The the quinquennial exhibition. The fundamental political proposition of

The
central position of “learning from” in the working
title of documenta14 (hereafter d14) led to an open debate regarding the
appropriations and translations of what people learned and unlearned in the
months following the closing of the 14th edition of the quinquennial
exhibition. The fundamental political proposition of d14 was the redefinition
of the “Other”. The title “Learning from Athens” redirected our focus
to the declarative weak link of the severe European crisis. However, the focus
later gained a combined and wider horizon. The policies of otherness played a
central role in the whole organization. Consequently, it would be ignorant and
incomprehensible to think of the event as a neo-colonial event, as some have
implied. At its core, it is a quest for politics in modern art as something
that can be found “elsewhere”. Where? In the “repressed
other”.

 

d14
is an important exhibition that has prompted prolonged ambivalence. The choice
of Athens as a topological example by an intelligent curator with anticipated
and unexpected virtues, Adam Szymczyk, initially fuelled wider enthusiasm
while, at the same time, brought to light a series of inherent pathologies and
fantasies of modern culture in Greece, which manifested themselves in a
distorted and often aggressive manner – analogously to how Athenians would project
the argument of the crisis as an excuse towards these pathologies.

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A
wide range of artworks, including the EMST collection, Antidoron – which had
remained in the basement of the closed National Museum of Contemporary Art
until it travelled to Kassel, when Adam Szymczyk decided to exhibit it in the
Fridericianum, or the works exhibited in the Athens Conservatory; a series of
indeterminate objects, scores and media, express a spirituality but also a
political position, without depicting the usual political media. In other
words, revolts, resistance fighters, dictatorship events, ethnographic reps,
queer rhetoric, financial evidence, or shipwrecked archives, but anonymous
objects and indefinite moments, seemingly of subordinate importance. Their
political element is that they focus on the way we see things, helping us
understand what Jani Christou calls mysterion.

This composition of works and curatorial decisions illuminate a new social
treaty through the materiality of memory and the subjects that make them
accessible to direct social and therefore materialistic analysis, one could say
by rephrasing Walter Benjamin.

 

Ample
criticism of d14 has been targeted towards Athens, but has not sufficiently
identified the subject of learning, the subject of the verbal type of
“learning”. Is it Europe? Is it the West? The artworld? d14 wanted to
learn from Athens, which it dealt with, in the words of Adam Szymczyk “not
as a cradle of Western civilization, but as a place where the discrepancies of
the modern world come together and collide as they are incarnated in heavily
charged poles such as East-West or North-South”. In fact, a prerequisite of
d14’s deliberate movement is an assumed starting point of mutual definition.

Learning from Athens implies creating a form of diversity, while simultaneously
being formed by diversity, being established as diversity.