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by Ronald Kolb and Dorothee Richter


OnCurating Issue 54: documenta fifteen—Aspects of Commoning in Curatorial and Artistic Practices

This issue is the result of more than two years of intensive engagement with aspects of commoning in curatorial and artistic practice, stemming from our encounters with ruangrupa on the way to documenta fifteen. At its core, this issue follows our research into the discourse on commons and its implications for the exhibitionary complex. We have conducted interviews with lumbung members Britto Arts Trust, Gudskul, Jatiwangi art Factory, Más Arte Más Acción, OFF-Biennale Budapest, Project Art Works, Question of Funding, Trampoline House, Wajukuu Art Projects and ZK/U Center for Arts and Urbanistic and invited guest lecturers from the Summer School “Commoning Curatorial and Artistic Education” that we—Dorothee Richter and Ronald Kolb—organized for the Shared Campus Platform with colleagues from partner universities Cedric Maridet (HKBU), Zheng Bo (SCM), Alison Green (UAL), Yatin Lin and Hongjohn Lin (TNUA).

The educational-theoretical background of this summer school was formed by Jacques Derrida's idea of the “university without conditions,” Joseph Beuys' open-discussion format with the public at documenta 5, Paulo Freire's empowering role of teaching, and bell hooks' emphatic message about the empowering force of an anti-racist, feminist, and love-based education. Regarding the aspect of the commons, we considered theoretical approaches such as those by feminist thinker Silvia Federici and by George Caffentzis. Federici referred to commons as the shared goods and knowledge of divergent groups. The renewed thinking about the commons inherent in documenta fifteen is linked to movements of self-organization and resistance, DIY, and DIWO culture.

In our own teaching and learning frameworks, we have based them on empowering educational formats of equality, aiming to set up contact zones in horizontal-leaning encounters, in open, experimental, and critical frameworks. As one example, we can name the travelling workshop format “Curating on the Move”[1] that aims to open up learning and teaching environments to the condition of situatedness—between students, teachers, publics, and producers—in order to enable a “we”: a trans-individuation, that is, an exchange between situated and embodied knowledges, between histories and contexts, between generations and epistema.

Along this line of thought, we developed the two-week Summer School “Commoning Curatorial and Artistic Education” as part of documenta fifteen’s educational format “CAMP notes on education.” Participants of the Summer School were asked to conduct their own workshop for the group (including the staff and lecturers) and to share and discuss their experiences of practice and theory in open, experiential workshop formats, performances, and exercises with and in the city. It created a shared co-teaching experience.

With practices of commoning entering a large-scale exhibition like documenta, a novel approach meets the curatorial-artistic complex. And with that, various conflicts loomed on the horizon, not to mention the internal difficulties of "scaling" a resource infrastructure and its principles of sharing, originally intended for a rather small village community or small group of people, to a global scale. The question is in what form, with what instruments, with what knowledges, and with what new alliances this apparent paradigm shift will come about. At this point, shortly after the end of documenta fifteen, it is still not easy to grasp the impact of this very different approach on the representative exhibition complex, but with this issue we want to shed light not only on the empowering aspects of exhibition-sharing strategies and their impact on the wider public, but also to start analyzing their possible fault lines.

It is difficult for us to write this editorial, as the aspects of commoning have interested us for years and had an inspiring prospect of entering the framework of documenta fifteen, but with the accusations of antisemitism (and the display of antisemitic iconography, abstruse propaganda, and the application of boycott principles), the whole endeavor has been overshadowed. There are, unfortunately, no easy solutions—and no easy analyses—in this conflation of different paths, as issues of repression, ideological propaganda, and pressure from within and without are bogged down in the spectacle of a scandal (and its rules of scandalization) unfolding between hegemonic maneuvering and friendship, to put it bluntly. The sad thing was that any willingness to talk was made impossible.

The interviews with lumbung members were all conducted before the opening of documenta fifteen in June 2022 and before the conflictual events. They all provide insights into the specific collective practice of lumbung members.

