i-D Deputy Editor, Dean Kissick dishes the dirt on dOCUMENTA (13) and tells all about ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog with the Pink Leg’
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Recently i-D online took a trip to Kassel – the hometown of the Brothers Grimm and their foreboding fairytales, faraway in the German forests – for the opening of dOCUMENTA (13), a super-sized exhibition of international modern and contemporary art that comes around every five years and is often called “the Museum of 100 Days.” This was a strange trip through an art world of stolen bikes, magical drinks and lost dogs, all dotted around the historical city’s car parks, caves and sunny palatial gardens. It all began at the Absolut Maybe Bar, where two of the exhibition’s stars, playful conceptualists Mario Garcia Torres and Ryan Gander, presented a book of twenty-six bespoke drinks designed by artists; from Pierre Huyghe’s Beetle Juice, which comes with the warning “this cocktail contains an actual bee, please take care when drinking,” to Jeremy Deller’s Nice Bit of Protest, which can be conjured up out of “any flammable alcohol” that’s set alight. “I was charmed by the history of Yves Klein, who had mixed a cocktail which was an actual artwork in Paris in 1958,” explained Mario by the bar. “He made this blue cocktail, and the story says that everybody peed blue the next day. The next morning people would still be enjoying it, experiencing this blue thing, and so I was really thinking about that… about where the ingredients for a cocktail come from, how they all come together, and how all that becomes an experience.”
dOCUMENTA itself includes over 300 artists and is curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who obscured her intentions through cryptic descriptions such as, “The dance was very frenetic, lively, rattling, clanging, rolling, contorted, and lasted for a long time.” There were artistic interventions all over Kassel and beyond – as distant as screenings of one of Mario’s films in Kabul, Afghanistan – but everything revolved around the central exhibition in one of the world’s oldest museums, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum. We were blown away by the first work we encountered, Ryan’s windy breeze through the opening galleries (a minimal gesture which was apparently three years in the making, and very expensive) although we couldn’t find his other works – a secret trapdoor between two bushes and a novelist writing a book about a failed artist, somewhere outside the Orangerie. The day after we returned to the Fridericianum to admire British Vogue photographer Lee Miller’s images of post-war Germany, including amazing self-portraits of her having a soak in Hitler’s abandoned bath, and left our hire bikes unlocked outside… top tip: don’t do this, because your bikes will totally be stolen, and then you’ll have to apologise to your lovely PRs and won’t be able to cycle around the Karlsaue’s capacious landscape gardens.
Nevermind though, because the park is absolutely amazing. As we walked alongside its baroque water features and wild areas, we were passed by a brown-and-white-spotted puppy with a pink paw, trotting away in the opposite direction; “Oh,” Michael Nevin from the journal wondered aloud, “I think that’s one of the dogs from Pierre Huyghe’s installation?” Sure enough, a young invigilator soon came sprinting out of the woods after it, while we continued to an opening in the trees. There, amazing French artist (and recent i-D and LuckyPDF interviewee) Pierre Huyghe had dreamt up dOCUMENTA’s standout artwork out of “live things and inanimate things, made and not made.” His environment of muddy craters and gloopy, puddle-soaked paths plays home to two Spanish greyhounds with pink dip-dyes, psychotropic plants such as opium poppies and weed, and a found stone statue of a reclining nude with her head covered in honey and bees. We were even told of a raven who sat and chilled in a nearby tree, and every now and again it would fly down into the clearing and eat the honey and the bees… a little like us drinking Pierre’s cocktail of a drop of orange blossom honey, a leaf from an orange tree, lime juice and triple sec, and a dried bee!
There’s so much to see, hear and feel in Kassel – Geoffrey Farmer’s epic American photo-collage that looks like an Adam Curtis documentary come to life; Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustave Cramer’s fun house of fantasies; Omer Fast’s hallucinatory tales of incest and trauma affecting a teenage soldier returning from Afghanistan; Sam Durant’s architectural folly by the lake; Susan Philipsz’s orchestral sound piece at the end of the Hauptbahnhof’s platforms; Thea Djordjadze’s minimalist greenhouse; Tino Sehgal’s black-out room of sirens singing Lady Gaga songs and screaming otherworldly chants; and Tue Greenfort’s Worldly House floating on the fish pond – that everyone should surely visit the Museum of 100 Days before it closes forever.
dOCUMENTA (13) runs until 16th September.
Text: Dean Kissick
Photography: Jon Nash