Doc­u­menta’s gift to Greece

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY MARIA KATSOUNAKI

Doc­u­menta 14’s 100 days in Athens come to an end to­mor­row. The in­ter­na­tional art event, which is based in Kas­sel and crossed Ger­man bor­ders for the first time in his lengthy his­tory to be co­hosted by another Euro­pean city, pro­voked waves of an­tipa­thy, de­spair from ide­o­log­i­cally di­verse camps and ridicu­lous amounts of crit­i­cism, but also praise and ac­cep­tance – al­beit to a lesser ex­tent. The event was in­au­gu­rated in Athens on April 8 and in Kas­sel on June 10 in the pres­ence of the two coun­tries’ pres­i­dents – Greece’s Prokopis Pavlopou­los and Ger­many’s FrankWal­ter Stein­meier – as well as the cities’ may­ors – Gior­gos Kami­nis and Ber­tram Hil­gen. They all gave speeches full of mes­sages about Euro­pean unity and about the ex­hi­bi­tion’s ti­tle, “Learn­ing from Athens.” The Athens leg of the show saw some 300,000 vis­i­tors (more than 50 per­cent of whom were not Greek) pass through the 40 venues that hosted shows and the Greek cap­i­tal be­came a topic of con­ver­sa­tion in the dis­cus­sion about con­tem­po­rary art rather than be­cause of the debt cri­sis and poverty for a change. We could put a full stop here, but if we do, there is so much we won’t have ad­dressed. Such as the mu­tual hang-ups, both of doc­u­menta 14 and the Greek pub­lic, as ex­pressed in re­la­tion to the cri­sis, in the stereo­types about “in­com­pre­hen­si­ble” art and also in the tirades against glob­al­iza­tion and bailouts, which in­spired a num­ber of works and events. We would also have failed to men­tion the most im­por­tant thing: that Kas­sel’s doc­u­menta and its artis­tic di­rec­tor, Adam Szym­czyk, gave us a very im­por­tant gift. They put Athens and the con­tem­po­rary art it pro­duces in the cen­ter of global cul­tural in­ter­est and al­lowed Greek art to travel out­side the coun­try’s bor­ders to Kas­sel. The op­er­a­tive word here is “con­tem­po­rary,” with all the power, drive, breadth, short­ages and weak­nesses it en­tails. In Kas­sel, peo­ple are talk­ing about Greece in a dif­fer­ent way now, thanks to doc­u­menta 14. In Athens, how­ever, we re­main sour and bit­ter, trapped in our com­plex of how oth­ers see us in­stead of ques­tion­ing how (or even whether) we see oth­ers. The op­por­tu­nity to bring about change, to do some­thing rad­i­cal, is be­ing spent on de­nial that has its roots in an inate con­ser­vatism and men­tal­ity to re­ject ev­ery­thing as a mat­ter of course. Even if we failed to un­der­stand it or if it both­ered is, doc­u­menta 14 was an op­por­tu­nity to make us more open-minded, more in­quis­i­tive, more gen­er­ous and more tol­er­ant. The ques­tion is, did it?

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