopefully will describe it more precisely) and to an evolution, which is full of unplanned projects of progress, of surprises and of creative changes-driven adaptions.
Elke Buhr characterized the documenta 14 as a justifiable and strong imposition (4). Her opinion for Monopol Magazin pretends to create a contrast to the majority of articles written on the show have to say, even though she can’t help staying firmly on the side of the European press: Buhr ends up defining documenta 14 as a manifestation of a transition, rather than granting it the role of the changing force within the current affairs of the arts.
To what extend could cultural and artistic practices contribute to undermine neoliberalism?,
is what Chantal Mouffe asks in an article published at the second issue of the Journal der Künste, quarterly magazine of the Academy of Arts in Berlin (5). To the fact there is no answer for this, the solution might rely on the future representatives of the self organized so called ‚multitude‘ (Antonio Negri) on ‚agonistic‘ public spaces (Mouffe), where hegemony can openly be assaulted. When will the postmodern institution change its course from being an entertainment temple to a real space of participation, will depend of how independent artists and cultural workers like curators take the critical significance of their profession back. Until then, the truth is one: We are all caught in our survival mode within the capitalist system of production.
‚No one in the art sector talks anymore about how the work is ‚made‘ or ‚created‘, but how it has been ‚produced‘.
Every person is a museum, a self-innovator: Kolja Reichert recommended in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (6) to visit the show Produktion. Made in Germany drei for exact the same reasons, I went and saw the shows at the Sprengel Museum, the Kestner Gesellschaft and the Kunstverein in Hannover. For those who missed contemporary art at the documenta 14, the one that handles the re-orientation of cognition and form through the digital, you will find it here, he writes.
This exhibition is at the head of our time, which can be a compliment and an accusation at once.
A similar critique falls down to the London based artists and architects collective Assemble and its show in Vienna. Gerhard Matzig even states that the future of architecture is ‚I‘, or rather ‚I, You, He, She, We, Everybody‘(7). This does not mean architecture as non-architecture or an anti-elite, anti-art Form. It means, and Matzig quotes Angelika Fitz here, rather‚ architectural work as social activation and co-produciton, as poetic space and ecological, economical sustainability.‘
A similar project, yet nothing of the arts, is the re-naturalization of the Seine, where citizens can swim for the first summertime in a century (8). The Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazine recommends also other rivers in Europe that are pretty much as enjoyable as the Isar, like the Aare, Elbe, Limmat or Rhein.
Similarly artificial as the Canal de la Villette: A palm tree has been placed in the middle of Odeonsplatz, and it seems useless to give it a context. It is just there, enjoying the sun as the rest of tourists and Bavarians. ‚No Such Things Grow Here‘ is the rhetorical comment of Susi Gelb’s project for the city of Munich. And it seems hard to find a context for itself. Evelyn Vogel’s only reference to art in the public space in SZ review (8) seems to be A Space Called Public‘, curated by Elgreem & Dragset, a certainly polemical project with hardly any visibility reached out of the city. Vogel forgets though that the city has been 'producing' with artists several installations for the squares in which Susi Gelb has now placed somewhat like exotic-natural lounges. From Nina Märkl bis Kino der Kunst, local artists get the squares of Lenbachplatz, Max-Joseph-Platz and Odeonsplatz to be temporary exhibition spaces. Vogel lazily quotes only the people involved with the project instead of creating a wider approach through simple questions, reproducing advertising comments like Kerstin Möller's, saying the installations may be an ‚urban insanity‘.
‚…Grow Here‘ looks pretty cool, yet what is the point to film an albino boa serpent in a pool, let an eagle fly with a drone on, or emulate colonial exploration gestures for the 21th century? Between Myths and Marketing, Susi Gelb has found a sort of playground for other purposes that remain invisible in the public sphere, like general anthropocentric reflections or the everlasting chasm between collective consciousness over nature’s state and climate change.
Rosa Windt wrote an essay for Kunstforum on monuments of monarchs and marketing strategies within urban developments (9). The main topic of the issue is 'public image'. Windt goes back to Frederic Jameson’s words on postmodern cultural production and economic systems, regarding “Park Fiction“ in Hamburg, a park and an art installation in St. Pauli, the famous red-light district of the wealthy port. It’s weirdly fake palm trees and grass surfaces evoke the materialization of participation of neighbors demanding another atmosphere for this domestic area.
„And so the conscious staging of subculture supports the profile of the brand “Hamburg“ in the purpose, to appear against the standardization of modern metropoles but without stopping the commercialization of the city itself, for what makes it both worth a visit and livable, is the charisma, essentially coined by it’s culture.“
The allegations against Okwui Enwezor’s management of Haus der Kunst in Munich transcended its tasteless and sometimes discriminatory standards in the article wrote by Susanne Hermanski and Kia Vahland for the SZ's page three (10). Page three, the most relevant spot on the newspaper, was strategically used on July 18th to remember the 80th anniversary of the opening of the building, using its fascist past, its restoration, its current financial deficiencies and the scandals around the scientologist that used to work there as the main themes, ignoring arbitrarily to discuss its exhibitions.
Hermanski and Vahland, properly known for their well-grounded writing, astonish me with the chosen claims - such as innominate statements from anonymous members of staff - as well as the instructive tone addressed to Enwezor, suggesting from this perspective, that Haus der Kunst has lost its charm since Chris Dercon left. This nostalgia should, once and for all, end. These pitiful complaints have been furthermore conducted by a peculiar selection of two pictures for the article, namely a portrait of Hitler and one of Enwezor, both standing in the same exhibition hall respectively. If this is not an arbitrary and unnecessary defamation - I don’t know what is.
Speaking of exotic places and museological nightmares: The museum for anthropology and contemporary art in Guayaquil (MAAC), struggles not to adapt to the government and to Rafael Correa’s populist legacy, has been commemorated once more, this time by the dramaturg and journalist Santiago Roldós in the Ecuadorian magazine Vistazo. The remembrance of what this museum has represented to Guayaquil in its first years, seems to be covered in the shade of years long uncertainty about the display of its modernist and contemporary art collection.
On July 31th, thirteen years ago, the new building of the Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo de Guayaquil was inaugurated under one clear prerogative: “A Museum is not a place, but a criterion“, as Gustavo Buntinx once said.
Today, the museum has turned into a space were events and exhibitions are randomly organized, losing any kind of relation to the sense of reality. The MAAC originally accomplished a topography in which identity and the public collection could be debated. That is today a thing of the past. Thirteen years seems just another anniversary to remember.