documenta 12

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Documenta 12 logo
Atsuko Tanaka's Tokyo Work (1955) on Karlswiese in front of the orangery, reconstructed for documenta 12

The documenta 12 was the twelfth exhibition of the documenta , one of the world's most important exhibition series for contemporary art . It took place from June 16 to September 23, 2007 in Kassel . With 754,301 visitors, an increase of over 100,000 compared to its predecessor, Documenta11 , a new record was set. The artistic director was Roger M. Buergel , Ruth Noack acted as curator . Together they decided on the conception of the exhibition and the selection of participants. Over 500 works by more than 100 artists from all over the world were shown at several exhibition locations.


The exhibition organizers

Roger M. Buergel (artistic director documenta 12) (left), Ruth Noack (curator documenta 12) (right) and the symbol of documenta 12 (below)

In December 2003, an international selection committee proposed Roger-Martin Buergel to the board of directors of documenta und Museum Fridericianum Veranstaltungs-GmbH for election as artistic director of documenta 12. Buergel was not a well-known exhibition organizer or museum director at the time and is not said to have presented a clearly defined concept. “That is probably why the jury decided in favor of me in the end […] I was the only candidate not to mention any stage names in the interviews. That convinced them ” . Observers speculated that the decision by the Appeals Committee was also associated with a criticism of and turning away from the concepts of the previous documenta X ( Catherine David , 1997) and Documenta11 ( Okwui Enwezor , 2002). David's documenta X in particular had been considered by many to be theory-heavy.

Together with his wife, the art historian Ruth Noack, Buergel moved from Vienna to Kassel two years before the exhibition began. Noack was named as a curator in the publications of documenta 12 . In an interview in May 2007 she herself - an artistic director and a curator - traced this construction back to the documenta statutes. These would stipulate that only one person can take the lead "[...] otherwise it would have been a matter of course for Roger M. Buergel and me that we would do this together." Noack emphasized that both had selected work and were partly together, partly traveled alone. “Now we're building the exhibition together, [...] The biggest difference is in the public perception: It's a star system, and there is only one ladder. I don't think that's that bad. I can then concentrate on the content-related work and not so much on the area of ​​representation. [...] He has no problem with self-expression. Steering such a big ship doesn't interest me that much. I'm interested in doing an exhibition. "

In addition to Buergel and Noack, other people were more closely connected to the conception and appearance of the exhibition:


The conception of the exhibition, the selection of artists and works, reflected the view of the exhibition organizers both on the documenta institution and on the question of what is relevant contemporary art . Those responsible for documenta 12, Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack, spoke in their publications of documenta as a “space of opportunity” and emphasized the importance of the first documenta . In 1955 Arnold Bode succeeded "[...] to relate art, architecture and viewers and to establish the public." In connection with the terms contemporary art and current art, they emphasized that:

“[...] 'current' does not mean that the works were created yesterday. They must be meaningful to us today. Documenta 12 aims at historical lines of development in art as well as unexpected simultaneities. "

A large part of the exhibited works did not come from the 21st century, but from the last decades of the previous one. The oldest exhibit was a Persian miniature, made in the 14th century. The unknown artist assembled curved lines from the Chinese imagery into his Persian landscape. Such migrations of artistic elements and forms across time and cultural boundaries formed a focus of the exhibition concept of documenta 12. In this context, Buergel spoke of the “migration of form” . A retrospective approach to the exhibition was also evident in the design of its catalog, where the individual works were listed in strict chronological order, according to the year they were created. In the selection of artists - in addition to contemporary art - the 1950s to 1980s were a particular focus. Here Buergel and Noack not only relied on well-known names, but instead played a role whose importance and influence had not yet been sufficiently appreciated in the eyes of the exhibition organizers. A selection concept that drew a lot of criticism and was topped off by reviewers with comments such as “Resterampe der Kunstgeschichte” .

At around 50 percent, the proportion of women among the artists was higher than at any previous documenta. The proportion of artists from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe was comparatively high. Many of those invited by the exhibition organizers were little to unknown on the art market . As early as April 2007, Buergel confirmed in an interview that the artist selection was associated with a departure from the star system in art, but he also emphasized: “The interesting thing is that these people are stars in their region, in their local contexts. But the western perception is simply provincial. ” The fundamental decision of the exhibition organizers to look for a focus outside the established, was commented positively by many reviewers. The specific selection of artists and works, however, often received criticism.

The organizers of the exhibition viewed the documenta as an “educational institution”, but also included themselves in the group of those to be educated. In December 2005, Buergel wrote in connection with the formulation of the three leitmotifs of documenta 12 : “[...] after all, we are doing the exhibition to find out something. “In a documenta 12 publication from November 2006, in connection with the documenta 12 advisory board and the magazine project, a “ motto ”was explicitly addressed: “ We are making an exhibition in order to experience something ” . The first action of documenta 12, which started in 2006, can also be regarded as an attempt to learn something about people and art: Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? .

In their publications in advance of the exhibition, the exhibition organizers warned visitors that they would not be offered any easily understandable art at documenta 12, but at the same time consoled them about the fact that not everything can or must be understood:

“Visitors to documenta 12 are invited to deal with art that is seldom easy to understand, and more often not at all. The exhibition will challenge and encourage its audience to engage with the aesthetic experience and the discoveries associated with it. In documenta 12, visitors are encouraged to look at their own perceptual habits and to work on themselves. [...] That the pleasure and the challenge of visiting the exhibition lie beyond rational understanding is an experience that many visitors to previous documenta exhibitions have had. The exhibition organizers rely on the willingness of the public to engage in such an encounter - and on the power of art. "

In a newspaper interview shortly before the exhibition opened, Betty , a portrait painting by Gerhard Richter , was also addressed, which was hung between two abstract works by Lee Lozano in a room in the Fridericianum. When asked about the relationships between the works, Buergel and Noack spanned a wide range of interpretations from Russian Suprematism to Ulrike Meinhof . When asked by the interviewer: "Do you seriously believe that all of this is 'visually obvious' to the audience?" Noack replied:

“Of course the audience won't notice all of that. We have to live with that. Contemporary art needs dedication, years of dedication. You can't just take it with you under your arm. But: Even the experts will lack interpretive knowledge at our Documenta. Then everyone is almost on the same level again. But just if someone doesn't know something doesn't mean that they shouldn't look and get involved. "


As early as December 2005, Buergel formulated three “leitmotifs” , which he called a question, on which documenta 12 should orient itself.

Is modernity our antiquity? Asked about the current meaning of the concept of modernity .

"[...] After the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the same catastrophes that she set in motion) modernity seems to be in ruins and completely compromised [...] Nevertheless, the imagination of many people is deeply permeated by modern forms and visions And that means not only Bauhaus, but also concepts of modernity such as 'identity' or 'culture', which are an integral part of the current discussion. In short, it seems as if we are both outside and inside modernity. [...] "

What is bare life Meant the spectrum from physical vulnerability to ecstasy and its treatment in art. The concept of bare life can be found in the contemporary Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben , who in turn borrowed it from Walter Benjamin's On the Critique of Violence .

“[…] Bare life has an apocalyptic and unmistakably political dimension, which ends with torture and the concentration camp. However, it cannot be reduced to this apocalyptic aspect, because it also has a lyrical or even ecstatic side - a freedom for new and unexpected possibilities [...]. Sometimes art succeeds in making people forget the separation between painful submission and exultant liberation. [...] "

What to do? Aimed at conveying art and the importance of this process in the context of education . "What to do, says Zeus [...]" can already be found as a winged phrase in Friedrich Schiller. About a novel by Nikolai Gavrilowitsch Tschernyshevsky , “What to do?” Became the title of one of Lenin's major works .

“[...] The global process of cultural translation is reflected in art and its communication, which in turn offers the opportunity for an all-encompassing public debate. Building an audience means not only initiating learning processes, but actually creating a public. Today aesthetic education appears to be the only viable alternative to didactics and academicism on the one hand and commodity fetishism on the other. "

In a publication by documenta 12 in November 2006, the leitmotifs were classified as “Three questions for art and its audience” . The leitmotifs were now “central questions” which the artistic director “[…] in dealing with contemporary art imposed.” The exhibition organizers emphasized: “These questions will not find any direct answers in the exhibition, but they will find many mediated answers.”

It is difficult to assess what significance the leitmotifs ultimately had in the specific design of the exhibition. They fulfilled a function as a kind of basis for discussion for the documenta 12 magazine project . They also played a role as part of art education in the context of documenta 12 . Three audio guides were provided for the leitmotifs. In them, works of documenta 12 were explained in about 1-hour lectures from the point of view of the respective motif. Both the audio guides and the official guides through the exhibition (“art mediators”) often used the leitmotifs to establish connections and associations between individual works or to offer them to the listener.