“The Exhibition as a Washing Machine? Notes on Historiography and (Self-) Purification in documenta’s Εarly Εditions,” the article by Nanne Buurman, provides a historical perspective on the first documenta editions.
Elly Kent sketches Indonesian's long tradition of collective artistic practice in the reprinted contribution “The History of Conscious Collectivity Behind Ruangrupa”.
With the contributions of Dorothee Richter, titled “documenta fifteen—Curatorial Commons?”, and Ronald Kolb, titled “documenta fifteen’s Lumbung: The Bumpy Road on the Third Way: Fragmentary Thoughts on the Threats and Troubles of Commons and Commoning in Contemporary Art and Knowledge Production”, and another reprinted contribution named “We need to talk! Art, offence and politics in Documenta 15” by Elly Kent and Wulan Dirgantoro we have added three perspectives that analyze the paradigm shift accomplished and presented by documenta fifteen—with all its problems—from different angles.

Many speakers from the summer school lectures contributed with their theoretical and practical examples, thoughts on practices of commons, and projects in relation to commoning:

“Art-based Commoning? On the Spatial Entanglement of Cultural and Urban Politics at the Example of Project Spaces in Berlin,” by Séverine Marguin and Dagmar Pelger, traces the historical development of spatial commons.

Unchalee Anantawat, Ariane Sutthavong, Lara van Meeteren, and Bart Wissink explore Thailand's artistic commons practice between representation in and resistance to nation-state logic in “On the Ideological Flexibility of the Cultural Common(s): The Many Lives of Thailand’s Art Lane.”

Jennifer Deger reports on her collaborative long-term research project Feral Atlas in the reprinted article "Feral Atlas and the More-than-Human Anthropocene," co-authored with Anna L. Tsing, Alder Keleman Saxena, and Feifei Zhou. In “Commoning: Environmental Reconciliation in the Work of Common Views,” Dan Dan Farberoff and David Perahia provide insights into their collaborative practice. Gilly Karjevsky discusses their curatorial and artistic methodology through their project in “Collective Autotheory: Methodologies for Related Knowledge Practices.” The reprinted article "Public Movement. The Art of Pre-Enactment," a conversation between Dana Yahalomi and Oliver Marchart, is an example of a political and performative artistic practice by Public Movement.

"Educating the Commons and Commoning Education: Thinking Radical Education with Radical Technology," a conversation between Grégoire Rousseau and Nora Sternfeld, talks about the empowering educational functions of commons, specifically in the context of (digital) technology. And Christopher Brunner’s article “Concatenated Commons and Operational Aesthetics” analyzes commons in digital infrastructures.

Impressions of the Summer School “Commoning Curatorial and Artistic Education,” CAMP notes on education, documenta fifteen.

Ronald Kolb is a researcher, lecturer, curator, designer and filmmaker, based between Stuttgart and Zurich. Co-Head of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, ZHdK and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal On-Curating.org. PHD candidate in the Practice-Based Doctoral Programme in Curating, University of Reading/ZHdK. The PhD research deals with curatorial practices in global/situated contexts in light of governmentality – its entanglements in representational power and self-organized modes of participatory practices in the arts.

Dorothee Richter is Professor in Contemporary Curating at the University of Reading, UK, and head of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, CAS/MAS Curating at the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland; She is director of the PhD in Practice in Curating Programme, a cooperation of the Zurich University of the Arts and the University of Reading. Richter has worked extensively as a curator: she was initiator of Curating Degree Zero Archive, Curator of Kuenstlerhaus Bremen, at which she curated different symposia on feminist issues in contemporary arts and an archive on feminist practices, Materialien/Materials; recently she directed, together with Ronald Kolb, a film on Fluxus: Flux Us Now, Fluxus Explored with a Camera. She is executive editor of OnCurating.org.


[1] Nanne Buurman and Dorothee Richter, eds., OnCurating 33: documenta. Curating the History of the Present (June 2017), https://www.on-curating.org/issue-33-reader/documenta-curating-the-history-of-the-present.html.

