The Need to Document

The Need to Document

Kunsthaus Baselland

Joachim Koester, The Kant Walk, Friedrichsburg Castle #2, 2003, Courtesy Gallery Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen

April 7, 2005

The Need to Document
A cooperation between Kunsthaus Baselland, Muttenz / Basel, Halle fur Kunst e.V., Luneburg and transit, Prague

Kunsthaus Baselland
St. Jacob-Strasse 170
CH-4132 Muttenz / Basel
T +41 61 312 8388
office [​at​]

Halle fur Kunst e.V.
Reichenbachstr. 2
D-21335 Luneburg
T +49 4131 402001
hfk [​at​]

19 March-1 May 2005 Azorro, Zbynek Baladran, Big Hope, Ursula Biemann / Angela Sanders, Mircea Cantor, Jens Haaning, Johanna Kandl, Joachim Koester, Dorit Margreiter, Boris Ondreicka, Kirsten Pieroth, Oliver Ressler / Dario Azzellini, Hinrich Sachs, Jiri Skala, Olivier Zabat

3 April-18 May 2005 Edgar Arceneaux, Kancyila Brooke, Duncan Campbell, Laura Horelli, Klub Zwei, Jiri Skala / Marc Ther, Ella Ziegler

A project by Vit Havranek, Sabine Schaschl-Cooper and Bettina Steinbrugge.

For the past few years contemporary art has witnessed a remarkable trend towards the documentary style. Exhibitions and events such as Manifesta 5, documenta XI, and several Biennial shows are featuring an increasing number of documentary works, but their specific character has certainly not been studied in great detail. Films and video installations as well as photographs and works pertaining to Conceptual Art revolve around everyday life, trying to shed light on and capture social, cultural, and political events, historic moments, and private details in a permanent and educational way. On the other side, a second line of documentary self-reflexively examines its own means as socially constructed.

The massive impact of the latest political events, such as 9/11, the war in Iraq, the increasing right-wing shift of many European governments, and the problematic of refugees, have since the 1990s fueled new debates about a re-politicization of contemporary art. More than a decade after the fall of the Iron Curtain numerous artists from the transforming countries in Eastern Europe are more and more focusing on their own historical, art-historical and socio-cultural roots (instead of gearing their works towards Western art and markets), thereby establishing new links to the present, which are often expressed in a documentary style.

The definition of what documentary means accords to the judicial discourse, in which a document stands for the legalization or a proof for the truth.
Likewise, documentary practice in contemporary art is characterized by objectivity and the search for truth, by an acute sense of reality, and by the desire to remain entirely factual. It reveals in what way an art work has been created. The term documentary may be used for a visual, textual, or verbal product. Documentary methods are applied both by political and public strategies as well as by private or intimate statements.

The artists selected for the show have taken a documentary approach in order to articulate the content of their works. We have not included works that merely document an action or a performance by means of illustrations. “The Need to Document” focuses on underlying motivations, on the crucial issues at stake, and on the salient features of a documentary attitude. The exhibition explores what is genuinely documentary i.e. something which expresses itself in an ontologically immutable form.
Round-table discussion in Kunsthaus Baselland, Muttenz /Basel
6 April 2005

Round-table discussion in Halle fur Kunst e.V., Luneburg
23 April 2005

Round-table discussion in Prague, organized by transit /
27 May 2005

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Kunsthaus Baselland
April 7, 2005

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