Magazine project

Already during the preparatory phase of documenta 12, the leitmotifs formulated by the artistic director were discussed in more than 80 journals, magazines and online media worldwide within a magazine project led by Georg Schöllhammer . The documenta 12 summarized the debates led by the editorial offices. The result was the documenta 12 magazines , a total of three publications that functioned as the “magazine of magazines” . They were sold through bookstores, and should, the exhibition organizer, "serve [...] the readers and visitors to the documenta 12 for navigation." . However, the magazine project launched in the run-up to the exhibition also offered the exhibition organizers an additional opportunity to look out for topics, artists and works relevant to them.

documenta 12 advisory board

In the run-up to the exhibition, the documenta 12 advisory board was set up in Kassel . This consisted of around 40 people and has been meeting regularly since the beginning of 2006. With his help, the exhibition organizers wanted to incorporate local experiences from the fields of education, urban planning, the world of work, science, social work, political organizations, religion and culture as well as child and youth work into the design of documenta 12. They assigned the advisory board - as well as the magazine project (documenta 12 magazines) - to their motto "We make an exhibition to find out something" . What was meant was the attempt to “relate local knowledge in different parts of the world - and also the people who have it” .

Art education

During the preparation of the exhibition process for documenta 12, the exhibition organizers Roger Buergel and Ruth Noack emphasized the importance of art education. This is not an additional service, but "an integral part of the curatorial composition" . The makers emphasized “Like life, art has no meaning; Meaning must be created ” . And also: the audience is not just there, it has to be created. Art education thus assumed an important function in the contact with the public about art. The term "palm groves" was coined in advance in this context . As part of the exhibition architecture, these would be both places of contemplation and discussion.

The palm groves were understood as a metaphor and leitmotif. As visible places in the exhibition public, by means of which one saw how the public exchanged ideas about works of art. These places presented themselves as markings, many were furnished with chairs from an artistic contribution by Ai Wei Wei. An ironic installation in this regard was contributed by Gerald Rockenschaub. The then established name "Guides" was exchanged for art mediators - a term that seemed more appropriate in the discussion at the time and received theoretical support. Afterwards, national and international conferences and symposia dealt, discussed and published new forms of communication.

The labeling of the works within the exhibition usually only consisted of the artist name, the title and year of creation of the work, as well as information on the materiality. Further information, such as the nationality of the artist, was dispensed with in order, as Noack explained, to leave the viewer unbiased. This approach of the exhibition organizers was not understood by all visitors.

The catalog of documenta 12 was arranged chronologically according to the year of creation of the respective work. Every artist is represented there with at least one work. However, since many of them were present with several works at documenta 12, for a large part of the works no catalog texts exist. The respective texts came from different authors and differ greatly in style and quality. Only several weeks after the start of the exhibition were freely accessible catalogs displayed within the exhibition venues.

Documenta 12 offered the opportunity to use so-called audio guides in the form of mp3 files. The offer to borrow appropriate players was actively used, numerous visitors wandered through the exhibition equipped with earphones. Texts spoken by Buergel on the individual exhibition locations were offered. However, these guides only covered a relatively small section of the respective exhibition space in the building. In terms of content, her focus was less on factual background information on the works, rather the artistic director primarily offered the audience approaches to associations and connections between the individual works. In addition, three audio guides were provided on the leitmotifs of documenta 12 , which dealt with a few selected works at different exhibition locations against their background.


The budget for documenta 12 was originally 19 million euros. It was composed of the planned income from ticket and catalog sales, as well as subsidies from the public sector and from companies as sponsors. Public funds flowed from the state of Hesse , the city of Kassel and the Federal Cultural Foundation . The so-called "main sponsors" of documenta 12, who were named in publications including the company logo, were the automobile manufacturer Saab and the Sparkassen Finanzgruppe.

Most of the total budget of 19 million euros was earmarked for the exhibition infrastructure. Only one tenth, i.e. around 2 million euros, was available to the artistic director for the realization of his curatorial ideas. In this context, the financing of the Aue Pavilion building project initiated by Buergel at a cost of around 3.5 million euros caused speculation about a possible coverage gap from the end of 2006 . In April 2007, months after the start of construction, Buergel spoke in an interview that its financing was still not secured and said: “We are looking for forms of financing. But I can't wait until I have the money. It's like a film production: you start shooting before you have the money. ” He explained that he relies on private individuals as sponsors, members of a “ global bourgeoisie ” . In May 2007 Buergel finally declared the financing to be secured. A documenta circle of friends he set up would cover additional costs beyond the official budget.

public relation

In February 2006, the logo of documenta 12 was presented, a tally sheet showing the number twelve. It was designed by the Viennese graphic artist Martha Stutteregger. The documenta 12 poster campaign started at the end of April 2007. It was based on alienated images of flowers, created in the greenhouse of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe . Five different motifs were used in 70 cities in Germany. At the end of May 2007 a cinema trailer for documenta 12 was published. The 45-second spot showed pedestrians and their shadows. The recordings were an excerpt from a short film by the artist and filmmaker Mark Lewis from 2005 and were made in London's Financial District. The visual appearance as well as its own font was developed by the Vier5 design office .

Documenta 12 was officially opened on Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 10:00 am by the German Federal President, Horst Köhler. As early as the afternoon of June 13th, the exhibition was opened for accredited press representatives and all day on June 14th and 15th for the press and selected guests as part of a preview. On these days there was also the opportunity to meet the artists at their exhibited works and to talk to them. At the opening press conference on June 13, 2007 in the town hall of Kassels , 2700 journalists from all over the world were accredited. In a publication at the end of May 2007, the organizers of documenta 12 invited to "[...] a big festival for the citizens of the city and all those interested in documenta [...]" in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe on the eve of the official opening, June 15 . This instead of an "[...] exclusive cocktail reception [s] for invited guests [...]" - as the organizers write - expressing the bond with "[...] the city of Kassel and its people [...]."

Numerous critical remarks such as “Biennale-Unwesen” (Buergel) and “Performance Show (Noack) on other exhibitions of contemporary art have come down to us from the exhibition organizers Buergel and Noack . They emphasized again and again that documenta 12 should definitely be understood as an alternative here. However, this did not prevent the documenta und Museum Fridericianum Veranstaltungs-GmbH from joining the Grand Tour 2007 platform . There were also three other art exhibitions in the summer of 2007, the Skulptur.Projekte in Münster, the Biennale di Venezia and Art Basel . In fact, it was an attempt to market travel arrangements together; common curatorial or artistic approaches were not associated with it.

Exhibition architecture

Like the previous ones, documenta 12 used several buildings within Kassel as exhibition venues . This involved a total of six buildings from different times and with different architectural framework conditions. The exhibition organizers not only faced the question of design and lighting within these rooms, they also had to decide which works should be presented in which building. Basically - as with the last documenta exhibitions - it was necessary to clarify which buildings would be used at all. At Documenta11 in 2002, its artistic director, Okwui Enwezor, decided to use an empty former brewery building in order to respond to the increased demand for space and the increased number of visitors in recent decades. Instead, Roger M. Buergel had a completely new building erected as the main exhibition space for the duration of the exhibition, the Aue Pavilion , which attracted attention and discussions in advance. Temporary structures had already been used at earlier documenta exhibitions, but not in such dimensions.

In publications on exhibition architecture, Buergel and Noack referred to Arnold Bode, the director of the first documenta exhibitions, and also referred to concepts by Friedrich Kiesler in the USA and by Lina Bo Bardi in Brazil. The main features of the exhibition architecture were the attempt to restore character to the existing architecture and to turn away from the concept of the white cube .

Return character

The Fridericianum during documenta 12 with the now blooming poppy field on Friedrichsplatz

With the Fridericianum from the 18th century and the Neue Galerie from the 19th century, two historical buildings were central exhibition locations for documenta 12. However, these buildings only depict the design language of the time they were built on their facade. Instead, the interiors were rebuilt in the decades after their destruction in the Second World War using spatial concepts and stylistic elements that are in the tradition of modern architecture . The documenta 12 curator Ruth Noack also spoke of "blighting" in this context .

With their exhibition architecture, the organizers of documenta 12 wanted to “give back their character” (Noack) to the respective buildings and to tie in with their original uses: In the Museum Fridericianum the exhibition organizers saw a former natural science museum and cabinet of curiosities . They interpret the Neue Galerie as a bourgeois museum with an intimate cabinet structure. In the modern documenta hall from the late 20th century, especially in its large hall, they saw a public agora .

Turning away from the white cube

Documenta 12 was with the White Cube (white cube) designated and established exhibition architecture, which has its roots in the modern architecture of the 20th century, broken. Walls were colored instead of just white. Red and green tones in particular were used to color the walls and floors. A strict, consistent color concept is not known in this context.