[2] Ibid., introduction, 2.

[3] I adopt this expression from Eva Cockcroft, “Abstract Expressionism as a Weapon of the Cold War,” Art Forum 12, no. 10 (June 1974). See Harald Kimpel: documenta. Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Cologne: DuMont, 1997), 124-139 for the ideological function of documenta as a “bulwark against socialist realism” due to its position close to the inner German border between East and West.

[4] Buurman, “The Exhibition as a Washing Maschine? Some Notes on Historiography, Contemporaneity, and (Self-)Purification in documenta’s Early Editions,” in Stasis: Taking a Stance, ed. Syrago Tsiara (Thessaloniki: MOMus (The Metropolitan Organization of Museums of Visual Art), 2020). The lecture titled “Whitewashing / Freezeframing: Some Notes on Historiography, Contemporaneity, and (Self-)Purification in documenta’s Early Editions” was given at the symposium Stasis #2: Contemporary Art in Historical Terms as part of the Thessaloniki Biennale program. I thank Louisa Avgita for the invitation and the encouragement.

[5] See Karl Hofer, “Zur Situation der bildenden Kunst,” reprinted in Gabriele Schultheiß, “Gegenständlich oder ungegenständlich. Kapitel zur kleinen Waffenkunde, in documenta 55, ed. Simon Großpietch and Kai-Uwe Hemken (Kassel: UP, 2018), 284; Martin Damus, “Ideologiekritische Anmerkungen zur abstrakten Kunst und ihrer Interpretation – Beispiel Kandinski,” in Das Kunstwerk zwischen Wissenschaft und Weltanschauung, ed. Martin Warnke (Güterlsoh: Bertelsmann, 1970), 48-73; Walter Grasskamp, “Degenerate Art and Documenta 1: Modernism Ostracized and Disarmed,” in Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles, eds. Irit Rogoff and D. J. Sherman (London: Routledge, 1994), 163-169; Martin Schieder, “Die documenta I (1955),” in Deutsche Erinnerungsorte II, eds. Étienne Francois and Hagen Schulze (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003), 645.

[6] Julia Friedrich and Bernhard Fulda in particular used the occasion to problematize the idea of documenta as a counter-exhibition to the 1937 Degenerate Art exhibitions. For articles based on the conference presentations in German and English, see the journal Historische Urteilskraft/Historical Judgement 2 (March 2020), published by the DHM.

[7] See findings of Carlo Gentile, page 9 of the exhibition catalogue Documenta. Politik und Kunst, ed. Raphael Gross with Lars Bang Larsen, Dorlis Blume, Alexia Pooth, Julia Voss, and Dorothee Wierling (Munich: Prestel, 2021). For the documenta founders’ NSDAP and SA memberships, see Mirl Redmann, “Das Flüstern der Fußnoten. Zu den NS-Biografien der documenta-Gründer*innen,” in documenta studies 9 (June 2020). For Haftmann’s SA membership, see Vincenca Benedettino, “Werner Haftmann as the Director of the Neue Nationalgallerie in Berlin,” in Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art, Vol. 10, eds. Svetlana V. Maltseva, Ekaterina Yu Staniukovich-Denisova, and Anna V. Zakharova (St. Petersburg: Lomonosov Moscow State University, 2020), 692–702.

[8] According to Theodor W. Adorno, “Language granted [fascism] asylum” when the “jargon of authenticity” became omnipresent after the war, with “formalities of autonomy replacing its contents.” See Adorno, Jargon der Eigentlichkeit. Zur deutschen Ideologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1964), 9 and 19.

