Documenta14 Doubles Its Presence

BY Katrina Kufer / Apr 9 2017 / 14:13 PM

The quinquennial fair opens this year in Athens and Kassel with the theme 'Learning from Athens'

Documenta14 Doubles Its Presence
© Mathias Voelzke
d14 Fridericianum, Kassel

Artistic director Adam Szymczyk has proposed a new structure for this year’s edition of documenta14, a move which embraces the diverse cultural production of each European city and aims to put both on equal artistic footing. Endeavouring to go beyond a European context and use Athens to reach the broader Mediterranean (Africa and the Middle East) and address current global concerns, Szymczyk’s curatorial remit is manifold. 

In a press statement, Szymczyk and his curatorial team said “documenta14 – in its temporary displacement and doubling of perspective – would enable those artistic strategies that reach towards the reality of a contemporary world, one understood as a place for a multitude made up of individuals, and not as a territory defined by hegemonic relationships that make it a place of suffering and misery for many.”

The pairing reflects the changing and tense socio-political landscape of Europe and asks visitors to avoid the traps of binary logic. Directly referencing how the “Greek Crisis” was similarly embodied by Kassel in 1955, when it was used as a strategic location at the onset of the Cold War and then as the vehicle in which to negotiate the trauma caused by the Nazi regime, the title Learning from Athens indicates the push to reconstruct perceptions. 

The international group of participating artists have been encouraged to consider the evolving relationship between Athens and the documenta-hub Kassel (noting that Kassel will initially play guest to Athens’s host role) and create one work for each, allowing for an influx of fresh inspiration.  It also effectively alters the footing on which viewers experience what is typically only a singular citywide art event to “[bring] into play feelings of loss and longing while redefining their understanding of what such an exhibition can be,” the website states. 

In an effort to counter preconceptions of documenta and avoid “parachuting a prepackaged event from Kassel into one or several picturesque venues,” the press statement revealed documenta14 is unfolding in a three-year-long education programme. Public interventions in the cultural communities of both cities already began as of 2013, where several meetings took place to discuss the collaborations. Already underway are public talks, performances, reading groups, workshops and screenings. Athens’s Municipality Arts Centre has been transformed into an experimental public space where visitors can be introduced to international figures in the arts, and the Keimena Film Programme is reaching a wider audience by broadcasting films via the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) into Greek homes every Monday at midnight.

Over 160 artists will showcase newly produced works across 40 locations alongside loans from largely publicly-funded museums and archives. Full details of the programme can be seen on the website.

documenta14 runs from 8 April-16 July in Athens, Greece, and 10 June-17 September in Kassel, Germany. For more information visit