PROTECTION? dOCUMENTA (13)
We’re on the steps in front of the Museum Fridericianum in Kassel at the opening of the one-hundred-day long exhibition of modern art—the 13th Documenta. The building’s façade is monumentally opaque; the Athenian columns frame the body of the multimedia performance artist Mia Florentine Weiss. Her mouth is taped shut, so she appears to be violently forced to sphinxian silence. On top of her is her transparent shield, which bears the question the artist has inscribed on it with her own blood. The question—“what’s your place of protection”—re-echoes throughout the artist’s worldwide journey. This is a station along the way.
In many respects the artist’s performance deconstructs the premises of the now legendary exhibition of contemporary art. The theme of the 13th Documenta in Kassel was “Collapse and Recovery”. But the strangely simplistic conjunction offers no notion of how we shield ourselves in order to survive the phase separating decline from recuperation. Moreover, the exhibition’s renommée is based upon its international inclusiveness, and yet this austere entranceway is also the threshold marking an inevitable barrier, reflecting the double-bind of the institution whose existence revolves around the question of who made it in, and who was kept out. Does this building—the oldest European public museum, and the earliest expression of the Enlightenment’s goal of bringing canonized art to the people—actually protect art for future generations, or does it protect established institutions from future art and future artists? Is this institution nostalgic, or messianic? The taped mouth of the artist reminds us of the silence with which these questions are addressed. And her shield reflects both sides of these paradoxical conflicts. With her own blood on its exterior, the artist is literally physically on both sides of her shield. Her provocative performance reminds us, as does her silence, that these questions are our questions; they call for our answers.
And in harmony with her attention to the contradictions of “inside” or “outside,” of “behind” or “in front,” we can expect that, after her performance at the opening of dOCUMENTA (13), she will return again for its closing.
DOKUMENTA 13 - Mia Florentine Weiss performance - WHAT`S YOUR PLACE OF PROTECTION?
documenta 13 full doku