Saturday, June 09, 2012

Coincidence? - Documenta 13 Opened Today in Kassel

At the National Gallery of Art's East Wing two years ago, I saw this Max Ernst sculpture and told J that I'd once sat on it.  Back when I was a student in Germany, at big art exhibit in Kassel, Dokumenta 3.  I thought.  And somewhere there is a picture of me on it.  Maybe.  Possibly it was just a similar piece. I was tempted to sit on it again and have her take my picture, but the guard was watching me.

Today, June 9, 2012, I have been cleaning up downstairs.  Throwing away old papers I no longer need, resorting the ones I'm not ready to toss, and thinking about converting some old papers into articles.

When I ran across, finally, this picture.

OK, so this isn't such a big coincidence.  Eventually I was going to find this picture.

BUT, then I looked up Documenta.  This exhibit happens every five years.  And it turns out, (from the Daily Beast):
The twice-a-decade show is launching Saturday, June 9, in Kassel, Germany, in its 13th incarnation.

From Deutsche Welle:

The German President Joachim Gauck has opened one of the world's biggest contemporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in Kassel, central Germany.
The thirteenth edition of one of the world's biggest and most ambitious contemporary art fairs opens in Kassel on the Fulda River in the northern part of the state Hesse in Germany.
Held every five years since 1955, the fair exhibits works by artists over a period of 100 days. This year's event features works by nearly 300 artists from 56 countries. Exhibits include cottages brimming with strange objects, sounds of the Brazilian jungle and a West African theatrical performance.
Artistic Director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, a US-born Italian-Bulgarian, explained the festival's role at the opening: "Documenta is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment."

And here's a video from Documenta 13 from Newsweek and Daily Beast art critic Blake Gropnik:

There are some questions though. If it's every 5 years, and this is 2012, how did I see it in September 1964? Wikipedia answers that quickly.  Its entry has a list of the 13 Documentas since 1955. The second one was in 1959, and the third one in 1964. They don't seem to have gotten onto a regular five year cycle until 1972.

People like to attribute events like my finding this picture on the day Documenta opens this year on something more than coincidence.  With 365 days in a year, and with there being a Documenta every five years, the odds of my finding the picture on this particular day is a bit more than 1800 to 1.  You had a much better chance of picking the winner of the Belmont today.  1800 to 1 is roughly 50 chances in 100,000, which is about twice as likely as dying from Alzheimers in the US in 2009.   (Some of you may think that's a strange relationship, but it is important for people to think about numbers and statistics with rationality and with facts.  The odds were high, but these coincidences do happen.)

The Deutsche Welle piece says that there will be three other Documenta locations this year:
Kassel is not the only venue for Documenta; this year a fifth of the works are being shown in other locations including Kabul, Afghanistan, Kairo, Egypt and Banff in Canada.
 So, Alaskans driving Outside this summer, can stop by in Banff.   And those stationed in Afghanistan might be able to partake as well.

OK, one more bit of trivia.  While I was looking for the Max Ernst piece on my blog, I found him mentioned in one of my posts in honor of Claude Lévi-Strauss' 100th birthday.  Lévi-Strauss is being interviewed in 1940 or 41 about his time teaching at NYU:

D.E. You were a young, unknown university professor, and you became part of a group of famous artists - stars, even - Breton, Tanguy, Duchamp...
C.L-S. And Leonora Carrington, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Matta, Wifredo Lam. . . Masson and Calder were living in the country. I went to see them on a few weekends.
D.E. Did you like the members of the group?
C.L-S. Some of them. I liked Max Ernst right away, and he is the one I stayed closest to. Tanguy, whose painting I admired a great deal, was not an easy person. Duchamp had great kindness, and for awhile Masson and I were very close. I also became friends with Patrick Waldberg. Our friendship continued after the war ended.
D.E. Peggy Guggenheim was financing the existence of the group?
C.L-S. She helped this or that one out financially, but Max Ernst, whom she married, was more affluent than the others. They were leading the Bohemian life in Greenwich Village. Until Max Ernst left Peggy Guggenheim. One day, Breton called to ask me if I had a small sum of money to buy back one of his Indian objects from Max Ernst, who was now broke. This historic object is now in the Musée de l'Homme.
 And things mentioned in here lead in a thousand more directions which I'll leave for any of you reading this to pursue on your own.


  1. This is EXACTLY the kind of post I adore reading first thing in the morning.
    I now see you don't post daily, as you have a (rich outer and inner) life. Still, each post is so nourishing I don't think I could eat them more often.

    As a found-object/digital graphics artist and conceptual artist (I wrote The Pocket Lint Chronicles -- 450 pages about pocket lint), the sound piece in the German Documenta video ...until I get it right ...struck a real chord (ha.).

    My husband is an en plein air oil painter and has thrown out more paintings that most artists do in a lifetime. Every day (year round in the woods around Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) he comes back with 2 or 3 paintings and says, "Tomorrow I'll get it right." He has sold 400 paintings since he started 4 years ago -- they are very, very beautiful -- yet he is unsatisfied with most of them.

    Your photo of yourself is wonderful. I do not think it at all odd you found it
    when you did. It just means you are in the right place at the right time, doing what you should be doing. Centered.

  2. Barbara, thanks again. I'm glad the blog has made such a good impression. I hope it lasts over time. :) Actually, I've been posting pretty much daily, but the last couple of weeks I'm having some tension between writing at the level (see the post on blog quality standards) I want and enjoying the summer.

    Found object artist. I love it on so many counts. The serendipity, the recycling, the creativity of seeing new purpose is trash . . . I know an artist here who has focused on found objects on one particular stretch of beach.

    Tell your husband hello. 400 sold in four years - that's close to a painting sold every four days. That's pretty good.

    1. This found object into art has been called "upcycling". I like that.


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