Art Radar brings you highlights from documenta 14: “Learning from Athens”.
The much-anticipated documenta 14 opened to the public on 8 April 2017 in Athens. Art Radar takes a look at a few artists participating in the sprawling exhibition.
Since its inception in 1955, documenta has sought to make a statement about the status of art – its relevance to global politics and its current direction. Two editions have achieved this: the 5th edition, curated by the Swiss Harald Szeemann in 1972, which marked the conceptual art turn; and the 11th edition, curated by Okwui Enwezor in 2002, which questioned Eurocentrality in art and art historical discourse.
1. Rasheed Araeen
Rasheed Araeen is a London-based artist, activist, writer, editor and curator. Trained initially as a civil engineer in Karachi, Pakistan, Araeen moved to London in 1964, where apart from his artistic practice, he took on activist roles with organisations such as the Black Panthers and Artists for Democracy, and founded the critical journals, Black Phoenix, and most importantly, Third Text. Under colourful canopies inspired by the shamiana (a Pakistani traditional wedding tent), Araeen invites people to sit together and enjoy a meal based on recipes from around the Mediterranean, which have been cooked in collaboration with Organization Earth.
2. Banu Cennetoğlu
Housed in the peaceful Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, in the smart Kolonaki neighbourhood, Banu Cennetoğlu’s Gurbet’s Diary is made up of slabs of lithographic limestone, stacked on shelves like books. Each contains the text of a now-banned diary written between 1995 and 1997 by Gurbetelli Ersŭz, a Kurdish journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of Ozgŭr Gŭndem, a Turkish newspaper known for its coverage of the Turkish army and the Kurdish Worker’s Party. Born in Ankara in 1970 and currently based in Istanbul, Banu Cennetoğlu works with photography, installation and printed matter. Her research explores areas of socio-political uncertainty and documentation of such uncertainty as well as the questioning of the ability of the photographic medium to document.
The art collective iQhiya is a Johannesburg-based performance made up of young, black, female artists Asemahle Ntlonti, Bronwyn Katz, Buhlebezwe Siwani, Bonolo Kavula, Charity Matlhogonolo Kelapile, Lungiswa Gqunta, Pinky Mayeng, Sethembile Msezane, Sisipho Ngodwana, Thandiwe Msebenzi and Thuli Gamedze. At Documenta iQhiya’s present their first performance entitled Portrait (2016), which was inspired by a black-and-white photographic portrait of Gqunta’s mother and aunts in their twenties and seeks to be a depiction of the strength and struggle of black women. In the performance the artists stand “on the top of glass coke bottles in crates, using their real pain to evoke the pain of living within a system that objectifies them. They also stuffed doeks into glass bottles, reminiscent of the gasoline-soaked rags in Molotov cocktails, serving as a reminder of the role black women have played in resistance movements.”
4. Bouchra Khalili
Based between Berlin, Oslo and Paris, Bouchra Khalili explores the broad topics of migration and displacement through film, video, installation, photography and prints. The film in Documenta portrays three people from different backgrounds setting up a theatre company in Athens. Together with their audience, they seek to investigate the current state of Greece and Europe on the stage: after all, this has long been the place for collective art and civic discussion. The company is called The Tempest Society in homage to legendary Parisian theatre company Al Assifa (‘The Storm’ in Arabic). This company, made up of immigrants and students, came up with the idea of a ‘theatrical newspaper’ in the 1970s. Through their performances, they carried on a daily struggle against inequality and racism. Now, 40 years later, this forgotten heritage is re-emerging in Greece. The film, which premiers at Documenta, as Khalili writes, “is not a documentary or fiction but a hypothesis”.
5. Kettly Noël
Taking place at the Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Kettly Noël’s Zombification has been described in the curatorial text as
a ceaseless and absurd ballet of dehumanized bodies supplied by enigmatic grave diggers, Zombification undertakes the impossible task of reconciling Haitian surrealism with contemporary art.
In 2014, the artist played the character of crazy Zabou in Timbuktu, the film by Abderrahmane Sissako, although Kettly Noël is better known as a choreographer and contemporary dancer. She was attracted to dance early in her youth in Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, where she was born in 1968. Visitors to documenta 14 will perceive the zombies of voodoo culture in the movement Kettly Noël directs at them, as well as nonfolkloric figures responsible for current, real, globalised violence.
6. Arin Rungjang
Arin Rungjang lives and works in Thailand, and his artistic trajectories often interrogate and interpret the spatial condition of places in everyday life. His works trigger the dissolution of conventional barriers between private and public space. Rungjang works with household objects, incorporating them into the whole artistic process. His work spans across different media, focusing mainly on video and site-specific installations. His interests lie in the exploration of everyday life issues and experiences, such as memory, living space, history of family and individuals, and migration. His work And then there were none (Tomorrow we will become Thailand) is a one-channel video that weaves the stories of two sites of popular uprising, the Democracy Monument in Bangkok and the National Technical University in Athens, which became the site of a bloody uprising against the Junta in 1973.
7. Mounira Al Solh
The Lebanese-Dutch artist Mounira Al Solh presents an ongoing work “I Strongly Believe in Our Right to Be Frivolous” – a series of portraits and intervened photographs. The work explores the possibility of the photographic image to bear witness to the current crisis in Syria. The ongoing project aims to gather over 1000 portraits of Middle Eastern and North African migrants in the middle of citizenship application processes. The project also follows some of these individuals through the process of having their applications rejected due to stricter migration controls imposed on Syrians arriving to Europe from Lebanon, particularly. By focusing on the legal moment of transition from the status of refugee to citizen, Mounira Al Solh explores the bureaucratic, legal and existential limbo that many currently face. Describing the work’s resolution for artistic presentation, and noting a collaborative element to the production process, the artist writes:
The live drawings and interviews with the displaced individuals are noted on yellow legal paper, as well as various paper. Some portraits and the related narratives are being embroidered in collaboration with refugees and displaced women and men, thus creating groups that allow conversations and temporary jobs.
8. Wang Bing
Wang Bing first came to the attention of the global film community with Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, a nine-hour-long documentary undertaken over four years (1999–2003), an epic in both spirit and scale. He has since built a portfolio of a dozen feature-length films spanning documentary and fiction, as well as video and photographic works. The artist’s most recent work, which premiers at Documenta, is entitled 15 hours. The video work seeks to be a window into the lives of workers from one of the 18,000 factories that can be found in Shanghai.
- Cevdet Erek’s Turkey Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2017 – March 2017 – Turkey Pavilion releases plans for exhibition at the 57th Venice Biennale
- United Arab Emirates Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2017 announces artists – January 2017 – UAE Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2017 will feature five UAE-based contemporary artists
- Tehching Hsieh to represent Taiwan at Venice Biennale 2017 – July 2016 – the influential Taiwanese artist will represent his country at the 57th edition of the Biennale
- Chinese Maximalism: the multimedia work of Wang Jian at PIFO Gallery in Beijing – artist profile – November 2016 – Wang Jian’s work, considered part of Chinese Maximalism, encompasses photography, works on paper and large-scale oil paintings
- “Metamorphosis”: Chinese new media artist Miao Xiaochun at Klein Sun Gallery – in pictures – September 2016 – Klein Sun Gallery in New York showcases Chinese new media artist Miao Xiaochun’s recent painting and animation
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