You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


This has been my breakfast companion for several weeks. Documenta, the ultimate in international art exhibitions, occurs every five years in Kassel Germany. The extravaganza always produces a doorstopper catalog, usually several volumes of unreadable essays, and this chunky guidebook. The guidebook is what you are supposed to lug around with you at the actual exhibition, where you can spend several days visiting the different venues, taking in too much art in too little time. Forget about the films and lectures.

I have attended a couple of times in the past but decided to let this one slide. Reading reviews and now looking at the guidebook almost makes me wish I had made the trek, but then I remember years and trips to various huge international art expos where I wondered why I hadn't just stayed home , saved several thousand dollars, and bought the catalog. So I guess it all evens out in the end.

This year there are over 200 artists, and each gets a two-page spread in the guidebook. If I was consistent, I could read three artist entries per day at breakfast and make a complete tour in a little over three months. But I am not consistent. After a couple of months I am maybe halfway through. What stands out? Nothing, really. The projects tend to be so conceptual that the catalog entries do them little justice. If something seems interesting I have to google the artist and try to find out more. So far I have done that for the Cambodian photographer Vandy Rattana; Egyptian filmmaker Wael Shawky; Margaret Preston, an Australian painter born in 1875; and, the Slovakian artist Roman Ondak, whose ongoing Observations. a project invovling an archive of found images from Eastern European magazines has always seemed like something I would like.

Maybe in five years I will feel like going to Document 14.


Below: random images from Documenta 13

The selection of unreadable essays
mentioned above

Lara Favaretto's "Momentary Monument IV (Kassel)," 2012
A Spanish greyhound called Human with his front leg painted pink, by artist Pierre Huyghe. “Live things and inanimate things, made and not made,” reads Huyghe’s description of his materials
Marionette by filmmaker Wael Shawky

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