The gods weren’t smiling. Two weeks after the opening of Documenta 12, Sanja Ivekovic’s poppy field in front of the Friedricianum had exactly one crimson bloom. Sakarin Krue-On’s terraced rice paddy beneath Schloss Wilhemshohe had been washed away by a rainstorm—all 7000 square meters of it, along with its reference to Beuys’ 7000 oak saplings.
This was the summer before the Velvet Revolution: Vaclav Havel was in jail, Jan Urban was riding around on a bicycle in disguise, men in trench coats were threatening to shut down the exhibition. My first trip behind the Iron Curtain was surreal and fascinating.
A biennale without a polemic? Oh please! began an article in Corriere della Sera on the eve of the Venice Biennale press preview.
“There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” Those all too familiar words of course are from Walter Benjamin, who committed suicide during his attempt to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe in 1940.
Was it Man Ray or Marshall McLuhan who said art is anything an artist can get away with? What art criticism should be doing is providing the rationale for whatever it is that artists seem to be getting away with: contextualizing the art in terms of time and place, in terms of cultural, sociological, psychological, political, and/or historical contextsincluding the history of forms and ideas or anything else that is most relevant to the particular work.