Page 14 - Studio International - July August 1971
P. 14

What is Reality?                           who have misunderstood Beuys, and who make   `Visitors' School'), Karlheinz Braun and Peter
                                                                                          Iden (Theatre, 'Experimenta'), and Ulrich
                                                solo exhibitions of themselves instead of regard-
     The theme of                               ing themselves as instruments of a collective   Gregor, Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz (film),
                                                endeavour. All this because the necessity of art   produced an additional working paper in which
      Documenta                                 and the art business has been called into   the individual categories were embodied in
                                                question.                                 concrete, if provisional, lists of names.
                                                  In New York the art scene is disintegrating;   The first category, 'Reality of
      Georg Jappe
                                                in Europe the museums and public galleries are   Representation', covers fictive reality: socialist
                                               suffering from a malaise which gives rise to an   realism, advertising, kitsch, comics, propaganda,
                                                increasingly heated debate among curators,   the 'iconography of society' from flags to
                                               exhibition organizers and students on the social   postage-stamps and banknotes, and the popular
                                                value of art. Whole conferences and seminars   art of monuments and tombstones.
                                               are devoted to it; and for lack of a properly   `Reality of the Thing Represented' is a
                                               worked-out alternative to the traditional idea   category that gives plenty of scope to the new
                                               of quality (which is rejected by the producers of   American naturalists; they share it with Gnoli,
                                               art themselves), attitudes and demands move   Klapheck and the Pop artists, who may not be
                                               further and further away from artistic criteria.   overjoyed at the prospect. The theme is extended
                                               The alarm is sounded with the instruments that   to cover portraiture (Andy Warhol and the
                                               lie to hand: Marxist concepts. The public turns   reactionary Paul Mathias Padua), 'Individual
                                               its back on the resulting doctrinaire word-  Mythologies' (Beuys, Nauman, Nitsch), and
                                               exhibitions, and on an art which mutters specious   anonymous fields such as Black Power activism,
                                                precepts by the beard of the prophet Marx.   pornography and drug experiments.
                                                  The fifth Documenta exhibition takes place   In the third group, 'Identity or Non-
                                               in Kassel from 28 June to 8 October 1972. Its   Identity of Representation and Thing
                                                Secretary-General, Harald Szeemann, a     Represented', Process Art, Conceptual Art,
                                                believer in 'replacing ownership by free actions',   transformation (e.g. Oldenburg), transposition
                                               announced a year ago that its title was to be 'The   (e.g. Magritte), 'real-time' film (e.g. Warhol and
                                                Hundred-Day Event'. Since then, his Happen-  Gerry Schum's television gallery), and the art-
                                                ing exhibition in Cologne last autumn has taught   life equation, are seen in the context of 'forced
                                                him that this would make him entirely dependent   identity' (the art of children, mental patients
                                               on the caprice, not to say the wilful eccentricity,   and naive painters) and 'wish-fulfilling identity'
                                               of participants mostly more interested in   (sport and play). The examples of 'self-
                                               advertising themselves than in enlightening   presentation' should be particularly interesting;
                                               anyone else. As a result, a new theme for   they are expected to include not only artists such
                                                Documenta 5 has just been agreed; its aim is   as Gilbert and George but also art impresarios
                                                nothing less than the redefinition of the under-  such as Konrad Fischer, Pierre Restany and
                                               standing of art. Without invalidating the   Peter Ludwig.
                                                immanent formal laws governing a work of art   Thus art is placed in a context, but not
                                                the hotly-discussed issue of value is placed firmly   forced into it. Two points were emphasized
                                                in context by the question 'How does this work   repeatedly at the press conference: any work of
                                                relate to reality ?'                      art that lays claim to autonomy will be shown
                                                  For the first time Documenta is not a   on its own (the compartmented structure of the
                                                judgement day, establishing world ratings, but a   new Schöne Aussicht building makes this
                                                value-free, thematic exhibition. The theme is   possible); and Documenta 5 is not to be an
                                                formulated thus : 'Questioning Reality- Image   illustrated seminar, but a true exhibition that
                                                Worlds Today'. It is divided into three large   can be experienced in visual terms.
                                                categories: (i) 'Reality of Representation', (2)   The exposition of the underlying dialectic,
                                                `Reality of the Thing Represented', and (3)   and the validation of the criteria used, is to be
                                                `Identity or Non-Identity of Representation and   the province of Bazon Brock's Visitors' School.
                                                Thing Represented'. This all sounds rather like   There is to be no repetition of last time's
                                                half-baked philosophy; and the theoretical   Brock's benefit- 'a dance display by Brock, an
                                                background paper, by Bazon Brock, is written in   attempt to force people into line', as Brock
                                                an esoteric jargon which sounds partly like a   himself now describes it. Outside institutions
                                                stock parody of professorial German, partly like   are to be commissioned to report on such topics
                                                a highly formalized autonomous work of art   as the demonstrable physiological preconditions
                                                which set out to hold art obscurely, vaguely but   for visual receptivity. Another project: to
                                                lastingly on the path of Content.         demonstrate a programme, developed in
                                                  The resulting fears among members of the   California, which shows how far colloquial
      The less the artists actually produce, the clearer   international art world that Documenta 5 is   language is already a metalanguage, made up
      the basic problems of the art world become.   some kind of theory-crazed rampage against the   of verbal and non-verbal means of expression
      Unless one counts the third-rate naturalism of   established Artist-Exhibitor-Collector-Public   (gesture, mime, pauses, etc.), and consequently
      certain American artists, there has for two years -  set-up, were allayed at the first press conference   how far the visual language of art has an
      since Process Art-been no avant garde to keep   in the course of nearly four hours of televised   informational content equivalent to that of
      the mechanism of distribution and consumption   factual exposition and argument. The members   verbal language: Documenta 5 as a refutation of
      in being. There has been a deluge of      of `Documenta Team 5', Jean-Christophe    Wittgenstein.
      retrospectives, often more remarkable for size   Amann, Arnold Bode and Harald Szeemann   But at the moment the Visitors' School is
      than for quality: gigantic ego-trips by artists    (thematic exhibition), Bazon Brock (theory,    only partly provided for financially; and a
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