[9] The project also materializes in a number of talks and articles, such as Buurman, “Northern Gothic: Werner Haftmann’s German Lessons, or A Ghost (Hi)Story of Abstraction,” documenta studies 11 (December 2020), https://documenta-studien.de/media/1/documenta_studies__11_nanne_buurman.pdf; Buurman: “d is for democracy? documenta and the Politics of Abstraction between Aryanization and Americanization,” Modos Journal, Revista de história da arte 5, no. 2 (May-August 2021), https://periodicos.sbu.unicamp.br/ojs/index.php/mod/article/view/8665413; Buurman, “documenta’s Chronopolitics of the Contemporary, or Un/Curating Nazi Continuities in Werner Haftmann’s Historiographic Practice,” in Curating the Contemporary in the Art Museum, ed. Kristian Handberg (London: Routledge, forthcoming); Buurman, ”d is for domesticity? Biopolitics of Domesticity in the Early History of documenta,” in Ästhetische Ordnungen des Wohnens. Zu bildlichen Politiken des Wohnens, Häuslichen und Domestischen in Kunst und visueller Kultur der Moderne, eds. Irene Nierhaus and Kathrin Heinz (forthcoming); and Buurman, “Un/heimliche Nachbarschaften in der künstlerischen und kuratorischen Forschung,” in Forum Wissenschaft 4/22: Wissenschaft und Kunst (forthcoming).

[10] Bode’s choice to use the ruin in its raw state, with just a few added brick walls and concrete structures, was inspired by his visit to the Picasso exhibition of 1953, in Milan’s bombed-out Palazzo Reale. See Kimpel, documenta. Mythos und Wirklichkeit, 296-97.

[11] On the “symbolic character“ of the ruin as a provisional exhibition space in the “spiritual vacuum” after Stunde Null, with no museum of modern art existing in Germany, yet, see also Martin Schieder, “Die documenta I (1955),” 639.

[12] Irit Rogoff, “From Ruins to Debris: The Feminization of Fascism in German History Museums,” in Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles, 223-249.

[13] For the genealogy of this argument, see the works cited by Grasskamp and Kimpel. For its most recent iteration, see Julia Friedrich’s lecture “Modern Art is the Best Medicine: How documenta helped the West Germans to pass off the wounds they had inflicted upon others as their own—and at the same time to heal them,” Historische Urteilskraft 2 (March 2020): 18-23.

[14] Rogoff, “From Ruins to Debris,” 233.

[15] This sentence was written in 2019, but the current discussions around documenta fifteen are a case in point.

[16] For the program, see https://www.biblhertz.it/2480074/Exhibiting-and-History.pdf, accessed December 22, 2019.

[17] In the introduction to the catalogue of the first documenta, Haftmann argues against seeing abstraction as an “endpoint,” while his arguments—especially in the catalogue to documenta II– describe a “necessary” “path towards abstraction.” See Werner Haftmann, “Einleitung,” in documenta. Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts (Kassel/Munich: Museum Fridericianum, 1955), 15-16 (henceforth dI), and “Malerei nach 1945,” in documenta II. Kunst nach 1945 (Cologne: DuMont, 1959), 14, 15, 18, 20 (henceforth dII). All translations of Haftmann’s texts from German into English are by the author.

[18] See Walter Grasskamp, “Becoming Global: From Eurocentrism to North Atlantic Feedback. documenta as an ‘International Exhibition’ (1955-1972),” in OnCurating 33: documenta. Curating the History of the Present, 101-102.

[19] Kimpel, documenta. Mythos und Wirklichkeit, 263 (translation by the author). See also Walter Grasskamp, Die Unbewältigte Moderne. Kunst und Öffentlichkeit (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1989), 87, where he problematizes the dehistoricizing suggestion of a false continuity of modernity since archaic times. For an English version, see Grasskamp, “‘Degenerate Art’ and Documenta I: Modernism Ostracized and Disarmed,” in Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles, 163-196.

[20] Kimpel, documenta. Mythos und Wirklichkeit, 266.

[21] Ibid., 267. Although Spengler was not a follower of Nazism, his Decline of the West (1918/1922) was praised by Benito Mussolini and became a “pioneer work of national socialism,” as it was a best-seller in Germany. See Ernst Cassierer, Der Mythus des Staates. Philosophische Grundlagen politischen Verhaltens (1945) (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1994), 381.

