Documenta Dialogue / Athens, Kassel and The Hague

For documenta 14, artistic director Adam Szymczyk proposed a twofold structure for the exhibition, as reflected in the working title “Learning from Athens.” Kassel and the Greek capital will host the exhibition and participating artists have been invited to think and produce within the context of the emerging dynamic relationship between these two cities and to develop a work for each of the two locations.

The different locations and divergent historical, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds of Kassel and Athens have come to bear on the actual process of creating the two parts of the exhibition, while inspiring and influencing the individual works of art at the same time.

As part of the Stroom study trip 2017 we visit a lot of artist run initiatives, galleries, and Documenta sites in Athens. It’s clear to me that Szymczyk’s proposal – to host the documenta in two cities and intertwine their socioeconomic, cultural and artistic context although they’re 2500 kilometers apart – is ambivalent.

Athens is in the spotlight and many artist initiatives and galleries in Athens are seizing the opportunity which created a vivid buzz. But at the same time that spotlight reveals the poverty, anger and frustration of the Athenians to the world.

Documenta Dialogue / Athens, Kassel and The Hague

And to make this combo (a multilayered dialogue between several people in different languages with different backgrounds at the same time) even more complex there is the underlying tension between the intruder (Kassel, Germany), the outsider (immigrants and refugees from around the world) and the inhabitant (Athens). It’s thrilling, and terrifying. And that was only day 1 and day 2 of our studytrip….

In the meanwhile, take a look at some art projects from Documenta 14 that started our dialogue in a surprising way:

Under colorful canopies inspired by the shamiana (a Pakistani traditional wedding tent) Rasheed Araeen invites people to sit together and enjoy a meal based on recipes from around the Mediterranean, which have been cooked in collaboration with Organization Earth. Ingrid Lee and I ate with a English and Greek speaking Ethiopian man and a German, Italian and Greek speaking man from Albania. Both had no job or income and slept in the streets of Athens.

Photo: Connie van Driel

Bili Bidjocka – The Chess Society.
The Chess Society invites you to take part in a chess game opposing Kassel to Athens. Each day you have the opportunity to influence one of the two team’s moves by making your voice heard on the chess board. Each 24h, the most played move will be counted.

The Chess Society
Athens vs Kassel

It gives contemporary art in Athens a multilayered and interesting platform that matches the height of the well known Acropolis: an echo of the the illustrative example of western civilization and a constant reminder of the socioeconomic ashes from which Greece and all her inhabitants have to rise since the economical “Icarus” downfall since 2011.

Otobong Nkanga – Carved to Flow. In Athens there’s the soap laboratory. In Kassel, there’s storage and distribution. Soap was once pure, a combination of oil, butter and a natural ingredient. Now it’s socialized. This transition is made concrete by making the soap in Athens and selling it in Kassel. Nkanga calls it the germination of soap

Olive, coconut, Laurel and Sage
Map of the soap factory and flow irrigation system
The unique stamp resembles the map of small communities/ tribes in Cameroon.