Lori Waxman, 60 wrd/min art critic, 2012
dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany
Photograph by Katy Hamer


Seeking out the art while in Kassel for dOCUMENTA (13) is not an easy task. It is both everywhere and nowhere, as big as a house and as obvious as the invisible. The exhibition is strewn throughout the city, which isn’t necessarily big, but if a non-German speaker, can become a bit more of a challenge. Regardless, there are many gems to discover along the way, whether you are fervently using the provided map or not. If you happen to have Internet service on your cell phone, it might be helpful to download the official dOCUMENTA (13) App,  dMAPS, for iPhone and smart phone usage, including a GPS.

Venturing from the center of the city to the Neue Galerie is a walkway, if one chooses to take, which runs parallel to the expansive Karlsaue Park. Along the way, peering into the distance, is Idea di pieta, 2003/2008/2010 by Giuseppe Penone, a sculpted tree made of bronze including a gray granite river stone high above in the cropped, leafless branches. The park is a perfect setting for the piece and it was the first to be installed as part of dOCUMENTA (13) on June 21st, 2010. Idea di pieta follows along the lines of Penone’s Arte Povera agenda, which largely includes a reference to nature, and the challenge of what usually involves bringing nature or the proposal of nature, indoors. Here, the sculpture both stands out as a lone man made object in a large grassy field, but also tries its best to look at home.

Also along the path bordering the park, is a work by Canadian born, Chicago based art critic Lori Waxman. Housed in a small, square blue structure, with a glass front, the piece is titled 60 wrd/min art critic. The piece promises what the title alludes to. Artists are invited to bring his or her original artwork and or images of their artwork review by Waxman. The critic will partake in her own performative gesture promising a 100 to 200 word review which will be made in a total of 25 minutes. The computer screen revealing her own creative/critical writing process will be shown in real-time, bring the process from behind closed doors into the public realm. During dOCUMENTA (13) Waxman will be available throughout the exhibition on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 1-6pm. The piece combines a sense of humor, reflecting the context in which it has been placed, while also tapping into the for power of the word and challenge of a response to immediacy in a time when the Internet spreads text and reviews within the art community and beyond like wild fire yet prove to still be an important marker in career development. What 60 wrd/min art critic does is offer an opportunity of access for those who may feel they are on the outside looking in, however, if the artist has arrived at dOCUMENTA (13) the wonder of the actual inaccessibility of a review and reaching a particular void in a community seems to fall short. Yet, maybe this is where the project crosses the line from function to art and performance.

Rosella Biscotti, Il Processo, 2010-2012, Installation view
dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany
Photograph by Katy Hamer

Finally, upon deftly locating and entering the Neue Galerie, one will be directed upstairs for dOCUMENTA (13) artworks and greeted first by Il Processo, 2010-2012, by Rosella Biscotti  a 6 hour audio loop with 9 sculptures in reinforced concrete and variable dimensions. The audio is in Italian however also as part of the piece, is a translator who is interpreting the Italian audio to English in real time. She sits calmly, in the adjacent room (along with the concrete sculptures) and recites the text in English as heard via headphones. The effect is an assimilation of abstraction, sculpture, realism and journalistic documentation. Combined with the sculptures, heavy objects that are completely nondescript, the juxtaposition of the audio recording, live translator and inanimate objects makes the piece quite compelling. Biscotti, born in 1978 in Molfetta, Italy now is based in Amsterdam. She started her research into this particular project in 2006, focusing on a courthouse which later was transformed from courthouse to a sports museum. Previously, the location hosted some of the most controversial trials of Italian history, including a trial against the extra-parliamentary group Autonomia Operaia, who were accused of being responsible for Italian terrorism in the 1970’s. Before the building underwent extensive renovations, Biscotti was able to cast architectural elements from the courtroom in concrete, and it is these sculptures which are part of the exhibition.  With Il Processo, the artist succeeds in reinventing a moment in history in a way of using both a live body (translator), recorded material, and sculptures that are a direct reference to the original location. She has made a monument from something that was only available in one format and now exists as a three-part whole.

Susan Hiller, “Die Gedanken sind frei (Thoughts are free)”, 2012
Installtion view, documents (13), Kassel, Germany
Photograph by Katy Hamer

Also in the Neue Galerie is the work of American born, London based artist Susan Hiller who has set up a jukebox with a working playlist. “Die Gedanken sind frei (Thoughts are free)” is a soundtrack that has been selected for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13). The location at the Neue Galerie is only one of five. Conceptually following the subjectivity of much of the work in dOCUMENTA (13) Hiller has chosen songs with specific themes coinciding with political history, language, memory, and the power of the individual. Sitting on the hard, black benches and putting on the large headphones, viewers are invited to listen or to also peruse the provided song book with the list of songs on the jukebox and lyrics. The selection is a fusion of time, place and culture utilizing songs that are from the past to current radio hits. This all somehow makes sense in the exhibition context as a whole. After walking all day, the opportunity to sit and listen to music is a welcomed moment of respite. I eagerly flipped through the large song book, looking for something I might want to add into the playlist. I chose “She Works Hard for the Money” the 1983 gem by Donna Summer. I walked up to the glowing jukebox and punched in the numbers, however my song was not the next selection. My initial thought was that as in a regular “non-art” jukebox, the cue sometimes gets backed up and one may never get to hear his or her song choice by the end of the evening.

From Susan Hiller in the dOCUMENTA (13) Guidebook [in excerpt]: “Human voices are the starting points for a number of my works, such as Monument (1980/81), Witness (2000), and the Last Silent Movie (2007). I’m interested in the unacknowledged, uncanny ghostliness of recorded sound that makes no distinction between the voices of people long dead and those of the living. In Die Gedanken sind frei, voices of dead singers and voices of living singers present themselves as technological ghosts, temporarily captured in heterogeneous collection of popular songs in a range of languages. Criticizing commemorating, mourning, celebrating, mocking, and narrating 100 different points of view, the songs represent and evoke the often unformulated and unheard opinions and experiences of many people…”  

Susan Hiller, Song Book (detail)
Part of Die Gedanken sind frei, 2012
Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany
Photograph by Katy Hamer
Coming across Hiller’s Die Gedanken sind frei, whether at the Neue Galerie or one of its other locations in Kassel offers a moment of pause that is well-deserved for all who have arrived wherever they may be in the extensive exhibition. In short, I was in a political revolt, looking for a lost love, aware of government nationalism, and reminded of the struggle for women’s rights. My time specific schedule allowed for a good half hour to listen to several songs, then put the headphones down, and decide upon my next plan of attack.
More soon.
dOCUMENTA (13), Day 2.75 a Fashion Show.