Jan Hoet made DOCUMENTA IX a sensuous experience
Man, his fate and emotions. Viewers could not be indif-ferent about DOCUMENTA IX, because it provided a work for every hope and every fear. Right when they entered the Museum Fridericianum, visitors were surrounded by ants. Peter Kogler had the walls of the entrance hall covered with a wallpaper filled with larger-than-life-sized ants. But the visitors had no time to shudder, because a repetitive moaning sound made by a man emanated from a built-in room. Bruce Nauman had installed an unsettling video work there. The Belgian museum director Jan Hoet pulled out all the stops for the ninth documenta, treating visitors to a wide and varied spectrum of art. Hoet sought to bring people to art via the body and via sensory impressions, and to make them experience and identify with art. The large sculpture on Friedrichsplatz was also meant for this purpose. The American Jonathan Borofsky, who had belonged to the Junge Wilde at the documenta ten years previously, had a steel pipe rise up from the floor on which a man strode up-wards. While Borofsky called his work “Man Walking to the Sky”, people in the city soon started calling it a “Himmels-stürmer”, thus alluding to a romantic idealist reaching for the sky. They regarded him as a symbol of ascent, although the artist himself repeatedly explained that he saw this man between an ascent and a fall. The public stuck to their ideas. What is more, the work be-came so popular that a donation campaign was launched to buy the sculpture. With the decision to transform the main railway station into a “Kulturbahnhof”, or “culture railway station”, a place was found for the “Himmels-stürmer”. The exhibition was also popular thanks to Jan Hoet. While the directors of previous documenta exhibitions showed up at the ex-hibition only occasionally, Jan Hoet lived with his DOCU-MENTA IX. Visitors met him in the rooms and ex-pe-rienc-ed him as an indefatigable guide through the exhibition. Whether it was the King of Belgium or visitors who simply wanted more information, Jan Hoet always eloquently assisted them. Many critics found the popular aspect uncanny. They thought the exhibition was geared too much to the art market and the art scene. They also sneered at the fact that two works paid tribute to Jan Hoet. Finally, they were annoyed be-cause the boundaries between art and art sponsoring were not recognizable. Jan Hoet had exhausted the possibilities of the documenta as an exhibition reflecting the current art scene in all its diversity, a further enhancement seeming impossible. DOCUMENTA IX was also the most expansive exhibition spatial-ly. In addition to the Fridericianum and the newly built documenta-Halle, Jan Hoet also had access to the Ottoneum, which had just been cleared for renovation, and business rooms. In addition, temporary structures could be erected in Karlsaue Park. But the undisputed highlight was the Neue Galerie. It was not completely cleared for the documenta as Hoet had wanted at first. Thus, Hoet invited artists to comment on the existing rooms and works with their own contributions.
Translation: Burke Barrett