Most of the artistic works were presented as large-scale compilations instead of individual works in closed rooms. Buergel complained at a press conference in April 2007 that most artists came to him with the request “give me my shoebox” . Buergel emphasized that he pursued a different concept, a "penetration and communication of forms" . In this context, he criticized the “Biennale mischief” , by which many artists were “spoiled” and emphasized that documenta was working “on a different model” here .

The exhibition organizers were able to most conspicuously implement the concept of the large-scale, joint presentation in the Aue pavilion they designed themselves with its open floor plan . In the small-scale architecture of the Neue Galerie , individual rooms that were available to individual artists predominated. Both approaches were found within the Fridericianum .

Exhibition locations

Documenta 12 used six exhibition locations within Kassel. In addition to the Fridericianum , Neue Galerie and documenta-Halle buildings that were already used during earlier documenta exhibitions, the Aue Pavilion was created as a temporary structure for documenta 12 . For the first time, the exhibition also included Wilhelmshöhe Castle in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. The palace and park are on the western outskirts of the city, away from the central exhibition buildings in the city center. The Schlachthof cultural center, also used for the first time, is located north of the city center . Due to the space used, the Aue Pavilion, the Fridericianum and the Neue Galerie can be considered the main exhibition locations. In comparison, the exhibition space in the other three buildings was much smaller.

As with previous documenta exhibitions, in addition to the artistic works presented inside the exhibition building, there were also several outdoor works.

Aue pavilion

From the beginning of 2007, on the initiative of the artistic director of documenta 12, Roger-Martin Buergel, the exhibition organizers called the Aue Pavilion. The name of the temporary structure was derived from its location, the Karlsaue inner-city park . An additional exhibition area of ​​9,500 square meters was installed on the lawn in front of the orangery building there for the duration of documenta 12. The Aue pavilion thus had the largest area of ​​all locations, and works by 57 artists were shown here.

Exterior view of the Aue pavilion (in the background: orangery)

In publications on the exhibition architecture, the exhibition organizers described the building designed by the Paris office Lacaton & Vassal as a "[...] decidedly contemporary, but also temporary building [...]" and saw it in close relation to the neighboring orangery and the garden architecture of the Karlsaue. They referred to the topos of the "Crystal Palace" , the exhibition architecture for world exhibitions such as the Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton from 1851 in London and the Grand Palais in Paris from 1900. In spring 2007, the local press used the more modest designation “ Nursery " . In April 2007, the architects distanced themselves in press interviews from the implementation of their design, in which they had not been involved since the beginning of the year. They criticized the partitioning and artificial air conditioning of the building, which ran counter to the idea of ​​a pavilion within a park landscape. Buergel defended these measures with conservation and curatorial reasons, in particular the need to protect the exhibited works of art from too much incidence of light. At a press conference in April 2007, he spoke of “controversy” and emphasized that “architecture has to be subordinate to art” .

Construction and architecture

Interior view of the Aue pavilion

The Aue pavilion was almost U-shaped, with the western wing being shorter but wider than the eastern wing. It was based on a greenhouse system from the French manufacturer Filclair with a steel structure, barrel roof and outer walls made of transparent polycarbonate . The single-storey complex consisted of 49 basic modules, each of which had a length of 20, a width of 9.60 and a height of 5.93 meters. The parallel, north-south aligned and coupled individual modules and their barrel roofs required long internal roof drainage. Their full functionality was not available when the exhibition opened, and even weeks later, heavy rain caused water to enter the interior. Tim Hupe, who is responsible for the documenta 12 architecture, spoke to a newspaper at the end of June about water that penetrated the inside of the building at the foot of the polycarbonate facade. In this context, drainage ditches and drainage shafts drained by means of pumps were later dug around the building.

The barrel roof had a supporting structure made of individual steel trusses. The roof above was an air-supported roof : electric fans provided the shape and stability of a transparent shell. The 20 meter long side walls of the modules were each supported by 6 supports. For the interior of the Aue pavilion, this resulted in a construction or support grid of 9.60 by 4.00 meters. The floor area consisted of asphalt that was painted a shade of red. A level and joint-free execution of the floor surface did not succeed.

Silvery white fabric on the outside of the roof area reduced the amount of daylight. On the inside of the outer walls, there were room-high white curtains with woven aluminum strips ( Revolux from Svensson ), as they are also used in greenhouse technology. Different types of these curtains had different proportions of aluminum strips. As a result, their light transmission varied, which was used to create individual zones with different lighting for different artistic works. However, this zoning was interrupted by the emergency exits: these had to remain completely uncovered. Especially in the less darkly darkened areas, a change in the outside light conditions - sunshine or cloudiness - was also clearly perceptible inside. Parts of the outer walls were not provided with curtains, but painted black. Although these black surfaces prevented the incidence of outside light, they heated up strongly under direct sunlight. Whole outer wall areas then became undesirable summer radiators. The high temperature of the black polycarbonate elements also caused them to become clearly s-shaped. After a few weeks, these black areas were painted over on the outside, this time in the more suitable color white in terms of building physics.

A semi-transparent false ceiling was installed below the barrel roof, about four meters high. The Revolux fabric was used, which was also used to hang the outer walls. Individual spots hung below the false ceiling, which, in addition to the natural light falling through the transparent side walls, acted as point light sources for the artificial illumination of individual works.

Exhibition concept

With the exception of a small cafeteria, the interior of the Aue Pavilion was reserved exclusively for works of art. Infrastructure, such as toilets, and also the air conditioning were located outside the building envelope, which led to some design problems there: the documenta visitor encountered a material mix of sheet metal, exposed aggregate concrete, wood and gold foil. The entrance to the Aue pavilion was on the east and the exit on the west leg of the U-shaped floor plan. The visitors were thus given a direction. However, within the exhibition area there was no mandatory route between the works. Compared to the other locations, the building and its large, open floor plan enabled good accessibility of the individual plants even when there was a large number of visitors.

With a few exceptions, the exhibited works were not on the outer wall, but were placed towards the center of the building or attached to partitions erected there. The historic wooden chairs from Ai Weiwei's work, Fairytale , stood on the outer wall and could be used by visitors. The partition walls were painted in a matt light gray, about 3 meters high and about 30 cm thick. At their lower edge they had a circumferential, about 1 cm high shadow gap to the floor.

In publications on the exhibition architecture, Buergel and Noack explained that the Aue Pavilion is divided into three zones with different architectural concepts: the comparatively open entrance area with a few orthogonal partitions is followed by a second third, which the exhibition organizers wanted to see understood as a labyrinth. Its partition walls were supposed to take up the axes of the surrounding park - a connection that the visitor in the closed interior could not easily understand. The last third was to be interpreted as a white cube , but it was "broken" : glazing on the north facade opened the space to the orangery building.

In the front third in particular, there were large-scale individual installations, for example Victory Gardens by Ines Doujak, Dream (Romuald Hazoumé) and The Exploitation of the Dead ( Mladen Stilinović ).

Palm groves

The places for art education at documenta 12 announced under the heading of palm groves were 12 areas delimited by colored floor markings. These zones had an area of ​​approximately 20 square meters each and were furnished with around 20 historical wooden chairs from Ai Weiwei's work Fairytale , arranged in a circle or square . The palm groves served guided groups of visitors as a stopover and as an opportunity for the guide (“art mediator”) to form discussion groups. The organizers of the exhibition had previously spoken of the palm groves as “islands of calm in the middle of documenta 12” . Depending on the location in the building, however, the visitors were confronted with the background noise of individual artistic installations as well as those of the ventilation and air conditioning technology to varying degrees.

Outdoor work

There were two external works in the immediate vicinity of the Aue Pavilion:

  • Between the building and the opposite orangery, the 10 × 10 meter reconstruction of a textile work by Atsuko Tanaka from the 1950s was stretched under the title Work .
  • The U-shaped floor plan of the Aue pavilion formed an inner courtyard enclosed on three sides. The outdoor work Template by Ai Weiwei was on this lawn, which was overturned shortly after the exhibition opened .


Poppy field in front of the Fridericianum

The Fridericianum was traditionally the main location of earlier documenta exhibitions. During documenta 12, works by 46 artists were presented on three floors with an area of ​​3,800 square meters. On the occasion of the exhibition, a central staircase from the ground floor to the first floor was added in the building, which was linked to the original access to the building. The historic central staircase was omitted after it was destroyed in the Second World War as part of several renovation measures. During a press conference, the organizers of the exhibition expressed the hope that their staircase would endure beyond the duration of the documenta.

