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    Paper bags for leaflets

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    While all eyes are on Kassel, the Documenta location in Göttingen, almost 50 kilometers away, has so far gone largely unnoticed. The group exhibition “printing futures” is the only official partner project of the world exhibition. Dustere Straße is located in the traffic-calmed old town. For a year now, between medieval half-timbered houses, the new building of the Kunsthaus has stood, a 534 square meter exhibition space with a focus on photography and contemporary works on paper.

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    The initiator and founding director is the publisher Gerhard Steidl from Göttingen, whose book art publishing house and printing works are only a stone’s throw away. It took almost 50 years from the first idea to the opening, and without the persistence of the publisher it would probably not have come about.

    In a comparatively short time he has now managed to bring the Documenta to his hometown. Steidl said at the opening that he was particularly impressed by Ruangrupa’s socially relevant and collectivist approach (the exhibition runs until September 25). This Documenta shows “how completely different art can look if it is detached from the commercial art market”.

    11 artists show their work

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    But the Göttingen contribution differs significantly from Kassel. Instead of projects by collectives, the Kunsthaus is showing works by eleven individual artists. For 100 days, everything revolves around the material paper in its diverse forms. Each exhibition room will change during this time, some of the artists will work directly on site in exchange with the visitors. Around 30 book projects will then document the work processes in both cities.

    “If you don’t want to think, you’re out”, with this quote from Beuys the visitors are greeted in the foyer. The Indian photo artist Dayanita Singh will kick things off with a homage to the printed book. In the context of the exhibition, it becomes an art object itself. Books with 20 different photo motifs on the book covers hang on the walls and can be rearranged and curated by visitors as they wish. A concept that can also be experienced in her current exhibition in the Martin Gropius Bau (until August 7).

    Shahidul Alam tells of demonstrations and police violence

    “Talking to an Archive” is the title of the contribution by the photojournalist, writer and human rights activist Shahidul Alam from Bangladesh. In 2018, Time Magazine named him Person of the Year. It was the year of his incarceration. He was jailed for three months after severely criticizing the Bangladeshi government for cracking down on protests. Using clear imagery, he tells of the demonstrations, violent police operations and the many floods in the country stricken by environmental disasters.

    Extensive contact sheets of previously unpublished photo series can be seen, which are viewed with the involvement of the public and selected for a photo book. Shahidul Alam shares the space with an installation by his niece Sofia Karim. It was she who protested against her uncle’s imprisonment with exhibitions at London’s Tate Modern Gallery. She transformed the simple paper bags, in which samosa dumplings are traditionally sold as street food in Southeast Asia, into a medium of political resistance, printed with slogans and photos.

    Albert Ostermaier writes poems for the photos

    The staged photographs by the Franco-American artist Maya Mercer are received with poetic force. For ten years she lived in the drought and poverty-stricken region of Yuba County in northern California. Haunting portraits show the lives of local teenage girls between sadness, drunkenness and boredom. Visually stunning with a bright sepia coloring. “Photo paper developed in a bloodbath” writes the author Albert Ostermaier, who comments on each of the 103 photos with his own poem. During the exhibition he will develop a play from these poems.

    Opposite the Kunsthaus, the American pop art and concept artist Jim Dine is exhibiting in a half-timbered building in need of renovation. The 87-year-old has had his own studio on the Steidl publishing house for years and commutes between Paris and Göttingen.

    Etchings and lithographs with colorful flowers and fruits hang in the small rooms with low ceilings and cracked half-timbering, contrasting with the hate poem about evil in today’s world, which can be read in black-painted fragments on the sloping walls.

    The documenta is an accolade for Göttingen, said Mayor Petra Broistedt. She hopes that of the one million visitors expected in Kassel, about ten percent will stop in Göttingen. Will your calculations add up? In any case, the Documenta debut in Göttingen got off to a promising start.

    Source: Tagesspiegel

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