[22] See, for instance, Ludwig Goldschneider, Zeitlose Kunst (Vienna: Phaidon, 1934). This book on “Timeless Art” comprises a collection of “works close to contemporaneity from faraway epochs, 132 photos, collected and commented on by Goldschneider. The subjective collection of photos showing historical works and juxtaposing them with lookalikes from other periods, accompanied by comments on their stylistic contemporaneity with modern art, may have inspired both André Malraux’s Musée Imaginaire (1947-51) and the photographic prologue of the first documenta. For a further historicization of Haftmann’s historiography, see Buurman, “Northern Gothic,” “d is for democracy,” “d is for domesticity?,” and “documenta’s Chronopolitics of the Contemporary.”

[23] In “‘Degenerate Art’ and Documenta I,” Grasskamp called attention to the omission of Jewish artists (like Ludwig Meidner, Otto Freundlich, or Felix Nußbaum) and leftist political tradition (represented by artists such as George Grosz and John Heartfield). See also Grasskamp, “Becoming Global.”

[24] dI, 15-16.

[25] dII, n.p.

[26] Ibid., 14.

[27] dI, 17.

[28] With Haftmann’s memberships in Nazi organizations and activities in NS cultural politics in mind, this does not come as a surprise. He also avoids references to the Nazi art history professor Wilhelm Pinder, whose ideas on generation and geography influenced his writing as a young art historian in the Thirties but also the documenta catalogue introductions in the Fifties, which sometimes sound like echoes from his earlier texts. For a comparison, see Buurman, “documenta’s Chronopolitics of the Contemporary.”

[29] dII,  14, 16.

[30] Werner Haftmann, “Einführung,” in documenta III. Malerei/ Skulptur (Cologne: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1964), xv.

[31] In dI, he speaks of “German totalitarianism” (18) and only in dIII does he mention, for the first and only time, the “Nazi Years” (xvi) explicitly, citing them as a reason why it was difficult to get certain loans.

[32] Given what we have learned about his biography in recent years, this seems to be very likely indeed.

[33] dI, 22-23.

[34] Ibid., 15.

[35] See dI, 16. Whereas Heinz Lemke, in the preceding foreword of the catalogue of the first documenta, speaks about his hopes of raising a “European” or “Occidental” consciousness, dI, 13, nine years later, in the introduction to the painting and sculpture catalogue of documenta III, Haftmann is at pains to stress the “transnational character” of documenta, claiming that “documenta is the only exhibition in the world without national ambitions,” although it becomes clear that “national” here stands for the state and its institutions. See dIII, xvii.

[36] dI, 16. Obscuring agency by excessive use of the passive voice, he also nebulously mentions anonymous “proponents of […] long forgotten positions,” “national, social and ideological doctrines,” and “orders of political clans”  (16-22).

[37] For Haftmann’s suspiciously excessive othering, externalization, demonization, and disembodiment of the Nazi crimes as an overcompensatory exorcism, see Buurman, “Northern Gothic.”

[38] dI, 16.

[39] Ibid., 16-17.

[40] Ibid., 16.

[41] In the dII catalogue, Haftmann calls 1945 a “fateful year” because, after the war, Germany, Italy, and Japan “had to find a new beginning after their almost complete destruction” (dII, 16), thus rhetorically turning the aggressing countries into victims.

[42] See Werner Haftmann, Emil Nolde – Ungemalte Bilder, published by Ada und Emil Nolde Stiftung Seebüll (Cologne: Dumont, 1963).

[43] dI, 18.

[44] See Rogoff, “From Ruins to Debris,” 231 and 247.

[45] See Grasskamp, “‘Degenerate Art’ and documenta.”

[46] The fact that there are very few portraits of women can be read as a double disenfranchisement in the context of a general 1950s backlash to the kitchen. After they had replaced men in public professions during the war, and modern art had been largely privatized, after the war, female artists were nevertheless once again largely excluded from representation.

