A Documenta14 diary

(inspired by an anonymous graffity seen on the way to Athens in the bus)

TLDR: go to Athens! It’s great. Also look at art!

What a hotel experience! 8th floor, fridge = noisy racecar, toilet-flush = thunderstorm, internet = 5mbit and the mattress smells like old cigarette smoke. My view is also great.

The Acropolis, now with free student entrance, was a real nice place to go though. Stones honed by millions and millions of feet passing over them, polished to a shiny plastic looking like fake marble. The ground around the relics is polished, whereas the remains of the buildings itself are coarse rough and weathered to the touch. The view is breathtaking. Athens is a city of a size I’ve never seen in my life… The buildings viewed from above look like small gravel. Here is a photo I took of the city:

The houses all seem to have a cream white tint and the sheer amount of them gets reduced to a noise in the distant looking like an endless field of small clean white stones in various sizes shapes and shades of dirty white.

The Filopappou and the marble tent of Rebecca Belmore was much smaller than I imagined, but much better like that in the end. Talking and sitting inside gave a special sensation.

Athens feels like a cluster for small worlds in a huge space, super condensed and very close to each other, but it doesn’t try so hard to be something else than Athens. It does not try to be adequate for tourists or look very rich and posh. The places very frequently visited by tourists, such as the Acropolis surroundings, even feel Athens-like. The city feels honest and the people seem to like to be from Athens. Compared to my recent visit of Tallinn, which is a city trying very very hard to be as western as possible, showing off cars and glamour richness everywhere possible, Athens feels very authentic and true to itself.

 

 

 

Greeks love sweets. They start loving sweets with breakfast and never stop. Also, our hotel is the main square of weed distribution on Omonia, or my hair is too long and I attract Syrian drug dealers with it.

My room continues to be as noisy as possible. To my relief, a family with a baby moved into the other room and it likes to wake up 7am screaming wildly. It’s 2:10 am and now my neighbor fans his hair, thx. Also, there’s a mosquito now, thx. Mosquito is dead, hear another one…

Documenta14 now has merchandising! Caps, shirts, stuffs! Spend your money now. They also decided to support a fashion label called “Jugoexpress” and advertise some kind of weird looking toe-free chucks. Much pimp!

I like that we came kind of late to the D14, the places are very empty and not only the artworks have a lot of space to exist now. Also, D14 really does treat art with adequate respect and curates well. Sometimes little pieces fall a bit out of place but that’s it. Maybe the “stepping on the artists’ names and whipping your city dirt onto their names” is a bit inappropriate. And most importantly, the art is super nice!

I would like the choir of Emeka Ogboh to actually sing the stock names instead of a real song!

We attended “The Cooperativist Society: Cooperate, Exchange, Cooperate. How to Transform Money to Change our Daily Lives” and they played a money game with us. It was more of a capitalist simulation, or “how to make people greedy”. I participated and refused to use money, still got like 1000 candy in the end (19)! I also couldn’t decide whether to go on the trans or the feminist toilet there. I wanted to go on both somehow. I felt confused.

The tomorrows exhibition in the Diplareios school, arranged by the Onassis cultural centre, from Architects, designers, artists and more, feels like AEC festival to me. There were many sci-fi like future predicting ideas I’ve already seen and the artists tried to make them look even more sci-fi by presenting them via black and white damaged photos that look like from the 30s or drawing them like old-times encyclopedia illustrations. We invented the postretro hyperscifi term for it. I’ve also never seen so many people on the opening of an exhibition, not to mention all the security with stab-proof vests.
Free Heineken light beer! Water 1€…

Feral Remnants (Dog) by Manolis Daskalakis-Lemos was the best piece for me.

Athens wants the future to be plenty and bright and idyllic and like post starwars according to the tomorrows exhibition. The most of the artworks represented a wealthy peaceful and harmonious industry heavy world.

General strike day in Athens!

So, we went by foot a lot more than the other 2 days, which was good. Much more city to be seen. Athens turns out pretty nice again.

The ASFA (Athens school of fine arts) is great. A place of streetart-everywhere! In general Athens has a lot of good street artists and a lot of high quality graffiti everywhere. I felt very comfortable. The student’s studios are super too. The students themselves seem pretty much the same attitude as Linz’ fine art students. Also, art quality upon the students seemed very high. I was enjoying looking at all the paintings and artworks.