In the four large halls of the main building, the exhibited works were presented as large-scale compilations, in accordance with the ideas of the exhibition organizers for the documenta 12 exhibition architecture . Smaller rooms and the side wings were mostly reserved for individual artists. In the entrance area of ​​the Fridericianum, the side walls were clad room-high with mirrors. The other walls on the ground floor were designed in a shade of red, those on the first floor in a shade of green. The 2nd floor was kept light brown, as was the extended stairwell. The window areas were hung with light brown curtains to varying degrees in order to create light situations adapted to the works on display in the respective rooms. Some windows were not curtained and provided a view outside. On the first floor, an installation by Iole de Freitas , created for documenta 12, was dedicated to referring from the inside to the outside. Curved steel pipes and polycarbonate panels filled the interior and continued on the outside facade of the Fridericianum.

Outdoor work

On Friedrichsplatz , directly in front of the Fridericianum, there were two outdoor works:

  • The poppy field by Sanja Iveković was one of the works at documenta 12 that received the most attention in the media. The poppies planted on the poppy field were intended to transform the entire Friedrichsplatz into a “red square” during the course of the exhibition and symbolically played on different ones political and, above all, revolutionary iconographies.
  • The installation Die Exclusive - On the Politics of the Excluded Fourth by Andreas Siekmann stood on the edge of the poppy field, built around the historic statue of Landgrave Friedrich II.

New gallery

The Neue Galerie was already used during previous documenta exhibitions. The museum has been closed for renovation work since 2006 and should not be reopened until 2009 at the earliest, so the entire area of ​​the building was available for documenta 12. The works of 34 artists were shown on 2,900 square meters, on two upper floors and a smaller basement.

As in the Fridericianum, many of the interior wall surfaces of the Neue Galerie were designed in a shade of red or green. The other color was often found in the carpet. Much of the building was cautiously illuminated and therefore kept darker than the other main locations, the Aue Pavilion and the Fridericianum. In the small-scale architecture of the Neue Galerie, individual rooms that were available to individual artists predominated, insofar as they stood in contrast to the exhibition concept in the Aue Pavilion.

The exhibition organizers changed the entrance situation in the Neue Galerie. Instead of the north-eastern, head-end entrance, a portal was used on the long side of the building facing the Karlsaue. This made it possible to use the previous foyer area of ​​the gallery as an exhibition space. In this large head-end room on the first floor, The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi by Mary Kelly themed the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The work, consisting of textile lint in glass cases, was mounted as a frieze at head height along the outer walls. A round cabinet was installed in the middle of the large room. Here was Collateral by Sheela Gowda shown. In the work incense was burned on the grids of 8 metal frames. The small interior with the sensitive ash was only allowed to be entered by two people at the same time.

Opposite the large foyer area, in the Beuys room, in which The pack (the pack) is usually shown, Eclipsis by Gonzalo Diaz was set up as another room-in-room installation .

documenta hall

The documenta hall was built in the 1990s as an exhibition building for the documenta and has been used as one of its exhibition locations since DOCUMENTA IX. The makers of documenta 12 only used a part of the building for artistic works. This had a size of 850 square meters, there the works of 10 artists were shown.

The large entrance area of ​​the documenta hall was used to present the documenta 12 magazine project . In addition, so-called lunch lectures were held there . It was about the documenta 12 and its motifs accompanying lectures and discussions. In these areas, the color purple dominated the textile coverings of the window fronts and as carpeting.

The actual exhibition space was largely taken up by the installation Relax, it's only a Ghost Cosima von Bonins . Next to it was the giraffe from The Zoo Story by Peter Friedl. In an accompanying side room was Ghost Truck by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle placed.


Schloss Wilhelmshoehe in the mountain park Wilhelmshöhe , on the western outskirts of Kassel, was first used as an exhibition Documenta. The work of 22 artists was shown in the building. In the palace, documenta 12 only had a relatively small exhibition area of ​​250 square meters, which was on the 2nd floor. Wilhelmshöhe Palace is the location of a collection of old masters of world renown. Some documenta works have been integrated into this existing permanent exhibition. On the first floor, documenta works were presented in connection with a special exhibition entitled On the Nobility of Painting. Holland shown around 1700 which took place from June to September 2007.

Not all visitors to documenta 12 also visited Wilhelmshöhe, especially day visitors are likely to have mostly confined themselves to the central exhibition locations in the city center. Nevertheless, the documenta ensured a rush of visitors in the castle and mountain park. The opening times in the castle had been extended and aligned with those of the other exhibition venues.

The exhibition area of ​​documenta 12 on the 2nd floor was delimited at both ends by two video installations, Funk Staden by Dias & Riedweg , and EL DORADO by Danica Dakić . The tract in between was the darkest of all documenta exhibition locations and the location of light-sensitive graphics. Pages from the sketchbooks of John McCracken were shown here, who was omnipresent at the other exhibition venues with his orthogonal, monochrome sculptures developed from these designs.

On the 3rd floor of the palace, two documenta works were integrated into the collection of old masters. The black and white photo work The Splendor of Myself II by Zofia Kulik in the Rembrandt Hall, as well as four head photos from the series Lost Boys by Kerry James Marshall in the Frans Hals Hall.

Outdoor work

The Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe was the location of two outdoor works:

  • The rice terraces of the Terraced Rice Fields Art Project by Sakarin Krue-On lay on the slope to the east of the castle .
  • To the west of the castle, next to the baroque terraces of the Hercules building , which was scaffolded for renovation work , stood the large-format picture panels Shipwreck and Workers by the American artist Allan Sekula .

Slaughterhouse cultural center

The Schlachthof cultural center is located northeast of the city center, in the northern part of Kassel. It was the first location for a documenta and was used in advance by the local documenta 12 advisory board . Two video works were shown in the Schlachthof cultural center as contributions to documenta 12. In a room on the first floor, Journal No. 1 - An Artist's Impression by Hito Steyerl , in a basement room Them by Artur Żmijewski .

Outdoor work

Close to the Schlachthof cultural center, on the edge of the Norstadtpark, The Game of Monumentality by Lin Yilin formed a white wall that was also temporarily part of a performance.

Film program

The film program of documenta 12 was deliberately separated from the other artistic works. The organizers stated in a publication: “The location of the film at documenta 12 is the cinema: a simple answer to the debates of recent years about how moving images could best be represented in an art context.” The venue was the Gloria-Kino, which opened in 1955 in downtown Kassel. Alexander Horwath , who has been director of the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna since 2002, was responsible for the selection of the film program . He selected works by 94 filmmakers from the genres of popular feature film, avant-garde film, documentary film and art film. All contributions were created between the 1950s and the present. Horwath stated in an interview in May 2007 that a time frame was deliberately chosen that coincided with the history of the documenta - the first documenta took place in 1955. During this period of just over fifty years, he spoke of the "second half of the cinema" . Horwath emphasized that he sees his work as a mediator in depicting cinema beyond the usual categories. “Either everything is on the edge, including the blockbuster film, or everything is in the center. The latter is the suggestion of documenta 12. " Here, " a connection should become clear in an often radical change between known and unknown films " .

During the 100 days of documenta 12, 50 full-length programs were shown. Each program, which consisted of a single or multiple contributions, was performed on two different days. The series began with Roberto Rossellini's Viaggio in Italia , written in 1954, and ended with the world premiere of a 2007 film by James Benning about Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty . The performances - for which visitors required a separate ticket at a price of 6.50 euros - began at 8:30 pm.

Works and actions (selection)

Would you like to participate in an artistic experience?

The social sculpture Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? (Would you like to take part in an artistic experience?) By Ricardo Basbaum , who lives in Brazil, started as the first documenta 12 action in 2006. It was classified by the exhibition organizers as part of Basbaum's more comprehensive project New basis for personanality . A total of twenty white and blue, tub-like, steel objects with a cylinder in the middle wandered through cities, households and meeting points in Europe, Africa and Latin America. They should be used and modified by their temporary owners. The users of the objects were asked to document their experiences. Basbaum put it in a documenta 12 publication on the work:

“I want to reverse the relationship between the artist and the audience in order to learn something from the people. Now the audience is the sender and the artist is the recipient. "

The work, or the documentation of its result, was shown in the entrance area of ​​the Aue pavilion . A seating landscape with monitors was built into a steel structure. Here, visitors were able to observe the history of the steel objects and how they were handled in pictures and videos - or even themselves, thanks to the cameras.


Under the title Fairytale (fairy tale), the Beijing architect and artist Ai Weiwei invited 1001 compatriots to Kassel for documenta 12. The Chinese weren't a direct part of the exhibition. Instead, Ai Weiwei had the journey of these people and their experiences documented. The work was of considerable dimensions for conceptual art . The artist stated the associated costs at three million euros, which were taken over by two private foundations. When asked whether it really is art to take 1001 Chinese to an exhibition, Ai Weiwei replied in an interview:

“It's art when you call it art. My dream was to enable people to travel to the Documenta who otherwise would never have had this opportunity in their life. That's at least partly what art can do: create the conditions for individual enlightenment and awareness-raising, to answer the most naive and simple questions. "

Ai Weiwei's guests from China arrive one after the other in five groups of around 200 people each and were accommodated together in a former factory building in Kassel's northern part of the city. Each group only stayed in the city for about a week, the first arriving shortly before the exhibition opened, the last in July. Fairytale also included 1001 historical Chinese wooden chairs from the Qing Dynasty . These were set up in the three main exhibition venues Aue-Pavillon, Fridericianum and Neue Galerie and served as seating for the visitors. After the end of documenta 12, the chairs were offered on the art market.


