back forward
back to cover page
Copyrights Jens Hoffmann and Electronic Flux Corporation, 2003. Designed by FDTdesign.
normal font raise font
printable version

¶ 01/03

The topic “The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by an Artist” is a challenging and controversial one. Although curatoring by artists has become a more common practice, the idea of artists as curators, especially of large-scale exhibitions such as Documenta, is one that questions numerous art-system mechanisms, such as a priori roles and tasks.

This topic brings up the possibility of revising existing curatorial modes and exhibition-display formats according to an artistís perspective, as well as of artists assuming a direct role in the decision-making involved in large-scale shows. However, we artists tend to think very individually, or to show the greatest concern for or interest in other artists who share a similar agenda. Assuming control of a curatorial process on the scale of Documenta would first mean defining strategies and narratives without privileging a certain type of artistic discourse, as well as engaging in the work of other artists on a deeper level. As artists, we also have to face that having our work chosen by curators/institutions can become a comfortable situation, for example, because we meet other artists mainly by chance in large group shows, and therefore donít really have to engage in artistic discussions.

Documenta, as an event primarily dedicated to European and North American art, began to take a approach in its last edition - Documenta 11, which tried to establish a new network of discussions and relations in the five Platforms. Surely, new modes of operation should be sought. The fact that artists from different nationalities are represented is important, but it is also crucial that these artists do not necessarily come via New York-London. If Documenta aims to represent a significant set of todayís world art and artistic discussions, it should move toward including not only art from the mainstream, but also art from different parts of the globe. A more intertwined and pluralistic net of operations, developing from the idea of Platforms, could certainly foster debate on several themes that define contemporary art, allowing them to be discussed and characterized from a variety of cultures and perspectives.

What’s the artist’s role in this process? It’s certainly a crucial one. If more artists start to assume an active role in the art system by organizing/participating in projects that enable a space of exchange (of ideas and experiences), we will be better able to understand the various issues art raises today, and gain a richer comprehension of the situations in which the artistic phenomenon takes place. Or, to put it another way, getting involved in these kinds of projects could mean building alternatives that run parallel to more established art venues, thus creating sites for experimentation and the discussion of art that are not necessarily linked to the institution. It is up to us to move from a quite passive place to building bridges between cultures and practices.

¶ 02/03

“The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by an Artist” suggests reflections on the politics of inclusion, and it also suggests a repositioning and revaluation of what constitutes an artist today. Linked in one way or another to this complex array of manifestations that contemporary art is today, we artists should be more aware of our importance as agents shaping the art system on a local and international scale.

New forms of articulation, groups not moved by -isms as in the past but by a real interest in sharing, and confrontations based on the interrelationship between artistic manifestations from different voices regarding themes, concepts, and procedures are all necessary paths if cultural and artistic horizons are to be expanded. Also, by extending the artistic practice to include curating, writing, and other forms of exchange and collaboration, we subvert relations of power and move toward a more truly democratic, pluralistic art sphere.

Thinking specifically about the idea of an artist curating Documenta, I ask: Would that bring more freedom to ideas surrounding how to direct and organize such mega-shows, bringing experimental approaches and innovative strategies? Would it help to stretch the meanings of art in relation to large institutions, and to conceive of locations that are not confined to the museum's walls?

I suggest that we could perhaps have a more powerful and influential outcome if “The Next Documenta” is curated not by one artist, but rather by a group of artists from different continents, who would engage in serious curatorial research and work to present a relevant range of contemporary art made worldwide.

¶ 03/03

A group of artists responsible for curating could help define nonsubjective aims and selection criteria, and it could represent a path toward more democratic politics of inclusion. Also, it could help to define new creative strategies and forms of articulation between countries, continuing the process of deterritorialization initiated in Documenta 11. For instance, would it be possible for Documenta to foster South-to-South/South-to-East connections, even though it is a Northern European event? What role would this action play in the process of reshaping the curatorial practices involved in large international exhibitions?

Generally speaking, the point of departure for artists curating Documenta could perhaps be the many barriers in today’s world, barriers that in some cases were paradoxically underlined by processes of globalization. In order to present a complex understanding of the contemporary artistic phenomenon, artists responsible for curatoring would need to embrace cultural differences and transcend individual prerogatives, yet, not lacking particular concerns, become involved in extensive curatorial research, rather than orienting themselves just by established artistic discourses and selecting artists who have already achieved recognition in the international scene. Without dismissing fundamental world political, economic, and social frictions that are strongly manifested in art today, and which should indeed be discussed, a curatorial process by artists could be oriented toward, In the words of Monica Amor, “a closer reading of the images, objects and performative aspects” of diverse cultures, acknowledging their common and distinct grounds. As Amor points out, “it is much more productive, challenging and subversive to try to deploy a web between particular artists, from different cultures or countries, and thus offer our circumstantial perspective, deriving from specific ‘sites of enunciation’, in relation to communities that cross borders and artists who travel worlds.”

A Documenta selection committee could, for instance, look to artists’ initiatives around the world for orientation. Gaining inspiration from their experimental (and experiential) activities and taking note of specific issues in the regions in which they operate could be a step toward a reinvented curatorial model.

“The Next Documenta Curated by Artists” could bring renewal through experimentation and exchange, enlarging the framework in which art takes place today. It would guide the curatorial process as a constant field of inquiry, from which creative choices would arise. By suggesting a selection oriented toward cultural diversity, I neither propose the geographical illustration of practices nor an absence of curatorial narratives, but rather an attempt to think about and put forward for consideration the idea that art can no longer exist only in relation to specific Northern discourses. This should perhaps be one of Documenta’s missions. The complex, diverse layers and sites in which contemporary art arises can become precious materials for the organization of meaningful temporal and spatial interrelations, involving different audiences, as soon as collaboration and flexibility are the guiding words for such a curatorial practice. Allowing space for art that is not yet accepted or absorbed by the system could be risky, but it certainly would refresh artistic debates and determine a more open vision. That is perhaps when the informative aspect of a mega-show like Documenta gains a more relevant and meaningful dimension. It becomes self-transformative.

The fact that artists are directing large-scale exhibitions or working as mediators is a step away from the binary artist/curator relationship. It represents an expansion of such boundaries, and an important path toward a real growth of diversity and freedom in thinking about the art system.