Interview with Anne Berk, curator of the documenta tour during our art trip

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sculpture network: What are your expectations for this year’s documenta14?

Anne Berk: I think this documenta has a focus on meaning. It challenges us to reflect on the complexity of the times we live in, by presenting a multitude of perspectives of artists from different parts of the world. I’m really looking forward to it!

SN: What do you think of the idea of two cities – Athens and Kassel - hosting the documenta14? Does this have something to do with the current political and social situation?

AB: The Polish Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk proposed a twofold structure for the exhibition, as reflected in the working title "Learning from Athens." This could refer to the current tension between Northern and Southern members of the European Union, with Greece hosting most of the refugees. You can also think of the gap between the Northern and Southern hemisphere. Adam Szymczyk wants to challenge the current hierarchies by staging a second venue for documenta14: not only in Kassel, but in Athens as well. In addition, the show is accompanied by the magazine South As A State of Mind. Interestingly enough during the 100 days of Documentathe two cities will be linked , with The Athens-Kassel Ride, a 3000 km long ride of men and horsesacross Europe.

The motto  “Learning from Athens“ sounds quite abstract/nebulous. What does this title actually mean to you?

Of course, in antiquity, the foundations for our knowledge, culture and democracy were laid in Athens. In this respect, I am impressed by the installation of the Argentine artist Marta Minujín The Parthenon of Books. She first installed this in 1973, during the reign of the junta in Argentina, as a plea for democracy. Now this life size Parthenon of Books is being recreated at the Friedrichsplatz in Kassel, where the Nazi’s once burnt books… For Szymczyk “Learning from Athens“, also refers to Athens as the centre of the Meditteranean, "A modern metropolis surrounded by sea, which attracts people from around the world. How do the Greeks receive them? ''Learning from Athens” challenges the viewer to think about current political problems with an open mind.

Did some artist names immediately spark your interest?

This edition of documenta 14 keeps the names secret, and doesn’t offer a conceptual framework as usual. They simply publish some articles on their website. Maybe because the globalized (art) world has become so extensive that it defies simple concepts. What I like about the documenta is that the selection is done by a team of curators from different parts of the world. The names of Miriam Cahn, Hans Haacke, or Lois Weinberger are familiar. But most of the artists I don’t know at all. I love to be surprised by artists from Iran, Guatemala, Chili, Mexico, Mali or Pakistan. And by indigenous people like the Aboriginals, the Sami from Scandinavia, or the Warli from North West India. Some have migrated, and mixed local traditions with contemporary art. Others preserved traditional art forms, like the earthy decorative paintings of the Warli.

Are you looking forward to the work of one particular artist?

I am looking forward to seeing the work of Hiwa K. Now living in Berlin, this Kurdisch artist fled Iraq. I discovered his impressive work at the Biennial of Venice 2015. He presented a beautifully decorated bronze bell, which was made of melted weapons that were recovered from the Iraqi war. This material transformation embodies a longing for peace. I’m also curious about the Iranian born artist Nairy Baghramian. With her elemental shapes in different materials, she incites us to think about the practice of exhibition making.

In your opinion, what are/will be the effects and consequences of these two major exhibitions documenta 14 and Skulptur Projekte Münster being held in public spaces for months?

It’s a great opportunity for the local public to see contemporary art. I remember Stephan Balkenhal telling me, that his first engagement with art was the documenta in Kassel. He signed up as a volunteer, and after that, decided to become a sculptor.

There have never been more performance acts involved than there are this year - can this shift be related to the present “Zeitgeist”?

Performance art originated in the sixties, a turbulent time that revolted against the old hierarchies that had been involved in the war. It was time for a change, for a new society with other values, such as equality, love and freedom. Instead of making objects for money, artists favoured a more direct, sometimes activist way of working.
Today, in our market driven, globalized world, I recognize this longing for new values. However, I don’t think performance is dominating the documenta 14. There is a wide variety of working, with performance art, film, sound art, installations, but also painting and old craft traditions, such as the dying of indigo.

Anne Berk and Judith Collins

Don't miss out the chance to visit documenta 14 under the expert guidance of Anne Berk with a group of artists, curators and art lovers from all over the world. This will give you an exclusive and very personal view of the works presented. Professional exchange, stimulating discussion, inspiring lectures and guided tours by and with curators and artists, as well as unpretentious and well-founded access to contemporary art are guaranteed!

The art trip takes place from 29 June - 2 July.
Check out the programme here

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