documenta is an exhibition of contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. It was founded by artist, teacher and curator Arnold Bode in 1955. Kassel happens to be my hometown – so I might not be totally unbiased writing about this event.
documenta is Germany’s biggest art fair and documenta 14 is currently happening in Kassel (April 4 – July 16 2017).
A life-sized model of the Greek Parthenon, created by Argentine artist Marta Minujin, – covered in forbidden books donated from around the world – stands in central Kassel, right where Nazis once burned banned books.
Monuments, memory and calls to political action seem the recurrent theme of Documenta 14.
Nigerian-born American artist and writer Olu Oguibe has built a concrete obelisk (right at Kassel’s central Königsplatz), a Monument for Strangers and Refugees.
The obelisk is inscribed with a quote from the Book of Matthew that reads: “I was a stranger and you took me in.”
The sentence appears on the obelisk in German, Turkish, Arabic, and English.
When We Were Exhaling
In Kassel, Kurdish-Iraqi artist Hiwa K. has created an exhibit with a series of ceramic pipes entitled “when we were exhaling” that centres on his experience after fleeing northern Iraq on foot in the 1990s, too poor to afford a hotel room. He walked on foot across Turkey and then ended up for a time being in the town of Patras, Greece, where he lived in ceramic pipes that are used for canalisation.
Hiwa had hoped to turn the exhibit into an Airbnb space for documenta 14 visitors, but the city of Kassel refused, citing health and safety reasons. Instead only the 13 students who helped decorate the cylinders will spend a night there during the art fair.
.. you probably think that I have been visiting a very strange place. A place, where even the most conservative politician is more liberal, than the most liberal conservative in the US. A place were the burka is nothing special and hardly gets noticed anymore, (if you look closely enough, you will spot a few in the photos above.) If you think so, you may want to look up the definition of ‘brave’ .. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.