[47] His article “Woran krankt die östliche Kultur,” in Die Zeit, December 6, 1956, with its call to boycott the Russian invitation to collaborate in the cultural realm (articulated by Ilia Ehrenberg at the sixth general assembly of the Société européenne de Culture in Venice, March 1956) by responding with “deadly silence” as long as the Hungarian question is not solved, for instance, sounds like a sponsored anti-Soviet propaganda piece.

[48] Kunst der Nation advocated for German Expressionism to become the Nazi regime’s official art. See Stefan Germer, “Kunst der Nation. Zu einem Versuch, die Avantgarde zu nationalisieren,” in Kunst auf Befehl 1933-1945, eds. Bazon Brock and Achim Preiß (Munich: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1990), 21-40. Besides contributions by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, the journal also featured articles by the later documenta co-curators Will Grohmann, Alfred Hentzen, and Werner Haftmann. Haftmann’s contributions, such as “Geography and our Conscious Art Situation,” “Form and Reality. Excursus on the Unity of Modern Art,” and “Diversity of Modern Art” appeared in 1934, before the journal was closed down in 1935 because Expressionism was no longer considered as compatible with the official ideology. See also Buurman, “Northern Gothic,” “d is for democracy?,” “d is for domesticity?,” and “documenta’s Chronopolitics of the Contemporary.”

[49] Haftmann, Emil Nolde. Kirsten Jüngling cites a letter from Haftmann to the collector Bernhard Sprengel, in which he admits that he deliberately kept silent about Nolde’s Nazi past because Joachim von Lepel, Nolde’s former assistant, estate manager, and first director of the Nolde Foundation, plead with him to omit any reference to that past in his book, so he did. See Kirsten Jüngling, Die Farben sind meine Noten. Emil Nolde Biografie (Berlin: Propyläen, 2013).

[50] For a detailed deconstruction of the myth, see Bernhard Fulda, “Die ‘Ungemalten Bilder’. Genese eines Mythos“ in Emil Nolde. Eine Deutsche Legende. Der Künstler im Nationalsozialismus, eds. Bernhard Fulda, Aya Soika, and  Christian Ring (Munich: Prestel, 2019), 179-217. In the brochure “Emil Nolde 1867-1956. Der Künstler im Nationalsozialismus,” published by the Nolde Foundation in 2019, its director Ring also clarified that these myths were fabricated by Nolde and his apologists. On page 21he insists that Haftmann’s assertion, according to which Nolde “turned away” from the Nazis “once they ‘dropped their masks’” (translation by the author), was definitely false, as Nolde did not turn away until the end of the regime. See also Mario von Lüttichaus, “Emil Nolde. Die Jahre 1930–1945. Tagtägliches Paktieren mit den Zuständlichkeiten,” in Emil Nolde, ed. Rudy Chiappini (Milan, Lugano: Electra, 1994), and Uwe Danker, “Nachdenken über Emil Nolde in der NS Zeit,” in Demokratische Geschichte 14 (2001): 149-188.

[51] Haftmann, Emil Nolde – Ungemalte Bilder, 20-21.

[52] Ibid., 24.

[53] Ibid., 13 and 37.

[54] Ibid., 15.

[55] Ibid., 22.

[56] Ibid., 19.

[57] Haftmann, “Einführung.”

[58] Haftmann, Emil Nolde – Ungemalte Bilder, 16. Trying to justify the artist’s position by pointing to the dominance of Jewish art dealers in Berlin around 1910, Haftmann reproduces antisemitic arguments himself.

[59] Haftmann, Verfemte Kunst. Bildende Künstler der inneren und äußeren Emigration in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (Cologne: DuMont, 1986), 18.

[60] Writing on Martha Rosler’s Passionate Signals contribution to documenta’s twelfth edition, curator Ruth Noack reminds readers of the reasons for Kassel’s bombardment and takes note of “the correlation [of] the molehills with an eruption of the buried ruins beneath the rose hill way beyond. Unearthed history: propaganda of rebuilding in close proximity to the iron curtain, raids by the Allied forces that flattened the town and the prevalence of the armaments industry now and then.” See documenta 12, eds. Roger Buergel and Ruth Noack (Cologne, Kassel: Taschen, 2007), 294.

