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Documenta – A seismograph of contemporary art
One of the most significant events on the contemporary art calendar, Documenta commences from June 16 and continues till September 23. The event is regarded among the most important and prestigious ones in contemporary art, drawing artists, art connoisseurs and aficionados from all over the world. The twelfth edition of Documenta expects up to 700,000 visitors; more than 650 thousand art lovers had visited the last one.

Documenta showcases art from various regions of the world and in all conceivable media. The works are put and presented into relationship with each other. Documenta has established and positioned itself as a seismograph of contemporary art movements worldwide. Here it becomes manifest whether art is succeeding in grasping the world in images and whether these stand valid from the public point of view.

For every edition a new director is selected and the exhibit format and theme is reinvented, a concept which has been appreciated by discerning art lovers. The first Documenta, created by painter and academy professor Arnold Bode from Kassel in 1955, was an unexpected huge success. Curiously, the event had a local context to it. After the period of Nazi dictatorship, it was supposed to reconcile German public life with international modernity apart from confronting it with its own failed enlightenment. The organizers believed that art would spur people to shed their inertia, but must not have then imagined that the exhibition, often termed the Hundred Day Museum, would become a cult in contemporary art.

The inaugural exhibition took a historical and documentary as well as reconstructive approach towards art. It showed the development of the major artistic groups since the beginning of the century: Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism etc. The second edition in 1959 built on the success of the first one. ‘Art is what major artists make’, was the motto of Documenta 3.

documenta has witnessed many defining moments during its history. In 1972 the exhibition was placed under the aegis of an artistic director. In 1997, Catherine David was the first woman to be appointed artistic director. She presented a critical review by ‘Looking back into the future’. The last edition of the Documenta11 featured works by 116 artists and artists' groups. Ravi Agarwal, an artist and head of an environmental group Srishti, was among the participating artists from India. Indian artists at Documenta 2007 include Sheela Gowda and Atul Dodiya.

The artistic director of Documenta 12 is Roger M. Buergel, an internationally active exhibition organizer and curator. He has conceived the event together with the art historian, Ruth Noack, as curator. According to Roger M. Buergel, documenta 12 aims to support its public in relating the artistic works exhibited to their own lives. “It is interested in local knowledge and also in making the exhibition work on a local level. Consequently, it seeks dialogue with people in Kassel who are interested in questioning history and the present, in asking about the issues and problems of the city and its residents,” he mentions.

The broad idea and theme of this significant event is freeing art of the various constraints and social parodies and show it unrestrainedly. The exhibits not only bring out each artist's individual nature, but also establish connections between them, as well as recognizing their place in cultural tradition.

Documenta acts as a platform for a dialogue on various issues and concerns of contemporary art. Elaborating on the core concept, Roger M. Buergel has mentioned: "Documenta 12 has three leitmotifs. It is no accident that they take the form of questions. After all, we create an exhibition in order to find something out. Here and there, these motifs may correspond, overlap, or disintegrate – like a musical score.” More than 70 periodicals, magazines and online media from all over the world will enter into a dialogue. They will discuss and reflect the topics and theses of the exhibition. They will react to them and question them on the basis of their particular knowledge.

The point to ponder at Documenta 12 is humanity’s ability to recognise a common horizon, beyond all differences and role of art as the medium for this process. What constitutes life, when everything is subtracted which does not belong essentially to life? Does art help us to penetrate to what is essential? Well, wait for the artists at Documenta 12 to provide a clue!