documenta 12

documenta 12 has three leitmotifs. It is no accident that they take the form of questions. After all, we create an exhibition in order to find something out. Here and there, these motifs may correspond, overlap, or disintegrate – like a musical score.

Is modernity our antiquity? This is the first question. It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists. Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive. It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise). It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand. Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”). In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.

What is bare life? This second question underscores the sheer vulnerability and complete exposure of being. Bare life deals with that part of our existence from which no measure of security will ever protect us. But as in sexuality, absolute exposure is intricately connected with infinite pleasure. There is an apocalyptic and obviously political dimension to bare life (brought out by torture and the concentration camp). There is, however, also a lyrical or even ecstatic dimension to it – a freedom for new and unexpected possibilities (in human relations as well as in our relationship to nature or, more generally, the world in which we live). Here and there, art dissolves the radical separation between painful subjection and joyous liberation. But what does that mean for its audiences?

The final question concerns education: What is to be done? – Artists educate themselves by working through form and subject matter; audiences educate themselves by experiencing things aesthetically. How to mediate the particular content or shape of those things without sacrificing their particularity is one of the great challenges of an exhibition like documenta. But there is more to it than that. The global complex of cultural translation that seems to be somehow embedded in art and its mediation sets the stage for a potentially all-inclusive public debate (Bildung, the German term for education, also means “generation” or “constitution,” as when one speaks of generating or constituting a public sphere). Today, education seems to offer one viable alternative to the devil (didacticism, academia) and the deep blue sea (commodity fetishism).

Roger M. Buergel, December 2005

On the graphic design of documenta 12

A handwritten element and a new family of typefaces form the main components of the image design for the twelfth documenta. The image briefing was comparatively simple: the artistic director gave me several handwritten samples, various ways of writing the name, the usual abbreviations, and the number. The tally marks were chosen on account of the archaic and strongly visual representation of the number twelve.

The chosen typeface is “Akkurat,” created in 2005 by Laurenz Brunner, a designer working in the Netherlands, and published by the Swiss label Lineto. The design draws on the Swiss tradition of pragmatic design, i.e. simple lines aspiring to formal precision and a high degree of legibility. The design presents a continuation of the modern approach to sans serif typography which has proved its worth as an element within functional designs.
Within the overall image, this typeface was used for the institution documenta, the city Kassel, the year, and the dates, i.e., all the key facts about documenta 12.

The tally marks relate to the text like a signature: which also deliberately suggests an artistic appropriation of the documenta as process. In keeping with the artistic concept, I thus view the graphic design for this documenta not as a commercial brand image but as the design for a temporary cultural sphere of action.

Martha Stutteregger

ROGER M. BUERGEL, artistic director documenta 12

1962, exhibition organiser and author, two children.
Curated Things we don’t understand (with Ruth Noack, Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2000), Governmentality. Art in conflict with the international hyper-bourgeoisie and the national petty bourgeoisie (Alte Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, 2000), The Subject and Power – the lyrical voice (CHA Moscow, 2001). The Government (with Ruth Noack, Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg; MACBA-Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Miami Art Central; Secession, Vienna; Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2003- 05). Artistic director to documenta 12 (2007).

RUTH NOACK, curator documenta 12

1964, art historian; two children.
Studied art history, audio-visual media and feminist theory in the USA, UK, Germany and Austria. From 1990, regular work as a lecturer and writer in German-speaking countries. From 1992, exhibition organiser. From 2000, full-time teaching work (film theory) at Vienna University, the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and Lüneburg University. From 2001, research project on the “Construction of Childhood”. 2002- 2003 president of AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art) Austria. From 2005, curator documenta 12. Exhibitions (selected): Things we don’t understand (with Roger M. Buergel, Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2000), Organisational Form (with Roger M. Buergel, Galerija Skuc, Ljubljana 2002-03; Galerie der Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig, and Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg, 2003). The Government (with Roger M. Buergel, Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg; MACBAMuseu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Miami Art Central; Secession, Vienna; Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2003-05).

