The Exhibition As a Fifth Platform

Documenta11 drew a line under the European-Atlantic view of art
The documenta had been founded as a German exhibition, initially with a European perspective, and later on with a North Atlantic one. This did not change fundamentally when Harald Szeemann of Switzerland directed the documenta in 1972 or when the Dutchman Rudi Fuchs was at the helm in 1982. In 1992, when the Belgian Jan Hoet led the docu-menta, there was a certain opening of the exhibition, but not a change of perspective. Catherine David paved the way for a change of perspective in 1997, and it was finally and definitively brought about in 2002. The appointment of the African-American Okwui Enwezor as the documenta director expressed the avowed will to view the world’s art from a new perspective. After all, Enwezor had directed the Johannesburg Biennial in 1997. In ad-dition, he gathered a curatorial team around him that stood for a global approach. The preparatory phase of the documenta made it apparent how global the thinking of Enwezor and his team was. Starting on 15 March 2001, they staged discussion forums devoted to political, social and aesthetic issues in Vienna and Berlin, in New Delhi, St. Lucia and Lagos. Okwui Enwezor considered these four forums, which he called platforms, as part of the exhibition. As a result, the actual exhibition in Kassel was viewed as Platform 5. Many visitors had found documenta X too intellectual and theory-laden, and the discussion platforms made them fear Documenta11 would also be theoretical. But just as this appraisal was wrong for documenta X, the worries about Documenta11 were unfounded. Enwezor gave the exhibition a much more global orientation than Catherine David did. With the exception of a few artists, each documenta par-ticipant had his or her own ample space, arousing the impression in visitors that they were walking through a series of solo exhibitions. Thus the installative spaces of Louise Bourgeois, Georges Adeagbo, Mark Manders, Annette Messager and Allan Sekula left a lasting impression. There was so much space because the former Binding brewery was incorporated in the documenta. Documenta11 decisively contributed to heightening the acceptance of video works. The exhibition directors achiev-ed this by finding a distinct form of projection for each work. In the case of Kutlug Ataman, visitors moved between three projection surfaces suspended freely in space, on which film images were projected on the inside and outside. With Eija-Liisa Ahtila, visitors looked at a panorama of three giant projection walls. And the work of William Kentridge could be viewed as though one were at the cinema. Unlike the preceding exhibition, Documenta11 met with broad acceptance, although there were almost as many documentary works. The advantage of the exhibition was that it presented arguments calmly and resolutely using the means of art and at the same time enabled visitors to sensually experience all forms of art.

Translation: Burke Barrett

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