ART / athens / documenta 14 / Uncategorized

Documenta 14: From indigo sheep and frog rivets, to the ‘resistance’

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DOCUMENTA 14 has tried in general to keep its events under wraps, although some have already made their way into the press, while press conferences have started to release certain nuggets of information (eg documenta 14’s collaboration with the Municipality of Athens and various venues around town, and its collaboration with the National Museum of Contemporary Arts). Furthermore, a small trickling of events has already been realised as a ‘prelude’ to the main affair, which will fill Athens with socio-politically inspired performances in particular.
Inside Story’ listed on their website some of the events we can look forward to, including Aboubakar Fofana’s 54 indigo sheep that will be grazing in the gardens of the Agricultural University and Ben Patterson’s audio installation (of frog sounds), at the Byzantine and Christian Museum’s gardens. Ibrahim Mahama’s sack sowing performance (photo above), on Syntagma Square has already been glimpsed by the public, while documenta 14’s 100,000 euro donation to the Tsarouchis Foundation (for necessary restoration work) was another unexpected ‘bonus’. Other events, eg at the Parko Eleftherias Centre and talks by artists (Akinbode Akinbiyi, Irena Haiduk) at the Athens School of Fine Arts have also been realised. Meanwhile in Kassel, other documenta events have been planned, such as Marta Minujin’s installation ‘The Parthenon of Books’, the presentation of a library of books looted by the Nazis (part of the Rose Valland Institute’s art project), but also the hosting of a large chunk of Athens’ EMST collection at Kassel’s Fredericianum.

Akinbode Akinbiyi

Akinbode Akinbiyi2

However, many have been suspicious of the whole documenta 14 conjuncture, feeling that it is yet another branch of the ‘German neocolonialism’ that has gripped crisis-ridden Greece. Others, have analysed why not much fuss has been made about documenta 14 so far, and why the ‘red carpet’ hasn’t been laid out for this event (see Cathryn Drake’s article in ‘artnet’), turning to a socio-political analysis of the country for some answers.
Personally, I would like to point out two reasons as to why there hasn’t been too much fuss about documenta 14 so far: firstly, obviously because of the organisers’ secrecy, which means that not much information about the main event has been released in the first place. They have certainly done a good job not to ‘publicize’, and this has been done for a reason: to create an even bigger effect/surprise on April 8, when documenta 14 will be officially inaugurated. Because above all, this kind of contemporary art, is an experience. And secondly, beyond the ‘German neocolonialism’ fear which has warped the minds of a certain segment of the Greek populace, making them form a ‘cultural resistance’ of sorts, I fear that the rest of the public’s general ignorance, disinterest and skepticism about the ways of cutting-edge contemporary art are also to blame.
In terms of an interest in art (let alone contemporary art), Greece’s general population could be compared to that of a fried egg (fried from the crisis no doubt): the egg yolk is small, and filled with the cultural elite, which is surrounded by a much larger part of the population that has absolutely no interest in art whatsoever (the egg white). Why? Because although the ancient Greeks were the founders of Western art and culture, and their art is revered around the world (plus stolen and looted) to this day, the contemporary Greeks in general, are lacking in art education and culture. Give them ‘bouzoukia’ and souvlaki instead.

