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When is sleeping in an adorable garden shed in a green field not so adorable?  When the wind is so intense that the darling lavender shutters slam violently into the walls, shaking the tiny house off the ground and sanding down my tender nerves. Another night without much sleep, well that’s okay.  I didn’t come here to be comfortable. (I’ve been employing this mantra quite a bit since I moved permanently to New York from the utopian day camp that was San Francisco.) I scrape myself up and out of bed, how is it already 11?  I must have slept some then, that is a good thing. I head quickly to the press office, tell the young man that I work at this museum and that I’m blogging for our website, and I’m legitimized with a press pass. Let’s celebrate with my favorite sleep alternative, almost as cute as my tiny house is this tiny coffee. I think I’ll have four.

not drunk just unrested I swear                                                jäh bitte!

Ravaged and electrified by chemicals, I head back to Hugenottenhaus to try to catch Theaster Gates.  Again the line is too long–irksome, but also heartening to see people queuing for art, and ordinary-looking people, with maps and fannypacks and horrible sandals–so I continue my creep, I see a d13 sign outside of what appears to be a stylish hotel.

It appears, inside, to be your average hipster throwback hotel lobby, but there is this strange sign in the lobby:

Reasons For Imprisonment

Absurd and stimulating already, and then the corporate logos decorating the bottom, it’s uncannier still.  Is this history or fiction?  What is “Birkenau” Are these corporate insignia ironic?  What kind of place is this?

I walk towards the Fridericianum now, the main art museum of Kassel which gets taken over totally for dOCUMENTA, it feels like the natural place to start officially. There’s a strong and uncontested Occupy presence here, installed out front:



It’s weird to see the Occupy project without opposition, it’s just another, sloppier tribe living in harmony with the main one.

The first piece in the Fridericianum is empty space with a slight breeze moving through two immense galleries and then two small ones. This gesture serves for me as a kind of mind-undressing, a primer, or anti-primer, a disorientation. As if to apprise you, me, the visitor, of the fact that the normal rules will not apply here.  Pan-Continental pirates will not be discouraged from napping with their dogs on the front lawn, and there may be galleries full of nothing but a cool tickle on the back of your neck. I am delighted by this, but note that in another context, say an American MFA thesis show, I would roll my eyes at it.  What, are they going to have an all-white painting too?  Welcome to 1918 people. But I don’t feel that way. And when I see a handwritten, many-paged letter from artist Kai Althoff to curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev explaining that he must drop out of the show and how sorry he is, and really exposes his own fragility and deep ambivalence, it comes off as tender, intriguing, compassion-stirring and somehow not just indulgent. And the other visitors gathered around the vitrine which holds the letter seem to be interested too, and pretty delighted, and I wonder if sometimes we are just delighted because we came to be delighted and we paid to be delighted and we want to get what we came for?  Just a few steps further into the gallery and I find Khaled Hourani’s piece about a Picasso painting being shown in the West Bank for the first time.

Man with Bust

It’s an installation, with a film describing the unusual process of getting the painting into the International Academy of Art Palestine, a photo of the painting in the museum’s gallery, behind stantions and with two guards on either side, and finally a small drawing on the wall, which I assume at first glance to be a study for the painting.  But upon further inspection, I see that it is a drawing inspired by Picasso but made by a person in prison, and the splashes of color are made with coffee, and at the top of the drawing there is a rendering of chains busting open.  He’s a really good artist.  It was sent to Hourani directly from the artist, from prison. This is all getting very real already isn’t it. I float deeper into the buzzing museum at encounter this TOTALLY INSANE tapestry, which is virtuosic to a degree that could make you scream and wish for the rest of your life that you could be a computer because no human can ever do this or even really fathom it.

by Goshka Macuga

But then there are things that a human can do that a computer can never do, like feel certain feelings.  For example, you might feel some feelings if you went to Kader Attia’s piece, a large gallery full of artifacts of the eastward-facing western gaze, and not surprisingly containing many mementos of violence and bodily horror.  One thing that is beginning to stare me down is that there is a lot at stake. The common cynicisms I might hold about contemporary art–that it’s become, through market forces, nothing more than a luxury good, or that it’s a narcissistic masturbate-a-thon, or that it’s a nauseating, theory-gagged, class-fed academic self-eating monster….well these thoughts are really just NOT in play very much here.  And with that bitchiness out of the way, there is so much space for the possibility that art could be a noble act of hope, rigorous intellect, spirit, and optimism. Dare I say LOVE?  Let’s leave that for tomorrow.  I am feeling that these halls are filled with sincerity, like people are really trying, really thinking hard and looking at things and doing their best.  Even if the world is probably ending, we can keep on. The impossible need not be futile. This is just a feeling, I mean I’ve hardly seen anything, but it will be proven right over the course of my experience.

Kader Attia, from "The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Culture"

gazing east

There are tour groups sprouting up all around me yapping in a rainbow of language and my thoughts are getting grandiose! I’ve got to get out of this building and into the park right now! Eco-feminists, into your arms! I need your kuchen!




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