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Betrachter- und Formschicksale in Kassel – Berichte von der documenta 12 Renée Green / Sebastian Egenhofer / Juliane Rebentisch / Christian Kravagna /Viktoria Schmidt-Linsenhoff / Oliver Marchart

Aue-Pavillon, documenta 12 Aue-Pavillon, documenta 12

Renée Green

Now it seems like a dream.
You try to recall it.

Amidst torrential rain you arrive at a train station. First you arrive in the airport in Frankfurt. Many hours before that you were in the Newark Airport. The day before that you were leaving from San Francisco Airport. You are there. In the train station you purchase an umbrella and wait inside the station until the rain subsides before getting a taxi. While getting into the taxi you notice a banner overhead. There is an image of a tan-complexioned man with strangely spaced multi-colored typography next to him. You think, “here we go, this must be a part of the show.” You see the streets pass and begin to recall where you are.

The taxi arrives at the Documenta Halle. Rain is still pouring. You wait under an eave while your partner contacts the staff person to get your lodging materials, registration packet and travel reimbursement. Inside you can see tables covered with magazines. There will be plenty of time to look at that, you tell yourself. You know you’ll be in Kassel for a week. You’ve been invited to serve a critical function. [1]

You wonder why you perceive many situations as dully repetitive. You associate this condition with waking life among humans. The encounters you have in myriad locations now seem to blend, as do the functions of these places: Museums, shopping malls, FNAC, worldwide temporarily used spaces for global exhibitions and cultural events, auto shows, conventions, shopping streets in European cities, airport terminals with museum-affiliated display cases, converted factory buildings that are now museums or art and architecture institutes, old school buildings that are now contemporary art museums, churches that are now clubs or artist’s studios, highrise luxury buildings that are also museums and gourmet supermarkets, houses with collections that are becoming museums, and art fairs with lectures and conferences like universities. Mart is the word you imagine. Mart = mass merchandise + art distribution circuits.

What informs you and causes you to long for something beyond these encounters? While moving through these multiple terrains you examine your sensations, feelings and thoughts. You wonder what gives you pleasure? Is pleasure an important factor in life? It’s difficult to remember when you are in the above-mentioned places. Are there new pleasures? Must one learn these? You wonder about the meaning of distinction. Can this have a meaning beyond referencing a market index? Does it relate to pleasure? Your dream continues.

As you move through the different buildings designated for display, questions come into your mind as you look and listen. An overall sensation of dimness and humidity is present. Lights are low, there are walls the color of melon. The primary impressions are that light, color, paper, textiles and shapes exist. You are primarily sensitized to moving images, yet the systems of arrangement and interconnection between screens and space are what hold your attention. What you notice is a curved room with multiple screens displaying different intensities of green, people, details and strategies that in concert form a broadcast sporting event. The other configuration you recall also involved multiple screens placed in a series of desks in the thoroughfare of the Halle. Your attention was caught by a performed monologue spoken with urgency about illegal confinement.

Questions form as you traverse the spaces: What can reach/touch us? Can we feel and think? Must we be bound and roped to feel? What is “we”, “us”, “I” or “you” any longer? What is the significance of any of these observations? How do these processes, conditions or things in these spaces matter? Beyond what is to be done, what can matter? What basis is there for understanding beyond the lowest common denominator, i.e., we are alive?

Upon awakening you finger the documents confirming that you were in Kassel. You notice a creepy tinge of mild irritation as you see images on the pages you flip through. Why that sensation? What did you desire? Your mind wanders back to the word “distinction” and while wondering how anything can endure beyond a moment you think of these words:

“Everything new is lost in something else new. Every illusion of being original disappears. The soul is cast down and turns its thoughts, with pain, albeit mixed with irony and a profound compassion, to those millions of feathered creatures, those innumerable agents of the mind, each of whom appears to himself to be the man [sic] of the moment, a free creator, the first mover, the possessor of an irrefragable certainty, a unique, distinctive source; and he who has spent his days in toil and who has used up his best moments in preserving his distinctiveness finds himself annihilated by the multitudes and swallowed up in the ever-growing swarms of those like himself.” [2]

When returning to your embeddedly militarized metropolis you find in a museum library a magazine from another place and time. This description catches your attention and you feel a mildly pleasurable sensation of recognition, but remind yourself that these sentiments are limited and considered obsolete. “There is no telling what the next Kassel Documenta would be. The thought is much too grim, and if we are to go by this year’s Documenta …” [3]



[1]“Why Reply?” is the title of a text preliminarily presented during the French journal Multitudes’ workshop at documenta 12’s Magazines Project. The workshop took place in Kassel, June 26 to June 28th, 2007. Other presenters were Maurizio Lazzarato, Yann Moulier Boutang, Éric Alliez, Giovanna Zapperi, Brian Holmes and Societé Realiste. A “counter-documenta” website was launched, where the text will be posted:
[2]Paul Valéry, “Remerciement à l’Académie française”, in: Œuvres, Paris 1971, vol. 1, p. 731. Note from Walter Benjamin, “Paul Valéry”, in: Selected Writings, 1931–1934, Cambridge, Mass 1999–2005, vol. 2, part 2, p. 532.
[3]Serge Durant, “The Third Kassel Documenta”, in: Signals (London), vol. 1, no. 2 (September 1964), p. 7.