I am a voyager from another planet. I have just landed on your planet earth. I have, randomly, found myself in a place called Germany, the information I have picked up from the language spoken processed with my ultra-developed senses tells me this. My auto-permutation abilities, which allows me to sort information into hierarchies tells me I am at documentA (13) in Kassel. This sample of a micro-gathering of earthlings is my first experience of the planet earth.
Forgive me for asking, but are you earthlings in danger? Everywhere I go I receive messages of fear and see beautiful images of destruction. We once had a disaster in my little corner of the planet I come from. I was a child when it happened but I remember everybody radiating warnings and running, trying to get to a place safety. But here in Kassel I am confused. Your information is aesthetically pleasing and well ordered, you earthlings are not running or look scared, in fact you seem transfixed, but the message of all your well ordered information is one of destruction.
Enough about my fictional random visitor from another planet, but do you get my point. Successive documentA (13) venues I managed to visit had a fair few installations cluster around the theme of destruction. In the Fridericianum there were various pieces highlighting the almost clichéd issue of the environment. The Fridericianum set the tone for the documentA (13) installations spread throughout Kassel, as it should, it has been the centre piece of the five-yearly celebration of art since documentA’s inception. There was Amy Balkin’s Public Smog (2004 – ongoing) a particularly ambitious undertaking that included lobbying UNESCO to add the earth’s atmosphere to its World Heritage List and there was The Lost Frontier (1997-2005) by Llyn Foulkes (Image 1), to mention but a few. There was also reference made to the destruction brought on by war and international conflict, which was brought home to us in the tapestries by Hannah Ryggen.
The Ottoneum, is home to the Natural History Museum in Kassel and naturally the documentA (13) contributions here clusters around the subject of the earth and the environment. Most of the installations focused on the destruction happening in places as far flung (from Kassel) as the Indian Subcontinent and South America.
Thanks to Joseph Bueys’ 7000 oak documentA might forever be synonymous with the environment. However, since documentA (12) in 2007 other issues have reared their ugly heads in time for documentA (13) to engage with them. A glaring example is the global financial crisis. To this issue there was what could be described as a nod from the artist Mark Lombardi (1951 – 2000) in the Fridericianum. As far as I could see this was the sum total of documentA (13)’s contribution to the discussion on the global financial crisis. As there was a very strict restriction on how many people had access to the room that housed Lombardi’s BCCI, ICIC & FAB 1972-91 (4th version) (1996-2000) I doubt my fictional alien would have seen it, hence leaving it ignorant of the global financial crisis that seem to be engulfing the world and pushing the issue of the environment off the agenda. However, thank God for protestors and rebels. Not to be outdone by Wall Street in New York, Square Mile in London or the Eurobank in Frankfurt, Kassel had its very own “Occupy documentA” protestors (Image 2). Like documentA (13) did beautifully, according to my fictional alien, the “Occupy documentA” protestors confronted us with warnings and messages of doom. On the whole I came away thinking I hope that the magnitude of what documentA (13) is predicting, with beauty or confrontation, in its 100 days of art does not befall the earth in reality.