Documenta exhibition was ok… I liked the Odeion better, more interesting according to Greece history insights though.

The highlight of the day was the AMOQA (Athens museum of queer arts). There we got the first real insights into stories and opinions about D14 and background information. One of the conclusions was, that Greece people could get more open via the exhibited artworks, because a lot of them display things not commonly seen or dealt with in Greece, such as contemporary art and queer art. Also some places could open their doors only because of the Documenta happening. They also told us that the Documenta will most likely just vanish from Greece when it is over and maybe only leave some traces hard to see afterwards.
The AMOQA also wants to build an archive of queer art that happened in Athens and AMOQA but they have nearly no support (it took them 2 years to get accepted as a cultural association because they were accused of advertising homosexuality even though its legal in Greece) and money. There are no art fundings in Greece.

After the AMOQA we were looking for a food place but most of the places were closed. After a while we stumbled upon a tiny place with a very friendly chef who invited us in very enthusiastically and we followed his wish. This granted us a hell of a ton of food and nearly all free wine! Another nice experience.

Athens is a very controversial place. It feels homely and authentic but its torn apart on the inside. The police are a scaring force and people have been at a constant fight for decades to get their rights back. It is getting better but not really. The number of problems happening is be too big to be listed.

 

 

So the EMST and Benaki museum are incredibly great. I haven’t enjoyed so much good art at once for a long time. There was such a great variety of multicultural international politically and socially critical projects. Also the EMST was the first museum to display a wide variety of paintings.

The really interesting part though was the talk with the “learning from Documenta”-group. We got a lot of detailed insights into their research about the effects of the Documenta14 on Greece and the people.

To me the title of the Documenta14 “learning from Athens” is already implying a hierarchy between teacher and student, the one who teaches and the one who learns. Now the “giant” Documenta comes to Athens as a student lowering itself hierarchically below Athens to learn and not teach (Of course the teacher is able to learn from the student, but that’s not the initial plan). Then Documenta is bringing all the things they need themselves instead of trying to get them in Athens. This makes me think how the institution Documenta itself is able to learn from Athens? Somehow it feels the “learning from the Documenta” part works much better, which is good for Greece. It was discussed that contemporary arts are of low value in Greece and the word “queer” didn’t really reach people here yet that much too. So, the Documenta brought radical criticism and less known topics to the people, which is actually great. Also a lot of other things may were learnt.

I think the most important conclusion was that people do not know what will happen next. Was the Documenta good for Athens? How was the impact on Greece? The questions, whether it is a good of a bad thing was not answered in the process of the discussion with “learning from Documenta”, because there is no answer yet. There just are not enough facts yet to take a position based on facts. If the Documenta leaves Athens and takes everything back again it may just fade like a memory, like a period of time that left just some small scar in people’s brains.

 

 

Documenta is somehow like the airport, a separate bubble , or more like a bunch of different bubbles within the city that act as autonomous spaces which actually aesthetically do not seem to have very much in common with its own city surroundings. The artworks may deal with topics in and about Greece and also the problems occurring right now but the art spaces themselves seem more like imported white cubes from another place. I have to admit I have not been in a rich part of richer shopping street in Greece so I can only compare to the things I’ve seen and they weren’t really comparable to the flair of Athens. The mentality of the city seems very different to the mentality of Documenta. So once again it seems the title of D14 does not really apply to the event itself. If it applies, I would say that the curators and the people working at Documenta were learning from Athens. Also, the people moving to Greece for working at the Documenta learned a lot I guess. But then these people will mostly be exchanged or not be part of the Documenta15? So, did Documenta itself as an organization learn from Athens that much at all?

Athens is a very vivid and unique city. Most of what I’ve seen felt like Athens stays true to itself and doesn’t try to be something else so hard like so many other cities seem to do. This is what I really liked about going around and experiencing Athens. I feel like I learned a lot in Athens about struggle, politics and a state of mind or how things actually could be or are at many other places on earth. And I still somehow felt very well in there despite the bad facts, scenes and stories surrounding this country and city.

 

PS: since I just sent my photos to being developed so the real ones will be added in hopefully a week!

 

Cheers, Ben

 

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