“Platform and Place at Documenta 11”
Wednesday, March 7, 5:15 pm
A key moment in the history of postwar mediation—the so-called “digital turn” in new media art— can be illuminated through an examination of one of its touchstones, the eleventh Documenta exhibition organized by Okwui Enwezor and held in Kassel, Germany, in 2002. That Documenta was characterized by its innovative “platforms,” a set of overlapping art exhibitions, workshops and symposia that took place over eighteen months in five locations on four different continents. While the exhibition addressed questions of exclusivity and inequality in the postcolonial present, I argue that it also disclosed unresolved anxieties about the role that a specifically digital mediation was increasingly coming to play in addressing those questions. In short, even as the far-flung platforms set geopolitical realities squarely in the foreground, the question of “place” haunted the exhibition, from the spectral nature of its presumed spectator (some 600 hours of video were on offer, far too many for a single visitor to consume) to the fundamentally altered relationship between viewer and work that online publication and presentation were on the cusp of engendering.
Kevin Hatch is Assistant Professor of Art History at Binghamton University.