Ai Weiwei's outdoor work Template (template) was located in the three-sided enclosed courtyard of the Aue pavilion. Four huge vertical disks pierced each other at a central point. There the panes in the lower area were broken through and passable. These breakthroughs in turn gave the impression of an interior space.

The panes were each composed of a multitude of individual small wooden doors and windows from destroyed Chinese houses from the Ming and Qing dynasties . They originally stood vertically on a 50 cm high, plinth-like wooden foundation. The overall dimensions of the work were 720 × 1200 × 850 cm.

Ai Weiwei's construction was created by Chinese craftsmen in May and June 2007 and towered over the Aue Pavilion by several meters. During a storm on the afternoon of June 20, 2007, just four days after the exhibition opened, Template could not withstand the wind load : the structure was torn from its foundation and overturned. In an initial reaction, the artist was calm and stated that rebuilding was not planned. The collapsed work of art was measured after the documenta and dismantled at the end of October. It is to be rebuilt / stacked at a new location in the same condition.

Terraced Rice Fields Art Project

Terraced Rice Fields Art Project

The Terraced Rice Fields Art Project (rice terrace art project) was an outdoor work by Sakarin Krue-On in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe . The Thai artist had terraces built for wet rice cultivation on the eastern slope in front of Wilhelmshöhe Palace .

In publications in advance, the exhibition organizers of documenta 12 wrote:

“Both the terraces and the rice cultivation will be implemented according to the traditional model by Krue-On and his Thai team, including an experienced rice farmer, experts from the Kassel region and documenta employees. In doing so, the use of machines will be avoided as far as possible, traditional methods will be used and the work will be carried out by hand with simple devices such as spades, forks and hoes. "

The extensive earthworks uncovered numerous shards, bones, metal fragments and the like from different epochs, which tell from the over 800-year history of the castle and its predecessor buildings.

The Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe with its 300-year history offers a historical reference to East Asia: Just a few hundred meters away, some buildings form the remains of the so-called "Chinese village" Mou-lang . This was created from 1781 under the Landgrave Friedrich II and was on the one hand a contemporary chinoiserie , but the village and its inhabitants also served agricultural purposes. The immediate location of the rice terraces was a park slope overgrown with grass, with a view of both the castle immediately behind it and - along the kilometer-long axis of Wilhelmshöher Allee - the city. Today the slope is not used for agriculture, instead it is traditionally used for sledding by the local population in winter.

The organizers of the exhibition saw “a clear reference to the cascades in the mountain park” - meaning those of the Hercules building from the Baroque era - and emphasized that they see in the work a symbolic staging of the clash of different cultures:

“The Wilhelmshöhe Palace - in terms of status, shape and symbolism, an architectural monument clearly of Western European provenance - and the rice field - evidence of the appropriation of nature and its use for livelihood as well as a symbol of growth, development and cooperation. Are they equal partners or is that another's backdrop? Sakarin Krue-On wants to ask questions and hopes that the visitors will find answers. "

The earthworks to create the terraces were not carried out "according to the traditional model" , but by a local horticultural company with mini excavators. Work did not begin until May 2007, just a few weeks before the opening of documenta 12. It was only a few days before the opening of the exhibition that the water filling and rice planting began. Due to the recent earth movements, the outer slopes of the rice terraces presented themselves as bare brown areas at the time of the opening of documenta 12, because they were free of vegetation. The water required for growing wet rice was taken from the Lac, a lake at the foot of the castle slope. A motor-driven pump pumped it into the uppermost basin of the terrace and from there it was distributed downwards by means of PVC pipes. It turned out that large amounts of the water seeped underground and came back into daylight further down the slope, more or less as a new spring. On June 20, four days after the exhibition opened, it was announced that the automatic irrigation had been stopped out of concern that the mountain could slide. Later visitors did not see any more water.

The Exclusive - On the politics of the excluded fourth

The installation (right edge of the square) on Friedrichsplatz

The outdoor work Die Exclusive - On the politics of the excluded fourth by the Berlin-based artist Andreas Siekmann , the monument to Landgrave Friedrich II was standing on the edge of the poppy field on Friedrichsplatz, encompassing and including. The work consisted of a steel construction that was reminiscent of a children's carousel that was populated by life-size, colorful, disc-shaped figures. The title of the work referred to the social exclusion - the exclusion - in the context of globalization , as a result, police officers were seen fending off demonstrators at a G8 summit , a fleeing woman who wants to obtain a passport, the then World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and his predecessor James Wolfensohn , as well as workers from low-wage factories. The steel construction rotated around its central axis. The figures had movable elements that were driven by the rotary movement.

In 2003 a list of the work in the Saxon state capital Dresden failed. The regional council there forbade the installation around the historical equestrian statue of August the Strong on the grounds: "The equestrian statue as a political manifestation of the power of a baroque prince does not tolerate any additional additions or modifications" , otherwise the appearance "changes, affects , partly distorted and robbed of its actual message ” . The authority saw "no need to define new values ​​for the equestrian statue of Augustus the Strong that are not identical to the traditional and artistic monument value" . Instead, she feared that “the prince would be robbed of his power and superiority in the real and figurative sense” . In Kassel, too, the work was grouped around the historical monument of an absolutist ruler, around a statue of Landgrave Friedrich II.

The Splendor of Myself II

The Splendor of Myself II (My own greatness) by Polish artist Zofia Kulik hung on the 3rd floor of Wilhelmshöhe Palace, in the Rembrandt Hall. The woman portrait created in 1997, composed of nine individual photo panels measuring 182 × 152 cm, comes from a series of works in which the artist assembled her own face and quotes or satirized historical portraits of the rulers of Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603). The ornament of the woman's dress shows images of naked men in absurd postures.

The work was hung in the middle between four - significantly smaller - male portraits from the 17th century, which come from Rembrandt van Rijn or are attributed to his workshop. Directly opposite Kulik's work hung one of the highlights of the Kassel Rembrandt collection, the portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh , Rembrandt's wife who died early. In this picture, Rembrandt did not paint his wife in contemporary clothing after her death, but portrayed her as a sumptuously dressed Renaissance princess.

Lost Boys

Four head photos from the series Lost Boys by the American artist Kerry James Marshall hung on the 3rd floor of Wilhelmshöhe Palace, in the Hals Hall named after Frans Hals . The portraits created in 1993 each show a black, almost format-filling, face of a person of African origin - a main motif of Marshall - in front of a light to white background that cannot be easily identified. The title of the series refers to characters by JM Barrie from his stories about Peter Pan from the beginning of the 20th century. The pictures themselves thematize the reality of life of “lost” colored youths at the end of the century and were inspired by the imprisonment of Marshall's brother.

Marshall's pictures were hung in pairs below two large-format paintings by Karel van Manders III (1606–1670). Mander's pictures, created around 1640, come from a 10-part cycle that illustrates a story by the Greek author Heliodor from the 3rd century. Heliodors Aithiopica (Aethiopica, Ethiopian Stories) describes the love story of Chariklea and Theagenes. Chariklea was the fair-skinned daughter of the Ethiopian queen Persina. Mander's left painting shows the dark-skinned royal couple Hydaspes and Persina together with a picture of the white-skinned Andromeda , an ancestor of Persina. According to Heliodorus, Persina's contemplation of this image during her conception was the reason for the light skin color of her daughter Chariklea.

Kassel Gardens (from the perspective of a pier)

Kassel Gardens (from the Perspective of a Mole) by the American Martha Rosler consists of a 12-minute video projection in which colored photographs are shown every 3 seconds. Five framed prints from the picture series were hung next to the projection surface. The work was created in Kassel in spring 2007 for documenta 12 and is classified in the exhibition catalog as Passionate Signals . It was set up in the strongly darkened western corner of the Aue Pavilion opposite the bright exit area.