Marta Minujin, The Parthenon of Books

On the other hand however, that ‘yolk’ of Greece is very concentrated, highly educated, rich in vitamin C (‘c’ standing for ‘culture/cultured’, but also for ‘collectors’ in this case), but also introvert. It is a great yolk: The art community of Greece is passionate about art, able and active, and continues to ‘do its thing’, no matter what the rest say – even in the crisis. Despite lack of funds, artists continue to create, despite low wages, museum directors and staff continue to curate. (Just look at the National Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent achievements.) Plus, collectors and their institutions continue to support the Greek and international art scene: Niarchos, Joannou, Daskalopoulos, Economou, Frissiras to name a few.
However art events don’t get that much publicity in the press (because the mainstream media isn’t that interested either). Private tv channels are even less interested. In fact, what kind of Greek culture does get publicity on private tv? Ancient Greek culture and popular Greek music culture.
Having said that, it should also be pointed out that the cultural programmes on Greek public television (especially with the Syriza government), have definitely improved, with much more focus also being placed on contemporary art and artists. And let us not forget the art programme ‘I epohi ton eikonon’ (‘The age of images’), which for many years has been exploring the art world of Greece and elsewhere (let’s hope it is continued). Documenta 14 has also been airing its ‘Keimena’ series of short films/documentaries on ERT2, on Mondays, at midnight.
Despite the grumbling (that documenta 14 is just the sugar on the pill called ‘crisis’), many are hoping that documenta 14 will actually give the contemporary Greek art scene the opportunity to get the attention it deserves. And this doesn’t mean that it’s all about how many Greek artists will be on the official documenta 14 programme of events, but also how many other Greek galleries and cultural institutions will be joining in the dialogue that documenta 14 is creating in Athens. And there are plenty that are rolling out the red carpet in that department, making sure that they are offering visitors (around 6000 of them are expected), the best art experience in Greece (see ‘Art Olympics (part 1) and ‘Art Olympics (part 2)’). Furthermore, let us not forget that part of the National Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection is also travelling to Kassel to be exhibited there as part of the documenta 14 events. This is also a great showcase for Greek art.

Adam Szymczyk

Around 160 artists in total will be taking part in documenta 14, in Athens. It was the event’s director’s idea (curator Adam Szymczyk, photo above), that documenta should be divided between two countries this time, thus bringing some of the famed quinquennial’s prestige to Athens, where it also hopes to learn a few things (hence the event’s working title ‘Learning from Athens’). Some of the artists that will be featuring in the Athens events are: Sanja Ivekovic, Rasheed Araeen (check out his cooking tent in Kotzia Square), Annie Vigier & Franck Apertet, Jani Christou, Joar Nango, Nevin Aladag, Manthia Diawara, Anton Kats, Marina Gioti, Mattin, Dafni Krazoudi, Danai Liodaki, Ioannis Sarris, Eleni Zervou, Kettly Noel, Alexandra Bachzetsis (performing at the Pireaus Municipal Theatre), Nikhil Chopra, Georgia Sagri, Anton Kats, Douglas Gordon.
Here are the main venues where documenta 14 events will be taking place (for a more indepth list of events, venues and artists, go to the documenta 14 website :
Athens Conservatoire; Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) on Pireos Street (“Nikos Kessanlis” Exhibition Hall); Benaki Museum; Megaron (The Athens Concert Hall); Parko Eleftherias, Athens Municipality Arts Center (Museum of Anti-dictatorial and Democratic Resistance); Agricultural University of Athens (AUA); Amerikis Square; Ancient Agora of Athens, Odeon of Agrippa; Archaeological Museum of Piraeus; Aristotle’s Lyceum; Attis; Avdi Square; Byzantine and Christian Museum (Garden); Dionysiou Areopagitou; Elpidos 13, Victoria Square; Epigraphic Museum; First Cemetery of Athens; Gennadius Library;
Greek Film Archive, “Tainiothiki”; Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery (Benaki Museum); Isadora & Raymond Duncan Dance Research Center; Kotzia Square; Museum of Islamic Art, Benaki Museum; Monument “Madra Blokou Kokkinias”; National Archaeological Museum; Numismatic Museum; Panathenaic Stadium; Hellenic Olympic Committee; Pedion tou Areos; Philopappos Hill, Pikionis Path and Pavilion; Piraeus Municipal Theater; “Polytechnion,” branch of the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)—Patission Street; Rizari Park; Romantso; a seaside location, close to Thymari; Stella Municipal Cinema; Stoa tou Vivliou; Syntagma Square; Temple of Olympian Zeus; Tositsa 5, Exarcheia; Trianon; Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation;

• Documenta 14 runs April 8–July 16. Open Tuesday–Sunday 11 am–9 pm
(opening hours of some venues may be different). The main venues in Athens are open until 11 pm on Thursdays. Public spaces are accessible 24 hours a day, unless otherwise stated.
• Opening Hours over Easter: April 14 & 15 (12–6); Closed April 16–17.

  • Photos (top to bottom): Ibrahim Mahama’s sack sowing performance; Akinbode Akinbiyi, and one of his photos ‘Broad Street, Lagos Island, Lagos c.a. 2002’; Marta Minujin’s ‘The Parthenon of Books’ as it was constructed in Buenos Aires; Adam Szymczyk.
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