Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Documenta 12 and Southeast Asia
September 25, 2007, 11:15 am
Filed under: magazines, quotes | Tags:

“The documenta is regarded as the most important exhibition of contemporary art, drawing attention from all over the world. It was initiated in 1955 by the artist and art educator, Arnold Bode, in Kassel. After the period of Nazi dictatorship, it was intended to reconcile German public life with international modernity and also confront it with its own failed Enlightenment.” (link)

The 12th edition of the infamous Documenta Exhibition was staged this year, and one significant part of it was a magazine exhibition:

“Nearly 100 publications with different formats, different orientations and focuses from around the world were invited to think together about the motifs and themes of documenta 12. This process has generated over 300 articles, essays, interviews, commentaries and illustrated essays.” (link)

Sounds enticingly interesting, I imagine what that process yielded must be a joy to read (Documenta produces a handsome publication at the end of their exhibition, often available in Manila, at a handsome price, at Fully Booked Bookstores). Though it turns out the proceedings did raise eyebrows with the cost of putting the exhibition together, and what the struggling Magazines themselves got out of participating, being put to question.

An interesting article brings to light some issues that came up in discussions between Editors of Southeast Asian Arts publications, small publications that, generally, just scrape by. An excerpt from the article by Kean Wong:

“And then there is the faint whiff of a neo-colonial gesture in play, where these publications of Documenta12’s defined ‘peripheries’ are feeding a much richer metropole of the magazines project’s headquarters in Vienna, feeding it with ideas, text and images mostly for free, and transferring even more of such ‘wealth’ towards an exhibition budgetted at EUR19 million planned over five years?

Would a redistribution of priorities and funds produce a better outcome for struggling Asian (or Latin American, or African, etc) publications, where savings made from fewer international conferences of editorial elites are instead spent sponsoring, say, several editions of Indonesia’s KUNCI [4] or Malaysia’s SentAp! [5] journals? Such sustenance would in turn help develop some critical mass for arts activism and seed more cultural debates, agreed the usually polite editor of SentAp!, Nur Hanim Khairuddin. And it would certainly have helped save the superb South-east Asian arts journal based in Singapore, FOCAS, from closing prematurely – ironically, the last issue of FOCAS was launched on the eve of the week-long ‘Asia Speaking Up!’ meetings mentioned above.

Even as most of these Asian publications struggle to survive – like SentAp!, going from edition to edition in a daze of unpaid articles and frantic fund-raising while avoiding too many compromises with both commercial market and government demands – the space for the free and open discussion about art, society and pointed debates about state-sponsored utopias continues to shrink as media and consumption habits change.” (link)

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