I've been struggling with what to say about documenta 12. It was pretty bad, actually, it was very bad and so as to explain it to you, I've been trying to work out, how it all went so wrong. The deadline's looming though and I've only got as far as a series of questions ...
According the guide 'documenta 12 is a space of experience ... a space of possibility ... the exhibition sees itself as a new and decidedly artificial context, which does not set works in relation to each other informatively or instructively but aesthetically, in order to allow them to shine forth in all their suchness.'
So, why no captions, whatsoever? Now I'm not generally a massive fan of the caption, but a total lack of information, especially when faced with some seriously esoteric, different and/or seemingly randomly placed works of art might have helped a little. Without any help, it just looked like crass curation; this is the room about cloth, Kerry James Marshall in a room with some 18th Century paintings depicting slavery ...
On that subject, why did Kerry James Marshall, John McCracken, Martha Rosler and Juan Davila make an appearance in pretty much every venue while some artists were represented with a single work? Why weren't they just given a mini-retrospective so at least I could see their respective bodies of work together?
And what about the installation? Unfathomable; for example, why in the dark and airless spaces of the Museum Fridericianum were the walls and ceilings painted salmon or dark green?
Why were some works, single works, crammed in the corner and marginalised of a large room dominated by someone else's work?
And what were those 'circles of enlightenment' all about?
Visually incoherent, erratic, curatorially conceited, damp and airless, it really was a depressing experience in many ways; if this is the most important art exhibition in the world it's a bit worrying. Robert Storr's Venice show was light, bright, airy, coherent and a blessing for art in comparison, ArtVehicle's Adrian Lee hasn't been to Kassel as of yet, but when he gets there I wonder whether he won't rather be back in his 'huge shed of trite war schlock' (see AV 18); yes, too much bad war art indeed but given the choice I'd take it.
So much for that then; a couple of things that despite it all still managed to shine through. Zoe Leonard's Analogue, 1998-2007 photographs of heaps of junk for sale in New York's franchise stores. Danika Dakic's El Dorado, 2007 a video made with young refugees in Kassel, shot in the city's Wallpaper Museum, Nedko Solokov's hilarious drawings Fears, 2007 Ricardo Basbaum's workshops and installation Would you like to participate in an artistic experience?, 1994-2007 and lastly Artur Zmijewski's film, Them, 2007 which tells the story of what happens during the meetings of four Polish groups each with radial and opposing political or religious points of view. Riveting, truthful, timely and perfectly balanced. Shame more of it wasn't like that really.