[61] dI, 25.

[62] See Buurman, “d is for domesticity?” and Buurman, “documenta’s Chronopolitics of the Contemporary”.

[63] Ernst Bloch, “Über bildende Kunst im Maschinenzeitalter,” lecture at documenta III, 1964, in Ernst Bloch, Literarische Aufsätze, Vol. 16 of  Selected Works (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1985), 571 (translation by the author).

[64] Haftmann, Emil Nolde – Ungemalte Bilder, 39.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Bloch, “Über bildende Kunst im Maschinenzeitalter,” 573.

[67] Ibid., 569-572. For Bloch’s notion of the synchronicity of the non-synchronous, see also idem.: “Part II: Non-Contemporaneity and Intoxication,” in Heritage of our Time (1935/1962), trans. Neville and Stephen Plaice (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991). See also Buurman: “documenta’s Chronopolitics of the Contemporary.”

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid., 571. He goes on to praise montage (de Chirico and Joyce) as a means to “bring together in close proximity things that are many miles divided” (572). Bloch’s text also strongly resonates with Theodor W. Adorno’s “Valéry Proust Museum” (1955), published in Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber (London: Neville Spearman, 1967), 175-185.

[70] Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” English translation published in Hannah Arendt, ed., Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 257-258.

[71] What was on display here in the perhaps most prominent and historically significant spot of documenta is not an original artwork, but a copy in an IKEA frame. So, like Bode and Haftmann forty-three years earlier, the curators Buergel and Noack once again used reproduction as a sort of historical prologue—thereby explicitly nodding to Benjamin’s insight that the technological reproducibility of artworks increasingly calls into question the originality of art and that “exhibition value” replaces “cult value,” emancipating artworks from their ritualist functions.

[72] In the context of my 2019 curatorial research seminar “Back to the Roots?” at Kunsthochschule Kassel, participants engaged with the parallels between historical life reform practices and today’s slow-and-conscious living trends, such as yoga, detox, and decluttering. The same year that the Bauhaus was founded 100 years earlier, in 1919, a group of women started the Loheland school for Physical Education, Agriculture and Craft to provide other women with a holistic education as gymnastics teachers. Dubbed at the time as the “Amazons’ State in the Rhön,” their program to liberate the body from civilizational corsets by recovering its “natural range of motion” later tempted Ernst Bloch to describe these life reform settlers as a “purification movement” whose unrestricted but nevertheless artful demeanor appeared like being “dressed in freedom.” As a response, we set up the exhibition in freiheit dressiert // being natural is simply a pose as a laboratory to jointly investigate the political ambivalences of back-to-nature movements then and now, including the ambiguous role of Joseph Beuys. Notions of immediacy, transparency, and purity were critically examined by curatorial and artistic means in order to better understand the deployment of “nature” and “naturalness” in the context of neoliberal greenwashing and the (new) right. For the Show and Try Again program at the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Cultures of the Curatorial Master’s Program in Leipzig, the group experimented with a repertoire of Lohelandian body practices through the lens of voguing to reflect on the biopolitical implications of historical modes of subjectivation and their contemporary reenactments.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAOrOGIX1RQ and https://showandtryagain.kdk-leipzig.de/nannebuurmanandstudents

[73] It is surely no coincidence that Beuys used oak trees, whose German nationalist iconography includes the Nazi use of oak leaves and the planting of “Hitler Oaks.” See Frank Gieseke and Albert Markert, Flieger, Filz Und Vaterland: Eine Erweiterte Beuys Biografie (Berlin: Elefanten Press, 1996). For his völkisch language, see Joseph Beuys, Sprechen Über Deutschland (Wangen: FIU, 1985). For his connections to right-wing networks and thinking, see Hans Peter Riegel, Beuys – Die Biographie, Vols. 1-4 (2013, extended and updated 2021). These findings still caused controversy in the year of the 100th anniversary of Beuys’ birthday in 2021, where the anniversary program in Kassel and the publication Beuys 100, ed. Volker Schäfer (Kassel: euregioverlag, 2021) turned a blind eye to these aspects.

