Is modernity our antiquity?


documenta12‘s first project aims to address the readers of seventy art magazines from around the world. The Magazine-project was conceived and is directed by Georg Schölhammer. This international initiative undertakes the analysis of documenta12‘s focal point, while paying attention to local specialities, displaying and contesting different approaches and viewpoints stemming form those.

Owing to the collective database built up by the editors, all participants have access to all materials, and are welcome to use them – and submit a version translated to his language in exchange. The project can be followed through participating magazines, and the dialogue of these magazines shall surface in three d12 publications that will appear before documenta12, concerning the following subjects:

Is modernity our antiquity?

This is the first question. It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists. Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive. It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise). It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand. Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”). In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.

What is bare life?

This second question underscores the sheer vulnerability and complete exposure of being. Bare life deals with that part of our existence from which no measure of security will ever protect us. But as in sexuality, absolute exposure is intricately connected with infinite pleasure. There is an apocalyptic and obviously political dimension to bare life (brought out by torture and the concentration camp). There is, however, also a lyrical or even ecstatic dimension to it – a freedom for new and unexpected possibilities (in human relations as well as in our relationship to nature or, more generally, the world in which we live). Here and there, art dissolves the radical separation between painful subjection and joyous liberation. But what does that mean for its audiences?

The final question concerns education: What is to be done?

Artists educate themselves by working through form and subject matter; audiences educate themselves by experiencing things aesthetically. How to mediate the particular content or shape of those things without sacrificing their particularity is one of the great challenges of an exhibition like documenta. But there is more to it than that. The global complex of cultural translation that seems to be somehow embedded in art and its mediation sets the stage for a potentially all-inclusive public debate (Bildung, the German term for education, also means “generation” or “constitution,” as when one speaks of generating or constituting a public sphere). Today, education seems to offer one viable alternative to the devil (didacticism, academia) and the deep blue sea (commodity fetishism). “

: local voice

exindex has been invited to join the magazine-project of documenta12, so the next months will see a constant flow of materials (texts, interviews, images, works, actions and proposals) in the subject: either those of our own authors, or translations from the collective database, and reactions to these.

A few questions from possible approaches:
How does artistic work differ from non-artistic work?
How does theoretic deliberation go with aesthetic practice?
What kind of thematic shifts of emphasis can be seen among different artistic disciplines?
How do artistic production, discourse and criticism affect each other, and how can they cooperate?

: collective editing

According to the hopes of its initiators, this cooperation will not confide itself to the duration of documenta12, but becomes and independent, global chain of distribution, that is able to generate connection between differing geological and linguistic contexts, and makes constant, subject-oriented discursive dialogue possible. For that end, the collective database runs on an open-source application, and its authors employ a liberal approach to copyright questions of their works concerned.