Ok, I admit it… I’m all ‘documented out’. Total documenta overload in fact. So, I’ll keep this short (to the delight of most people I’m sure), and focus merely on a few of the 18 artists at the Benaki Pireos venue of documenta 14, where the first person you will come across is Eva Braun – Hitler’s mistress, and later his wife of 40 hours. They started seeing each other in 1932, and married at midnight (April 28-29, 1945). Forty hours later, they both committed suicide.
Israeli artist Roee Rosen’s black-and-white installation ‘Live and Die as Eva Braun’ at the Benaki Pireos, puts us in Eva Braun’s brain, allowing us to live her life in the Fuhrerbunker in 1945, by relating her tale via a series of texts and images, and a dose of macabre humour at times. Hila Peleg in the documenta catalogue describes this work as: “Stringent on the textual level of the script, and delirious and hallucinatory on the painterly one, the work as a whole constitutes an elaborate, provocative meta-commentary on the politics of remembrance and identity formation, specifically the use and abuse of the Holocaust in present-day Israel.”
Nilima Sheikh’s enormous (305×183 cm) scrolls that hang from the ceiling take us to a world of oriental colour and design, tainted however by the struggles of the people of the Kashmir Valley. The work, entitled ‘Each night put Kashmir in you Dreams’, took 11 years to make (2003-2014), because of the intricate and time-consuming traditional techniques that the artist has incorporated into her practice.
Now let’s travel to Africa, to the ‘101 Works’ (1973-4) of Tshibumba Kanda Matulu (or TKM), which document Congolese history. TKM is known for his development of African genre painting, and this series of works (from Amsterdam’s National Museum van Wereldculturen), was originally commissioned by the German anthropologist Johannes Fabian. TKM effectively marries Western and Congolese artistic styles to create something altogether his own .
You will also find some Haitian spirits staring at you out of the paintings of artist, vodou priest and farmer Andre Pierre. This self-taught artist (1916-2005), would combine prayer and song while painting, thus turning his painting practice into a kind of religious ceremony or ritual. Pierre’s works depict lwa Haitian spirits of the Vodou pantheon hidden in the woods or in ceremonial scenes, peaking out of trees even. Spooky, but bewitching.
One thing is for sure, there’s a pluralistic and multicultural perspective on gods and spirits in documenta 14 in general.