Arts: a Documenta listening to resistance

Arts: a Documenta listening to resistance

Every Documenta is an adventure. Every five years, the German city of Cassel, in Hesse, becomes the spokesperson for world creation. Artists invade the city, for an open-air exhibition that sets the tone for all the museums and art centers on the planet. This 15e edition will be marked with a white stone: favoring ethics over aesthetics, the fight over observation, Documenta is for the first time orchestrated by an extra-Western artistic direction (except for the American-Nigerian Okwui Enwezor in 2002).

It was the Indonesian collective ruangrupa, founded in Jakarta in 2000 and hitherto known only to experts on the Asian scene, which orchestrated the event by making its revolution. No more Eurocentrism, place for South-South dialogues. Rather than aligning the works, he endeavored to resonate with all sorts of resistance, social or political. So we dance there, we skate there, we print leaflets there, we play there, we campaign there: a hundred promises for a hundred days of exhibition.

Rather than the artist-star, ruangrupa favored the collective, deploying a constellation of projects according to the Indonesian principle of limbung, a community space for sharing harvests. Even if it means turning into a bit of a hubbub. Often, we no longer know who is sharing, or what: the avalanche effect of collectives inviting other collectives which in turn invite others is sometimes formidable. The Fridericianum Museum is teeming with sketches, with arrows, bubbles, diatribes, potatoes and dynamics, revealing the bowels of these cooperatives of all kinds. But rather than the process, we would have preferred to contemplate the result.


It is all the more unfortunate that the institution, on the very central Friedrichsplatz, is traditionally the beating heart of the five-year. Coming out of there, this Documenta is nonetheless an adventure, for the institution which is questioning itself like never before, and for the public: ruangrupa has taken over neighborhoods which have rarely seen the end of a fan’s nose. ‘art.

During his wanderings (two days minimum are recommended), the visitor will thus get lost between the tombs of the strange museum of sepulchral culture, before sniffing plants in a squat. He will have the choice to wander in the splendid Karlsaue park in search of a compost well hidden behind the pines, or to shudder in front of a rather gory Kenyan film. He will weave through a labyrinthine cellar haunted by sadomasochistic utensils. In the secrecy of a tunnel, he will be grabbed by the inverted pythia of Black Quantum Futurism, to whom he will have to entrust his vision of the future. In a wildly fifties hotel, he will discover a world in miniature.

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