We welcome guest blogger Alison Lasek:
Three days in and despite intense immersion it barely feels like we’ve scratched the surface of dOCUMENTA. I’ll admit it’s been a bit of a whirlwind so far. The amount to see and engage with here has many art-fans like myself feeling dizzy, overwhelmed, inspired and exhausted. Ticks on the map acting as a simple reminder of exceptional work that shouldn’t be forgotten, with the list growing daily. Its art that opens up your perspective on what being human means. That breaks down the distance you might feel when watching world events on the news. That makes you realise the importance of love and collaboration.
I was planning to stop and write this blog post about art seen yesterday, to make the task slightly more manageable, but after experiencing Tino Sehgal’s work this morning I’m definitely going to start here. Walking into a pitch black room it took quite some time for my eyes to adjust. I entered cautiously, confused and unsure of what was happening. Human voices echoed around the room. Each one created a different sound or beat that came together and formed a complex song that was somehow very danceable, in a tribal sort of way. Someone took my arm and led me further inside and as my eyes started to adjust I could see that there were about 15 people dancing to the acappella rhythms and responding to the movements and vocal ques of others around them. The power of the human voice was undeniable. In total darkness it didn’t take me long to lose all inhibitions and dance like crazy with other visitors and performers, unsure who was which. In darkness we are all the same. As the audience becomes a key part of this improvised collaborative piece you get the feeling that the experience of it will be different for anyone who visits. I left on a total high, completely energised.
Besides the traditional venues in Kassel, dOCUMENTA takes place in a number of other historical and cultural spaces across the city including the Hauptbahnhof. Once Kassel’s main train station Hauptbahnhof is now only used for local transport, and is a site containing some incredible works including a stand out audio/video piece from Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. With an iphone and headphones I was guided around the station by the moving image and voice of Cardiff. Holding the iphone in such a way that in my view was both the Hauptbahnhof shown on the video, and the actual station in the moment when I took the tour. Two realities became hard to distinguish when moments in the video uncannily matched up with what was happening around me, like seeing the same train on track 13 where Cardiff explained the Jewish people were taken from Kassel to Auschwitz or looking up at the clock and noticing that it was 4.10pm both in reality and in the video. Suddenly I didn’t feel so far removed from the history of Kassel. There was a moment in the tour when I was guided into an emergency exit stairwell and while standing there alone the screen went blank. As Cardiff expressed, “no matter how much we love someone and hold them close to us we’ll always be a completely separate person” I experienced this strange feeling of connectivity to all humanity which transcended time and space. In one word – Epic!
The confusion of realities I experienced in the Cardiff, Bures Miller piece were further investigated in a work by Rabih Mroué. In a video lecture the artist examined footage found on youtube from the Syrian Revolution where victims had captured his/her own death on a mobile phone. When looking at reality through the videocamera on a smart phone it takes on the characteristics of a film, where bullets will stay within the confines of the screen. This was a way of explaining why there was no struggle or the cameras were never turned away from the event. Flip books created from the youtube videos could be viewed alongside actual sound from the footage. Turning the pages and seeing the assassinator shoot brought me so close to the event. Blue ink pads underneath the flip books put ink onto my fingers which stayed with me long after.
Needless to say I’ve been completely blown away by the art here at dOCUMENTA so far. Many lines can be drawn between works that increase the relevance and urgency of each. Stuart Ringholt’s anger management workshops, which I was lucky enough to participate in, have a sense of great importance to the event. The intense feelings that are aroused by experiencing works such as Rabih Mroué’s so deeply don’t leave us feeling completely hopeless when there are works like Stuart Ringholt’s or Tino Sehgal’s to offer solutions. As Stuart taught us it’s much easier to be loving than be angry.
In the workshop anger was released to hard techno music. The workshops took place in the centre of the Neue Galerie in a purpose built white box without a roof. It felt like a completely private space but I realised afterwards that the entire gallery space would have been disrupted by our intense shouting. Once any anger I was harboring was released I partnered with a local lady from Kassel, held her hands and told her I loved her and cared about her and that was sorry if I’d hurt her. We then hugged for three mins which felt like hugging every person in the world at once. I’ve honestly never hugged anyone that long and it definitely felt like the compression of one year’s worth of hugs into that short space of time. I still feel very attached to my partner who didn’t speak English and who’s name I still don’t know… but who gave the best hugs ever.
My soul has been shaken by dOCUMENTA 13. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, you’ve created something incredible. Looking forward to seeing what the next days hold.