dOCUMENTA (13): Around the park
Aerial view of Karlsaue park in Kassel, taken from a helicopter. Part of Critical Art Ensemble's work A Public Misery Message: A Temporary Monument to Global Economic Inequality, Critical Art Ensemble (2012). Photo: Christy Lange
Monday morning and I’m en route to Basel from Zurich, almost recovered after three days of dOCUMENTA (13).
My colleagues Christy Lange, Dan Fox, Jennifer Allen and Jörg Heiser have already done a sterling job of filing reports from the main venues and smaller spaces around Kassel, so it falls to me to deal with Karlsaue. As I headed out on Friday morning, I immediately ran into Ryan Gander who cheerfully informed me that seeing all of the 50+ pieces dotted around the vast public park means walking some 17 miles. Foolishly not believing him, I set off.
For many of the works in Karlsaue, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev offered artists a prefab house to work with. Responses range from Pedro Reyes’s ‘sanatorium’ (offering art-themed counselling) and Raimundas Malašauskas and Marcos Lutyens’s hypnosis sessions, to mini solo presentations, by artists including Rosemarie Trockel and Joan Jonas. Elsewhere, there are various takes on public sculpture, from gimmicky pieces like Massimo Bartolini’s wave pool and Anri Sala’s perspectivally-skewed clock to a characteristically elegant collection of works by Carol Bove. Along the river side of the park, small solo presentations by Thea Djordjadze and Jimmy Durham were installed in sweltering greenhouses, while one of several jukeboxes by Susan Hiller could be found in a café.
Carol Bove, Flora’s Garden (2012)
Highlights for me included Pierre Huyghe’s beehive-headed (Maillol?) sculpture, installed in a swampy copse and invigilated by a pink-legged dog, in earshot of an immersive, atavistic sound piece by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. More difficult to locate is a shaded house crammed full of new and old work by the Brazilian septuagenarian Anna Maria Maiolino – though it’s well worth finding.
Anna Maria Maiolino
The pathway leading to Gareth Moore’s work in the park
Close by is the largest project in the park, a vast long-term work by Canadian artist Gareth Moore, who has apparently been living in Karlsaue for a year, constructing a whimsical commune. The entrance fee was one coin (of any currency), though phones and cameras had to be checked on the way in, so I unfortunately don’t have any photos. Once inside, a series of weaving paths lead to cutesy shacks, lean-toes, gardens and a shop, selling a small selection of wares, from socks woven from local wool to – incongruously – Mr Tom peanut bars and Fisherman’s Friends lozenges. Twee survivalism or a grandly scaled joke about hippie fascism? The jury was out, but it was a lovely place to while away an afternoon.
Omer Fast, Continuity (2012), DVD still
Of the several films shown in the park, Omer Fast’s new piece, a 40-minute work titled Continuity, stood out. It follows a young German soldier returning to his parents’ house after serving in Afghanistan; the action repeats three times, with the soldier played by a different actor in each version. According to the press materials, and to several people I spoke to about the film, this is the story of a family seeking to reconstruct their lost son’s return by hiring a series of male prostitutes. Certainly this implication is there: incest thrums throughout, like a threat; the father exploring the younger man’s mouth with his fingers, the mother climbing into his bed. But it seems to me that Continuity is more obviously involved with Fast’s enduring themes of repetition, trauma and the fraught ways in which conflict becomes news, fiction or documentary. Its ambition perhaps doesn’t match that of his previous film, 5,000 Feet is Best, first shown at the Venice Biennale last year, but it remains a significant work from one of the few artists to continue to deal with contemporary conflict in a sophisticated way.