dOCUMENTA (13): On Seriality – or pausing with painting
Since we addressed the topic of resting already: The documenta-Halle is the perfect spot for a pause. It’s entirely dedicated to »artworks thinking through what painting is today«. Albeit their political, socio-critical contexts, the exhibition is intense and yet quite a lull in the documenta-overload, as the different artistic positions share the leitmotif of repetition and layering. The resulting contrast of serious issues and calming form is super interesting.
Discovering Gustav Metzger
There’s a deliberately monotonous archival presentation of works by German political artist Gustav Metzger, which survived his concept of auto-destructive art. The Lebanese Etel Adnan fills an entire room with „meditations on nature“: her 38 canvases are colourful variations of abstract landscapes. In the cabinet located in the rear end of the hall, visitors are immersed in the nightmarish scenario created by Indian artist Nalini Malani. It’s like literally entering a trance: In Search of Vanished Blood (2012) is a complex video/shadow play (6 channels, 4 spots and 5 rotating cylinders!) with dark motives such as widowhood in India and miscommunication, the imagery based on texts by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Christa Wolf and Rainer Maria Rilke and the soundscape on excerpts of works by Heiner Müller, Samuel Beckett and Mahasweta Devi.
More slick yet equally absorbing are the contributions by the American artist Julie Mehretu and the German artist Thomas Bayerle. Mehretu shows new, super detailed, meticulous studies of revolutionary places such as Tahrir Square and Zuccotti Park, which like all her multilayered paintings are of intriguing depth.
In the central space of documenta-Halle, Bayrle’s large-scale installation comprises two no less monumental works on the wall, beautifully presented in pure skylight. But then eight car engines that Bayrle has transformed into praying kinetic sculptures catch the attention. The engines transcend their original purpose: Cut open and with their repetitive sound, accompanied by the equally monotonous recordings of rosary prayers, they’re fascinating to observe.
In contrast to the other positions, Yan Lei’s Limited Art Project (2011-2012) seems almost refreshingly simple: It consists of 360 paintings that cover the room’s ceiling and walls or are placed in storage racks.They depict source images the artist cropped and painted on canvas. During one year Yan Lei intuitively chose one image a day that had caught his eye more than others when surfing in the worldwide web. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, his visual diary will be gradually deleted, the sources concealed, one after one the paintings will be lacquered in cooperation with a local Volkswagen factory – leaving the room filled with monochrome surfaces at the end of dOCUMENTA(13).
As to the contribution of Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho: It’s part of another story on the role of the archive at dOCUMENTA (13), which is to come soon. This is the fifth part of Niche Berlin’s thoughts, read part one, two, three and four.
Pictures by Mary Scherpe