five short reviews from dOCUMENTA(13)

Miriam Ghani, A Brief History of Collapses (2011-12) 2-channel HD video installation, color, 6.1-channel sound, 22 min., Dimensions variable

Miriam Ghani, A Brief History of Collapses (2011-12) A Brief History of Collapses, 2011–2012, , 2-channel HD video installation, color, 6.1-channel sound, 22 min., Dimensions variable, Photo: Roman März

The video A Brief History of Collapses by Miriam Ghani in many ways embodies the thesis of dOCUMENTA(13). If The Brain of the exhibition its on the ground floor then Ghani’s work is like the cerebral cortex situated on the top floor of the Fredricianum. The video is a tour de force, not because it is grand, in fact it is rather simple—a split screen shows a camera moving through each buildings perhaps following a woman—but because Ghani tackles fundamental questions about perception, experience, history and the meeting of differences. What makes the video enrapturing and surprising at each turn, is how Ghani subtly weaves together the two stories of two places: Dar ul-Aman Palace in Kabul and the Fredricianum in Kassel. These places that are similar yet different, in the telling of their stories; shifting in time between their building, destruction, and current states runs deep and cuts to core issues about the lies and truths we tell ourselves about our histories and our circumstances. Ghani’s work encapsulates Christov-Bakargiev’s project by showing the interconnectivity and distinctions that inform and move rather than divide and determine.

Korbinian Aigner Apples, 1912-1960s, 396 Drawings, 10×15 cm, gouache and pencil or watercolour and colored pencil on cardboard

Korbinian Aigner Apples, 1912-1960s, 396 Drawings, 10x15 cm, gouache and pencil or watercolour and colored pencil on cardboard, Photo: Roman MärzAnyone who has been to art school has been given the assignment to do or draw or make something over and over in order to explore both the object and the method of making as well as the perception of the maker. Which is what make the repetition and care of Aigner’s project all the more stunning, because visually very little changed over the 48 years. Aigner was not some art student wasting time in art school, he was a priest who opposed the Nazi’s and was intern at Dachau where he was given the task of working in the gardens. There he survived and made meaning of that existence by developing new strains of apples. One can only image the focus of mind to continue in the face of Nazi brutality, but he did. From this perspective do Aigner’s works represent hope or denial? Disassociated activity is not necessarily separate from the will to live or survive, rather can be a means of persistence, even resilience.

Susan Hiller, Die Gedanken sind frei: 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13), 2011–12 Interactive audio sculpture dispersed on 5 sites, jukeboxes, CDs, Dimensions variable

Susan Hiller, Die Gedanken sind frei: 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13), 2011–12 Interactive audio sculpture dispersed on 5 sites, jukeboxes, CDs, Dimensions variable, Photo: Anders Sune Berg

When I first “saw” Susan Hiller’s work 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13) in the Neue Gallerie it left me cold. A jukebox in a room, lit like a department store, with the text of each song screened onto the walls and some seating… I dismissed it as poorly placed and uncomfortable, and so I moved on. But then I heard this piece in two other contexts and saw others interacting with it in places like the café at the Hauptbahnhof and the restaurant in the Karlsaue. In these places the work came to life. 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13) doesn’t act as a sound track for life because its intentions are always obvious in the listening, meaning the listening is active, not passive. Each selected track: peace songs from around the world, creates an instant relationship between listeners in the act of choosing. In all, with Hiller’s publication Book of Songs, which includes the lyrics of all 100 songs, it is one of the best take-aways from the show.

Susan Philipsz, Study for Strings, (2012), 24 channel sound installation, Duration: 13 minutes, Kassel Hauptbahnhof

Aerial view of Kassel central train station and Henschel & Sohn Mittelfeld factors. Source: Stadtmuseum Kassel.

Susan Philipsz sound installation Study for Strings, in the Hauptbahnhof, is one of those rare works that by its nature defies easy description. It is both emotional and historically resonant and therefore merits careful assessment. Based on a composition of Pavel Haas, who wrote the piece at Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, Philipsz’s draws apart his score, isolating the discrete parts of the piece. The work’s core effect is all the more remarkable, because Philipsz has utilized the space and layout of the train station as a staff for scoring and organizing the work like a train timetable. This concretization allows the work to slip in an out of the viewer’s consciousness, repeatedly beckoning us to follow something impossible to follow. Its broken and dispersed sounds are a siren’s call over the exhibit, haunting its consciousness of the exhibit. This work reflects the heart of the exhibit because it directly addresses Kassel and German history directly without softening the anguish of that history.

MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho, News from Nowhere. El Fin del Mundo, 2012, 2-channel HD film, 13:35 min.

MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho, News from Nowhere. El Fin del Mundo, 2012, 2-channel HD film, 13:35 min. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s two-screen video News from Nowhere. El Fin del Mundo (2012) is a non-linear narrative about time, making and discovery. In two worlds, set apart by time, two people, a man and a woman make and alter, suggest and redefine materials leaving behind a sense that even in the end wonder does not die. The man set in the “now,” or rather the past, slowly recognizing the game is over, as the world as we know it has come to pass. While the woman set in the “future” shows the restart of what might be called civilization. In the showing we see the first dying out and disappearing, as the second engages in a rule bound world making a kind of archeology accounting of this other past. When considering this work from the perspective of science fiction the question arises what does the future tell us about the present? The materiality in each alludes to a sense that no matter how technological we become we are still in need of contact. Simultaneously the feeling or the need to make something out of nothing proposes that progress is a futile pursuit. That the past and future are one and the same like two rooms on the same floor; it’s only how we look at it.

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