documenta X - home June 21 - September 28, 1997
Sabine Vogel: The Torture of Enlightenment
About 100 Days - 100 Guests at documenta X
What do the American urbanist Edward Soja and the German brain-scientist Wolf Singer have in common? Both will be guests of the Mövenpick Hotel in Kassel, and both will be participating in the 100-day meeting of minds in the upcoming documenta X. While there is hot speculation in the Internet and the more traditional gossip channels about the visual-artists participating in the world's most important post-war German exhibition, Catherine David has now at least released a (nearly) confirmed list of her 100 Guests. Every evening at 7p.m. for 100 days, one of the invited filmmakers, architects, scientists, artists, or poets will give a »statement« in the documenta hall. The »very serious« manner of addressing art and politics is not meant to simply connect aesthetics and politics, but to go beyond. The program aims to supplement the limited three-dimensional exhibition, without being an appendage or an intellectual alibi.

With her notorious aversion to any conceptual or programmatic commitment, the Parisian David defined what the event isn't: no marathon of lectures, no mega-symposium, no academic happening. It will be »more than a series of lectures«, and not about the theme of globalisation, but certainly within its framework. Like her creation of the term »retroperspective«, which tries to look back and forward at the same time, the 100-Guest program also avoids being simply one-way and unequivocal. According to David, the spectrum of themes reflects no less than »the complex connections and multi-dimensionality which determine the state of our world. We want to avoid giving easy answers«. Maybe that's the torture of enlightenment.

Maybe David´s refusal to speak anything other than French is part of her capricious strategy of obfuscation. Approximately 20 of the 100 guests are French, and a number of the non-French theorists concern themselves with French philosophers like Guattari, Deleuze or Foucault. The French-German TV channel arte will cover the event with a three-minute video-clip every evening, and a late-night broadcast of the Swiss chainreactionists Fischli&Weiß. Of course, the entire program will be presented live and »on-demand« in the Net, courtesy of the Berlin Bundmedia.

Oh - we almost forgot: a main focus of the whole event is to be »non-western«. As David says, there are things in non-western art which can't be taken out of their context. The claim of the documenta as all-inclusive has to be met through contributions in language, movies, theater or music. According to this, »countries, whose culture is traditionally not as developed in visual arts«, would be for instance: Haïti, Mozambique, China, or even Brazil. However, after using the western rational method of counting, we find that only a fifth of the 100 guests come from »non-western« countries, and half of them have long since been living in the metropolises of the West.

Or have we got it all wrong again?
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