CATRIN SEEFRANZ, director of communications

Studied at Vienna University (German, theater studies, and sociology), where she subsequently carried out philological research. Since then, she has been working in the field of communications for cultural institution and events. In recent years, she has been director of communications for the Viennale Vienna International Film Festival. Has also collaborated on various projects focusing on film, gender, and art.


1961, artist and writer, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.
Recent solo shows include psiu-ei-oi-olá-não (A Gentil Carioca, Rio de Janeiro, 2004), sistemacinema + diagramas (MAC-UNaM, Posadas, 2003), Passagens (NBP) (Galeria Artur Fidalgo, Rio de Janeiro, 2001) and NBP x eu-você (MAM, Rio de Janeiro, 2000). Recent exhibitions and projects include: The Government. Be what you want but stay where you are (Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2005), Scenes (Centro Altantico de Arte Moderno, Las Plamas, 2005), formas de pensar (MALBA, Buenos Aires, 2004), XXV São Paulo Biennale (2002), Urban Tension (museum in progress, Vienna, 2002). Recent curatorial projects include Conversations (Skuc Gallery, Ljubljana, 2006, co-curator) and On Difference#2 (Kunstverein Stuttgart, 2006, cocurator). Worked as co-director of the artists run space Agora, in Rio de Janeiro, from 1999 to 2003. Assistant Professor of Art History at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. Co-editor of item art magazine.

AYSELEC, Kulturzentrum Schlachthof

1964 in Ankara, Turkey, grew up in the Ruhr Valley.
Studied social education/social work at Kassel University, followed by freelance work in (inter)cultural education projects with adolescents and later with adults – especially with and for women. Has worked since 1998 at Kulturzentrum Schlachthof, a sociocultural center, as director of education and advisory activities, developing and carrying out projects on intercultural understanding and communication in local, regional, and European networks.


1963, lives in Liverpool.
Imogen Stidworthy works with sound and voice as acoustic, spatial, bodily and linguistic material, to ask questions about language and the translation of experience. Her work ranges from large scale installations of sound, video and architectural elements, to short films and audio works. Recent solo shows: Imogen Stidworthy (FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, 2005), The Whisper Heard (Matt’s Gallery, London, 2003), Dummy (Netherlands Film Museum, Amsterdam, 2002), o.T. (Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, 2002); Recent group exhibitions: SENEF (6th Seoul Net and Film Festival, Korea, 2005), The Government. Be What You Want but Stay Where You Are (Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2005), Dutch – non Dutch (Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, 2005), murmur (TENT. centre for contemporary art, Rotterdam, 2005), The Government. How do we Want to be Governed (Miami Art Central, 2004), Shrinking Cities (Kunst-Werke, Berlin, 2004), Becks Futures (ICA, London and Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, 2004).


1962, lives in Barcelona.
since 1983 chef at El Bulli, Barcelona.


1966, lives in Warsaw.

Artur smijewski about Głuchy Bach / Deaf Bach (Singing Lesson 2): ..It is usually the case that able-bodied people accept disabled ones only if they make an effort to imitate the fit. Hence the popularity of documentaries about artists painting with their feet or legless mountain climbers. But this is terror on the part of the normal – Try hard to be like us, cripple, and we’ll pat you on the back. Whereas it is hard as hell to really accept difference.

Głuchy Bach / Deaf Bach (Singing Lesson 2), 2003
Audio-CD, 24:08min.

Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantate BWV 78, Jesu, der Du meine Seele Aria (Chorus, Mezzosopran Ewa Łapińska), Wir eilen, 3:48min.

Chorus of Samuel-Heinicke Schule für Gehörlose und Schwerhörige (Stephanie Balsinger, Anja Boroviec, Anja Fessel, Sandy Franke, Christian Grun, Sebastian Grun, Madlen Keller, Ramon Legler, Francesca Lorenz, Katja Mehlhorn, Christiane Mosler, Sebastian Spöhr, Willy Stammwitz, Monique Stummer, Susanne Wippich, Thomas Wippich, Alan Zech)

Barockensemble der Fachrichtung Alte Musik der Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig, “Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy”, head Susanne Scholz

Conductor Dariusz Łapinski

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