Documenting DOCUMENTA: A haudenschildGarage Project with Matthew Schum

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In 2007, I completed a blog project for the haudenschild Garage while doing dissertation research in Istanbul. The first blog on the Istanbul Biennial happened rather organically and without much of a premeditated editorial plan. I wanted to give breadth to the exhibition and the city, and feature artists and curators that I thought were pushing the envelope. Spontaneity proved to be an obvious strength with the blog review format.

In June 2012, traveled to Germany to create an account of Documenta 13. This project was loosely inspired by an urstyle of art criticism that independently commissioned writers used to cover the Paris Salons in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. These Salon Reviews often took an à la carte approach to the inordinate exhibitions held annually by the state’s Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. Upon compiling a series of entries gathered on the move in the opening days, these journals would be modestly bound as handbooks made to be transported easily, perused topically and potentially disposed of like a daily thereafter.

Documenting DOCUMENTA attempts to apply this practical invention to the pervasive use of weblogs today. Blogs share with the handbook the tactical benefit of being itinerant and informal. As an appropriated format, it affords the writer an opportunity to intervene in a spectacle and to curate a more biased, focused and faceted account of the many ‘Salons’ currently held around the globe each year. The drift of the project is that the reader can imagine a little pamphlet bound, so to speak, by a current and fugitive technology, that is less glossy than art magazines and more adventurous than condensed newspaper reviews tend to be.

Topic: Learning from the Istanbul Biennial

Q: Why the margins of a weblog to review the biggest international art exhibition in the world?

Burak Delier, ‘PARKALYNCH’, 10th Istanbul Biennial, 2007

Since the 10th Istanbul Biennial, the inevitability of blogs as a general context for art criticism (or something like it) has become more obvious and prevalent. Looking back, the difference in working this way was that it allowed for an embedded reporting that could adjust to the variety a biennial and its local art scene offer. Throughout the process, the idea of a blog remained new to me, but I knew what I didn’t want – stargazing was kept to minimum and the art was contextualized at the street level.

Also at play was the difference of philanthropy versus commercial interests in journalism. A blog like this one can allow for an extra freedom in the field that art magazines may not provide.

These two factors – of leeway and altruism – would seem to pose the question of whether noncommercial weblogs are better suited for the task of capturing an international exhibition, especially if a writer intends to detail a fragmented exhibition like the roving 13th Documenta.

*Images courtesy of Matthew Schum unless otherwise noted

*Banner image Lawrence Weiner ‘The Middle of The Middle of The Middle of’ and Giuseppe Penone ‘Essere fiume 6′