Martha Rosler's Kassel garden pictures, interspersed with molehills, have little to do with glossy photography of parks or gardens, although Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe and especially the Karlsaue take up a lot of space. In addition, there are also photos of cemeteries and residual greenery or those in which the term “garden” is not obvious. If you only take a quick look at the projection, the underlying theme of the work - its relation to the city, its history and the documenta - will hardly be revealed. Only if you look at it for a long time do you recognize the documenta locations and you can also identify individual routes that the artist walked during her recordings. Rosler's paths not only led into gardens, but also to sites of the armaments industry, to railway tracks and graves. In her review of the work, the curator Ruth Noack drew a wide range of gardens as images of paradise and an expression of an ordered world to war and destruction:

“[...] Martha Rosler took photos (not only) of molehills in Kassel. She has let herself be carried away to the imagination that the local unconscious is breaking out here and with it the heaps of rubble buried under the rose hill. Buried history: Reconstruction propaganda in view of the near zone border - Allied bombings that left the city in ruins - Dominance of the arms industry, then as now. [...] "

With “Rosenhügel” , Noack meant the western slope of the Karlsaue, on which the remains of the Kassel city center, which had been destroyed by air raids in World War II, were deposited as rubble. Its horticultural design was part of the Federal Horticultural Show in 1955 and thus also the foundation and occasion of the first documenta . The slope is barely a hundred meters away from the Aue Pavilion, where Rosler's work was shown. Together with photos of this slope and a war memorial embedded there, there are also photos of the Aue pavilion at documenta 12 during its construction phase in spring 2007.

The Zoo Story

The installation The Zoo Story by Berlin-based Peter Friedl was in the documenta hall. It was a 3.5 meter high specimen of a giraffe.

The bull giraffe Brownie came from South Africa and had been at home in the zoo of Qalqiliya since 1997 , a city ​​in the West Bank predominantly inhabited by Palestinians . As a result of an Israeli military operation in connection with the Second Intifada , the animal panicked, fell to the ground, and died on August 19, 2002. The zoo's veterinarian prepared the preparation. As Roger M. Buergel wrote in his review of the work in the exhibition catalog "amateurish" , which gives Brownie the "charm of a much-loved Steiff animal" . The stuffed giraffe was - together with other animals that had died in the zoo - in a museum-like adjoining building of the zoo. To classify it as an artistic work of documenta 12 against the background of the Middle East conflict , Buergel identified the giraffe as an "idea" and wrote:

"For Peter Friedl it is crucial that Brownie is suitable for the picture, but that this picture, it is to be hoped, sets a different story in motion than the impotent stereotypical media images from the conflict and occupation zone [...]"

In 2013, the story of the killed giraffe served as the inspiration for the Palestinian director Rani Massalha for his film Giraffada .


The installation Dream by Romuald Hazoumé , who lives in Benin , Africa , stood in the front third of the Aue pavilion. The work, created in 2007, consists of a 16 meter long photograph in front of which a 13 meter long hull was placed. There were also four labels on the floor in different languages. For Europeans, the large-format photograph shows seemingly idyllic motifs such as sand, beach and palm trees against a blue sky. Only when you take a closer look do you recognize the modest huts, the dwellings of the locals. The boat is obviously not buoyant, it is made up of over 400 individual, detached upper parts of plastic canisters that do not have a lock. Canisters and other containers for liquids are also central elements of other works by Hazoumé, for example he made “African” masks from them, which could be seen only a few meters away in the Aue pavilion. In his homeland of Benin, the canisters used for the boat are a common commodity, especially when transporting smuggled fuel. On the side of the ship hang, like a fender, four large glass bottles filled with rolled-up letters. The work addresses the fate of African boat refugees and their dream of Europe, which they head for on boats that are often unseaworthy.

Hazoumé's boat was one of the most highly regarded works at documenta 12. The artist was awarded the Arnold Bode Prize in 2007 and Dream was bought by the city of Kassel after the exhibition was over.

The Exploitation of the Dead

The contribution The Exploitation of the Dead was by Mladen Stilinović, who lives in Croatia and was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia in 1947 . The work was set up in the front third of the Aue pavilion.

The entire cycle was created between 1984 and 1990 and comprises around 400 objects. The exhibition version created for documenta 12 consisted of two white metal living containers, which were coupled to form a joint, with external dimensions of around 5 by 6 meters. Around 150 of the comparatively small-format objects were attached to the container. Among them are paintings on wooden boards that tie in with the Russian avant-garde and in particular cite works by Kazimir Malevich and Suprematism . Others showed photos of groups of people, some with distant faces, which refer to the epochs that followed the avant-garde and utopian era in real socialist countries. Photographs of tombs were also found. Pieces of cake were also placed on small platforms, which aroused both interest and questions about the connection with the work among the visitors. The container was accessible and also showed exhibits in its interior. To that extent it could be experienced as a space within a space. As an exhibition within a white cube, which in turn was set up within an exhibition building that was not supposed to function as a white cube.

Participating artists

Documenta 12 artists in front of the Fridericianum

On February 21, 2006 the organizers introduced Ferran Adrià and Artur Żmijewski , the first two people who would be represented in the exhibition. In alphabetical order, it was the first and last participant. In contrast to other large art exhibitions, the makers of documenta 12 wanted to publish a complete list just before it began. For various reasons, however, some of the names were made public beforehand: some artists made their participation public, others were successively named as participants in advance of documenta 12 press releases. In an interview in April 2007, Buergel said that it was “less about secrecy than about protecting the discovery process.” However, he admitted: “Of course, you also play with media expectations.” At a press conference on June 13, 2007, it was finally published a list with 110 positions and a total of 114 names: 15 of the d12 participants were already in the exhibition The government / How do we want to be governed? which was curated by Buergel and Noack in 2003/2004 and shown at various locations.

A total of 123 artists took part in the exhibition:

Sonia Abián Ferran Adrià Saâdane Afif Ai Weiwei Halil Altındere
Eleanor Antin Ryōko Aoki David Aradeon Ibon Aranberri
Monika Baer Maja Bajevic Yael Bartana Mária Bartuszová
Ricardo Basbaum Johanna Billing Cosima von Bonin Trisha Brown
Graciela Carnevale James Coleman Alice Creischer
Danica Dakić Juan Davila Dias & Riedweg Gonzalo Díaz
Atul Dodiya Ines Doujak Lili Dujourie Lukas Duwenhögger
Harun Farocki Leon Ferrari Iole de Freitas Peter Friedl
Poul Gernes Andrea Geyer Simryn Gill David Goldblatt Sheela Gowda
Ion Grigorescu Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia Dmitri Gutov
Sharon Hayes Romuald Hazoumé Hu Xiaoyuan Ashley Hunt
Sanja Iveković Luis Jacob Jorge Mario Jáuregui
Amar Kanwar Mary Kelly Bela Kolárová Abdoulaye Konaté Bill Kouelany
Jirí Kovanda Sakarin Krue-On Zofia Kulik KwieKulik
Louise Lawler Zoe Leonard Lin Yilin Lee Lozano Lu Hao
Churchill Madikida Iñigo Manglano oval Kerry James Marshall Agnes Martin
John McCracken Nasreen Mohamedi Andrei Monastyrski Olga Neuwirth
JD'Okhai Ojeikere Anatoly Osmolovsky George Osodi Jorge Oteiza
Annie Pootoogook Charlotte Posenenske Kirill Preobrazhenskiy Florian Pumhösl
Yvonne Rainer CK Rajan Gerhard Richter Alejandra Riera
Gerwald Rockenschaub Lotty Rosenfeld Martha Rosler
Luis Sacilotto Katya Sander Mira Schendel Dierk Schmidt Kateřina Šedá
Allan Sekula Ahlam Shibli Andreas Siekmann Nedko Solakov Jo Spence
Grete Stern Hito Steyerl Imogen Stidworthy Mladen Stilinović
Jürgen Stollhans Shooshie Sulaiman Oumou Sy Alina Szapocznikow
Atsuko Tanaka David Thorne Guy Tillim
Lidwien van de Ven Simon Wachsmuth Xie Nanxing Yan Lei
Tseng Yu-Chin Zheng Guogu Artur Żmijewski

Press coverage

German-language daily press

Most of the reviews of documenta 12 in the daily press appeared shortly after the opening on June 15, 2007 and were therefore partly shaped by the opening topics (e.g. poppy field without flowers):

“The documenta makes art tangible again. Buergel doesn't put her on a diet. He just takes them seriously, sometimes too seriously. Because it avoids the sensational, the d12 frees art from the captivity in which it seeks to keep the new cross-eyed perception of the market. If she had also reduced the speed of the curating spinning wheel, she would be really wonderful. "

“Sanja Ivekovic's poppy field in front of the Fridericianum has not yet risen. No billowing sea of ​​red flowers greets the visitor. One is tempted to understand this dry wasteland, which was so nicely conceived, as a symbol for the entire Documenta 12 company. The idea was wonderful, the reality is not. "

- Uta Baier : The world

“In Kassel you can now immerse yourself in an artistic private cosmos for a hundred days, an at times esoteric, sometimes extremely educational, but often entertaining paradise for scholars. We now know: the distance to the art market is not a value in itself. But there is still a lot to be found on the fringes of our world of images. What remains is an ambivalent impression. "