[74] In my work on dOCUMENTA (13), I have repeatedly discussed how the post-humanist, post-critical, anti-correlationist ideas developed under the heading of “object-oriented ontologies” played a role in the curator’s declaredly non-interventionist performance stands in contradiction to the human-centered, highly curated setting such as documenta. The bracketing out of human agency, questions of epistemology and mediation, I argued, not only caters to curatorial self-purifications and denials of power, but also problematically depoliticizes and re-essentializes the conditions of life on the planet in the Anthropocene. See, for instance, Buurman, “Angels in the White Cube? Rhetorics of Curatorial Innocence at dOCUMENTA (13),” OnCurating 29: Curating in Feminist Thought, eds. Elke Krasny, Lara Perry, and Dorothee Richter (May 2016), https://www.on-curating.org/issue-29-reader/angels-in-the-white-cube-rhetorics-of-curatorial-innocence-at-documenta-13.html#.Yn-QX2DP3lw.

[75] This is also our concern in the  “dis_continuities” research group that I have co-headed at the Kunsthochschule Kassel with Alexis Joachimides since 2020. It is part of the larger project on the potentials of artistic research initiated by the former documenta professor Nora Sternfeld before she left Kassel. See https://kunsthochschulekassel.de/willkommen/news/dis-kontinuitaeten-/-dis-continuities.html. See also the landing page of our website currently still under construction:  https://www.dis-continuities.de/.

[76] See Buurman, “From Prison Ward to Healer: Curatorial Subjectivities in the Context of Gendered Econonomies,” OnCurating 52: Instituting Feminism, eds. Dorothee Richter and Helena Reckitt (November 2021), https://on-curating.org/issue-52-reader/from-prison-guard-to-healer-curatorial-authorships-in-the-context-of-gendered-economie.html#.Yn6QNWDP3lw.

[77] “We are ghosts, too, and together we can haunt the future” were the final words of my article “Northern Gothic: Werner Haftmann’s German Lessons, or a Ghost (Hi)Story of Abstraction.” It inspired the title Wir alle sind Gespenster (We are all Ghosts)/Haunting Infrastructures of the dis_continuities group’s experimental exhibition at Kunstverein Kassel/Museum Fridericianum in December 2021. See https://www.kasselerkunstverein.de/ausstellung/kkvexh/detail/kkv/wir-alle-sind-gespenster. For another joint historiographic experimentation of artists and academics with the hidden heritage, silenced (hi)stories, and unrealized potentials haunting exhibitions such as documenta, see the workshop g/hosting the past that I co-organized with Leah Gordon in the context of the Ghetto Biennale at documenta fifteen: https://documenta-fifteen.de/en/calendar/g-hosting-the-past/.

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Issue 54

documenta fifteen—Aspects of Commoning in Curatorial and Artistic Practices

by Ronald Kolb and Dorothee Richter

by Unchalee Anantawat, Ariane Sutthavong, Lara van Meeteren, Bart Wissink

by Anna L. Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena and Feifei Zhou

In Conversation with Anastasia Baka, Leilani Lynch, and Anna Wälli

in Conversation with Leilani Lynch and Maria Mumtaz

in Conversation with Sophie Brunner, Marinella-Sofia Gkinko, and Maria Mumtaz

in Conversation with Rosela del Bosque, Olena Iegorova and Veronica Mari

Hajnalka Somogyi, Eszter Lázár, Nikolett Eross, Katalin Székely, Bori Szalai, and Eszter Szakács in Conversation with Anna Konstantinova and Giulia Busetti

in Conversation with Smadar Samson and Giulia Busetti

An Interview with Morten Goll, Trampoline House in Conversation with Nadine Bajek, Thamy Matarozzi, Alejandra Monteverde, and Anna Wälli

In Conversation with Chiara Borgonovo, Rosela del Bosque, Marina Donina, and Lotte Van Ermengem

In Conversation with Marina Donina and Regina Tetens