- Holger Liebs : Süddeutsche Zeitung

English-language daily press

Compared to the German daily press, the reviews in the English-language newspapers seemed more critical:

“The content of the current Documenta, and the ways in which the art is displayed and framed by argument, gives pause for serious concern. Documenta 12 is a disaster. "

“Both the content of the current Documenta and the way in which the art is shown and categorized in thought give cause for concern. Documenta 12 is a disaster. "

- Adrian Searle : The Guardian

“The artistic directors this year are the freelance curator Roger Buergel and his art historian wife Ruth Noack, and between them they have managed to stage the single worst art exhibition I have ever seen anywhere, ever. Though Documenta 12 has more than 500 works, so much of what is on view is second-rate, chosen for who knows what reason and displayed so eccentrically that […] it is easy to overlook the few really good things in it. [...] This is a show organized by two pseuds and intended for graduate students and people who don't really like visual art at all. "

“The artistic direction this year is in the hands of the freelance curator Roger Buergel and his wife Ruth Noack, an art historian. Together the two managed to produce what is clearly the worst art exhibition I've ever seen in my life. Although more than 500 works are shown at Documenta 12, so many of the works are second-rate, selected by the curators for completely unclear reasons, and then presented eccentrically, [...] that it is easy to overlook the few really good works. [...] This exhibition was organized by two pseudo-intellectual busybodies. The target audience of the exhibition are obviously older students as well as people who don't really like visual art. "

- Richard Dorment : The Daily Telegraph

“That's the dynamic of Documenta 12 as a whole. Does it work? In the end, no. The first time through, its combination of new names and forms generates an excitement of discovery. It's so great not to see everyone you've seen everywhere else. On a return visit the surprise has diminished, and the installation starts to look too porous; the curatorial ideas too obvious, pedantic and confining; the work too small, private, underdone, done-before. "

“So that's the dynamic of Documenta 12. Does it work? In the end: No. On the first pass, however, the combination of new names and shapes creates an exciting feeling of discovery. It's great not to see the same names again that you've seen everywhere else. However, on a second visit - when the element of surprise wears off - the exhibition appears too uneven. The curatorial ideas are too obvious, too pedantic and too restrictive, the works shown too small, too private, too unfinished, too already-done. "

- Holland Cotter : The New York Times

Art magazines

Meetings in art magazines, which appeared a little later than the opening hustle and bustle, were - as usual with every documenta - varied:

“Documenta 12 disappoints in large parts with pale art and grandiose mishaps. [...] Wherever the Documenta makers demonstratively rely on exotic effects and sell poor ideas as high wisdom [...] the world art show fails miserably. [...] Documenta 12 is not a total write-off, but it is certainly not the groundbreaking future model that some critics already hailed before the exhibition began. 'I believe that you have to say goodbye to me as someone who gives the direction,' said Buergel in a rare touch of self-awareness at the opening press conference. We should take that to heart. "

- Ute Thon : Main article of art - Das Kunstmagazin

In the same issue of art , curators and museum directors are asked: “Was documenta 12 a successful exhibition?” Here too, the ratings are very different. Unreservedly positive, in contrast to the tendency of the main article, said Adam Szymczyk (Director of the Kunsthalle Basel ):

“Documenta 12 is a remarkable curatorial achievement and a predominantly captivating exhibition - precise and a counter-image to the exuberant art market. It is an exhibition of the exhibitions by productively applying some modernist forms of presentation. The press work of the Documenta was a courageous performance in itself: the curators rejected the common demand for transparency and direct access to art. Instead of feeding the audience and the media with ready-made messages, the individual visitor was given the opportunity to get involved in the exhibition. "

Almost personally hurting Silke Hohmann in monopoly :

“Ruth Noack and Roger M. Buergel didn't manage to come up with the big idea, but they also failed on a small scale. Her leitmotif of the migration of form is inflated and, at best, would have been suitable as a sideline. For 19 million, Buergel and Noack put on an exhibition of their own taste, for people like them who are interested in a lot, but not directly in contemporary visual arts. Buergel now wants to turn to old handicrafts, because 'I only do things that I can't yet!' Then he should curate another documenta. "

Kunstforum International devoted an entire issue of volume 187 to documenta 12 (as has always been the case since documenta 6). The texts collected in it were often more positive than the previous press reactions, for example Michael Hübl writes:

"Documenta 12 shows today what will be everyday normality tomorrow [...] a reality that can no longer be reduced to a common denominator and which already looks as if it will soon no longer be under control: the Desperate, narrow-minded, hectic and desperate attempts by individual social groups to stop this process through stricter controls and regulations are only evidence of the thesis that the time of grandiose claims is over and the future lies in the diffuse, in the small-scale, inconspicuous, [... ]. "

Ingo Arend wrote a few pages further: “The Venice Biennale and the Documenta focus on sensual intelligence. [...] In Kassel there were quite convincing works that gave the sensual and the unfamiliar form their place in contemporary art. " And Hans Belting finally stated: " It could be that this Documenta shows a new state of the art world. "

Hanno Rauterberg wrote in the ZEIT feature section :

“It is a success, a visitor and an emotional success. [...] this Documenta will be remembered as a Documenta of new determinations. In an almost daring way, she did not focus on art, but on the viewer. She challenged his willingness to make up his own mind, to develop his own interpretations, to dare to approach the unfamiliar. It used to be called an aesthetic experience. This art summer also showed what explosive power it still has. "

Reaction of the documenta makers to press coverage

At the end of the exhibition, the documenta organizers responded to some ambivalent to negative reactions in the press with a sweeping blow:

At the end of August 2007, Buergel and Noack went to the meta level in an interview with Cécile Schortmann from HR :

“Question: But isn't it painful when art connoisseurs and colleagues judge this documenta so critically? Buergel: If you deal a little with the documenta history, then you know that. It's almost stereotypical of how it works. We have stoked expectations, then comes the exhibition, then comes the great horror and then it takes a few years for it to settle because you first have to work out the criteria. Question: That sounds very rational now, but didn't the criticism hurt you? Buergel: No, you need a headwind to take off. The worst thing that could happen to the exhibition is that it is treated indifferently. Then you're dead. But if they either fall on your arm or say, 'The worst exhibition I've ever seen', then you've done something right. "

In an interview with Johanna and Luca DiBlasi in the HAZ two weeks after the HR interview, Buergel and Noack expressed themselves a little less relaxed: “There is this outrage at every documenta. Once you get that, you don't take it personally. What comes from different camps is like a burping competition. ” In particular, referring to Bazon Brock , who criticized Buergel for nepotism : “ These are older men who cannot let go. They think it's their documenta. There is now simply a generation replacement. ” In particular, they refer to the high number of visitors as confirmation of their work.

Buergel published a two-page statement with the critics of documenta 12 and his curatorial work in Spiegel magazine . In it he accused the critics of having “decided to hate the exhibition” . He also describes his opponents as a “lynch mob” and accuses them of “ignorance, a defensive attitude and a lack of desire for experience” .


Folder (free of charge):

  • DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 , leaflet of documenta 12, going to press 2006-11
  • DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 Film program , documenta 12 leaflet, going to press 2007-05
  • DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 overview , leaflet of documenta 12, going to press 2007-06
  • DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 Art education , leaflet of documenta 12, going to press 2007-06
  • DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 Exhibition map I - Exhibition map , leaflet of documenta 12, going to print 2007-06 - This bilingual leaflet offers a graphic overview of the individual exhibition locations as well as the distribution of the individual works in the buildings . The current edition, going to press 2007-06, contains the note “Subject to change” and some inaccuracies.

Web links

Commons : Documenta 12  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. "over 500" according to documenta 12 press kit, press conference on June 13th in Kassel , p. 3 an earlier publication press kit rooms for art - on the exhibition architecture of documenta 12 , undated published in April 2007 provides the addition of the individual exhibition locations just over 400 works.
  2. Classification of Buergels and quotation from Hanno Rauterberg: Revolte in Kassel , DIE ZEIT, April 12, 2007 No. 16, online at
  3. cf. Nicola Kuhn: Who is Roger M. Buergel? , Der Tagesspiegel, June 9, 2007, online at -new-discovered-anyway-his-documenta-is-nothing-for-dreamers-who-is-roger-m-buergel / 866436.html accessed on June 11, 2007
  4. a b “This is a star system”, interview by Elke Buhr with Ruth Noack, in Frankfurter Rundschau, May 15, 2007, online at accessed on May 18, 2007
  5. a b c d e f g h according to DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 , leaflet of documenta 12, going to press 2006-11
  6. Niklas Maak, head of the art department in the features section of the FAZ in the Hessische Allgemeine from August 4, 2007
  7. a b c Interview by Stefan Grissemann and Nina Schedlmayer with Roger Martin Buergel in profil, 19/07, 2007-04, online under “Western perception is provincial” ( Memento from January 14, 2013 in the web archive )
  8. a b Roger M. Buergel: Leitmotive , December 2005, online at
  9. Holger Liebs in conversation with Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack, We want to make complexity palatable to a mass audience , Süddeutsche Zeitung of June 5, 2007, p. 15
  10. List of all participating journals and magazines online under Participating Journals and Magazines ( Memento of May 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) accessed on May 10, 2007
  11. ↑ For a more extensive presentation, see documenta 12: documenta-12 advisory board , online at documenta 12 advisory board ( memento of September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) accessed on May 14, 2007
  12. Hessische Allgemeine, June 14, 2007, p. 1
  13. documenta 12: documenta 12 opening party on June 15 in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe , dated May 31, 2007, online at documenta 12 opening party on June 15 in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe ( memento from June 12, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on June 1 2007
  14. a b c d e f g Press conference of documenta 12 on April 24, 2007 in Kassel, documenta-Halle. The only topic was the exhibition architecture. Introductory lectures were followed by a tour of the exhibition locations in the city center, after which questions were answered
  15. ^ To Press Kit, Spaces for art - on documenta 12 exhibition architecture , press release of documenta 12, 2007-04
  16. DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 Exhibition plan I , leaflet of documenta 12, going to print 2007-06, counts as the seventh location the restaurant elBulli of the chef Ferran Adrià in Spain , which will be the Gloria-Kino as the location for the film program there not counted among the exhibition locations, but listed separately.
  17. DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06-23 / 09 2007 Exhibition Plan I , leaflet documenta 12, printing 2007-06, is one of twelve "DOCUMENTA 12 FOREIGN PROJECTS" (works on site) on
  18. a b Press kit Rooms for Art - On the exhibition architecture of documenta 12 , undated published in April 2007. The core text for the conception of the d12 exhibition architecture is drawn by Noack and Buergel as authors
  19. Hessische Allgemeine, evacuating in extreme cases , June 26, 2007, p. KS-LO1
  20. Number 12 according to DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 Exhibition plan I - Exhibition map , but at least one palm grove that was laid out directly in front of an emergency exit was not equipped with chairs and was not used
  21. Compare the artist's statement under “The Friedrichsplatz between bright red and revolutionary songs” ( memento of October 23, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) on the official website of documenta 12 (last accessed on December 15, 2007)
  22. according to DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16 / 06–23 / 09 2007 film program , documenta 12 leaflet, going to press 2007-05
  23. Interview by Brigitte Werneburg with Alexander Horwath, “For a time in another life”, taz of May 14, 2007, pp. 15–16, online at 14 / a0166.1 / text accessed on May 28, 2007
  24. documenta 12 Catalog, 2007, p. 220
  25. quoted from Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? , A work by Ricardo Basbaum for documenta 12, online at Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? , A work by Ricardo Basbaum for documenta 12 ( Memento from April 23, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  26. Costs and financing of Fairytale as well as the quote from the interview with Ai Weiweis in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of April 2, 2007, online at chinese-come-1.436721
  27. ^ Documenta 12 Catalog, 2007, p. 356
  28. Hessische Allgemeine, June 21, 2007, p. 1
  29. ^ All quotations from: Sakarin Krue-On, "Terraced Rice Fields Art Project" , press release from documenta 12, May 8, 2007
  30. Quotations from a lecture by Karl-Siegbert Rehberg: Culture as a substitute for history: Reflections on the Dresden myth , online under Culture as a substitute for history: Reflections on the Dresden myth ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on May 28, 2007
  31. 1180 × 1417 pixel illustration of the III. Work of the series, which differs from the one exhibited only in a few details at , accessed on May 30, 2007
  32. […] A take on the JM Barrie novel, it translates the child-men of the text into dispossessed and disenfranchised young black men lost in a ghoulish world between childhood and adulthood. A pair of portraits, Lost Boys AKA Black Johnny and Lost Boys AKA Lil Bit demonstrate this state of being and not-being. Marshall has explained that his brother's imprisonment provided a starting point for the series, as it made him consider the ways in which young black men seemed to be becoming lost. The titles of the portraits make it clear the boys are Lost Boys and alter egos but who else are they? We assume them to be sons and brothers and friends but there is nothing to signify this. Even their faces are being eaten away by the surrounding paint. They are in the process of being lost before our very eyes. […] ”Abigail Dunn: Kerry James Marshall: Along the Way , exhibition review, Catalyst, UK, October 13, 2006 , accessed online at Kerry James Marshall: Along the Way ( July 13, 2007 memento on the Internet Archive ) on June 7, 2007
  33. Two photos show hills on the distant horizon. It is a huge waste dump from potash mining . Such a dump does not exist in Kassel, but 100 km further south, near the railway line to Frankfurt am Main.
  34. ^ Documenta 12 Catalog, 2007, p. 294
  35. all citations Buergel and background information on documenta 12 Catalog , 2007, p 246
  36. ^ Hugo Gnaghi: Zoo animals are smuggled In: Hessisch-Niedersächsische Allgemeine Kassel-Mitte from May 29, 2015
  37. ^ Documenta 12 Catalog , 2007, p. 258
  38. the term " exploitation " can be translated or interpreted ambiguously
  39. In the accompanying catalog text, documenta 12 Catalog, p. 122 Georg Schöllhammer erroneously writes of "around 400 objects"
  40. documenta 12 press kit, press conference on June 13 in Kassel, pp. 10 and 11
  41. ^ The exhibition The Government / How do we want to be governed? was shown in Lüneburg, Barcelona, ​​Miami, Vienna and Rotterdam in 2003/2004. The following 16 d-12 participants later took part in the exhibition: Ibon Aranberri, Maja Bajevic, Alice Creischer, Ines Doujak, Harun Farocki, Peter Friedl, Andrea Geyer, Dmitri Gutov, Sanja Ivekovic, Florian Pumhösl, Alejandra Riera, Dierk Schmidt, Allan Sekula, Andreas Siekmann, Tucuman Arde and Simon Wachsmuth. A total of 23 artists participated in the exhibition The Government , i. H. only seven of the participants were not later invited to the d12. Online at .
  42. Thomas Wagner: Liberation from the captivity of the market , FAZ, June 16, 2007
  43. Uta Baier: Search for meaning, as difficult as an Ironman run , Die Welt, June 15, 2007, online at Lauf.html
  44. Holger Liebs: Elegant in the Besenkammer , Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 15, 2007, online at
  45. ^ Adrian Searle: 100 days of ineptitude , The Guardian, June 19, 2007, online at
  46. Richard Dorment: The worst art show ever , The Daily Telegraph, June 19, 2007, online at badocumenta119.xml
  47. Holland Cotter: Asking Serious Questions in a Very Quiet Voice , New York Times, June 22, 2007, online at
  48. Thon, Ute: Captured in the Palm Grove , art, No. 8/2007, online under Captured in the Palm Grove ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  49. Szymczyk, Adam: Is Documenta 12 a successful exhibition? , art - THE KUNSTMAGAZIN; “Art Summer 2007 - The World Gallery”, No. 8 / August 2007; Hamburg 2007 (p. 39)
  50. Hohmann, Silke: Pleiten, Pech and Posenenske , Monopol, No. 8/2007
  51. Hübl, Michael: future draft "failed hope" , in: Kunstforum International; "THE DOCUMENTA 12"; Volume 187 August - September 2007; Ruppichteroth 2007 (pp. 35–39)
  52. Arend, Ingo: The Calling of the Senses , in: Kunstforum International; "THE DOCUMENTA 12"; Volume 187 August-September 2007; Ruppichteroth 2007 (pp. 79–81)
  53. Belting, Hans: On Chinese Chairs? , in: KUNSTFORUM International; "THE DOCUMENTA 12"; Volume 187 August-September 2007; Ruppichteroth 2007 (pp. 97-101)
  54. ^ Rauterberg, Hanno: “Kasseler Sprengkraft - What remains of the Documenta?” , In: DIE ZEIT - Feuilleton; No. 39, September 20, 2007, Hamburg 2007 (p. 53)
  55. You need a headwind to take off An interview by Cécile Schortmann with Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack for “Hauptache culture”, Hessischer Rundfunk, August 22, 2007, online under “You need a headwind to take off” ( memento from October 1st 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  56. Bazon Brock: Kuratorenkaraoke Willkürpathos at documenta 12, artnet Magazin, June 22, 2007, online at
  57. We stayed a bit conventional An interview with Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, September 9, 2007, online under "We stayed a bit conventional" ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  58. Roger M. Buergel: Fears in the power field. A criticism of the criticism of the Kassel Documenta . In: Der Spiegel . No. 37 , 2007, p. 182-183 ( online ).
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on December 16, 2007 .