documenta 12
16 June – 23 September 2007

Artistic Director

Roger M. Buergel


Museum Fridericianum, Aue-Pavillon, documenta-Halle, Neue Galerie, Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kulturzentrum Schlachthof, Restaurant elBulli, Roses






26.054.100 Euro



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Sanja Ivecović, Poppy field (2012)
Photo: Jens Ziehe © documenta Archiv

For the first time in the history of the documenta, the major event in Kassel was organized under the direction of a couple: Roger M. Buergel as the designated art director and Ruth Noack as curator. They served only “unofficially” as a two-member directorial team, however, as the documenta statutes do not allow for the possibility of two co-directors. Together, they developed a clearly defined programmatic concept under the banner of “The Migration of Forms.” What that meant was that, over the course of human history, visual culture has had only a limited number of basic forms with which to work—forms that have been used in different contexts and with different conceptual focuses throughout the history of art. Buergel/Noack pointed out that “contemporary does not mean that the works originated yesterday. They must be meaningful for people today. Documenta 12 is concerned with both historical lines of development in art and unexpected concurrences.” In order to bring these “unexpected concurrences” to light, relationships were established between works of art from different decades and cultures in which similar formal patterns have emerged—a process that has led to a “migration” of aesthetic forms across temporal and cultural boundaries culminating in the art of our postmodern world. This formalism was emphasized in the Neue Galerie by walls painted different colors. In turn, this focus on the phenomenon of migration resulted in the selection of a high percentage of artists from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. New to the program was the inclusion of old art, from fourteenthcentury Persian miniatures to global art from recent decades. Artists already long since recognized in their own homelands, such as Nasreen Mohamedi, for example, were not the only ones presented to a broad public in Germany for the first time. The works of several exemplary artists—John McCracken, Kerry James Marshall, Charlotte Poseneske, and Gerwald Rockenschaub—also migrated through all exhibition venues.


Sakarin Krue-On, Terraced Rice Field Art Project Kassel (2007)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz © documenta Archiv

documenta Halle (2007)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz

Andrea Geyer, Spriral Lands (2007)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz

Visitors of documenta 12 (2012)

Romoald Hazoumé, Dream (2007) © Romuald Hazoumé/VG Bild-Kunst

Andreas Siekmann, Die Exklusive. Zur Politik des ausgeschlossenen Vierten (2007) © Andreas Siekmann/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz

Allan Sekula, Shipwreck and Workers (2005-2007)

Moreover, the program of documenta 12, which, incidentally, boasted the largest share (roughly fifty percent) of women artists in the history of documenta, was structured on the basis of three “leitmotifs”: First, “Is modernity our antiquity?” Second, “What is bare life?” And third, “What is to be done?” The first leitmotif asks whether and to what extent our thinking and way of life are still “pervaded by modern forms and visions” (Buergel/Noack). In a certain sense, the second leitmotif takes up the theme of Jan Hoet’s documenta 9, as it is concerned with the existential nature of the human being as a creature that is continually threatened in the postmodern era by torture, terrorism, and climate disasters. The third leitmotif shifted the problem of the (discursive) communication of art, of “aesthetic education” (Buergel), into the focus of consideration. With that in mind, Buergel/Noack founded the international magazine project “Documenta 12 magazines” in cooperation with the Vienna art publicist Georg Schöllhammer.

Ai Weiwei, Template (2007)

Next to the Aue pavilion temporarily erected on the Karlswiese for documenta 12 (the largest single exhibition space covering 9,500 square meters; the greenhouse conceived as a “Crystal Palace” proved problematic not only in terms of climate control) stood Ai Weiwei’s sculpture Template (2007), a tower built with centuries-old doors recovered from destroyed Chinese houses (the tower collapsed during a storm and remained in place as a ruin). For Fairytale (2002), the Chinese artist had also invited 1,001 fellow citizens of China to visit documenta in Kassel, an invitation that caused a major stir in light of the political situation in China under its dictatorial regime and the ban on travel abroad. Ai had a wooden chair from the Qing dynasty brought to Kassel for each of the 1,001 invited guests. The chairs were exhibited at the Museum Fridericianum, the Aue pavilion, and the Neue Galerie and used as “islands of calm” for discussion within the context of the educational program. Ai’s action placed the issue of “migration” in a concrete political context, while engaging history, the present, and timeless design in multifaceted dialogue at the same time.

Sanja Ivekovic planted his Mohnfeld (Field of Poppies, 2007), in front of the Fridericianum. When the flowers burst into bloom, the field was transformed into a “Red Square,” which in its ostensible beauty evoked wide-ranging associations with the color red—from the communist flag to the bloodshed in Afghanistan in connection with the cultivation of poppies for the production of heroin. Peter Friedl’s The Zoo Story (2007) in documenta Halle was another of the more popular works shown in the exhibition. The stuffed, threeand-a-half-meter-tall giraffe came from a zoo in the West Bank. It had panicked, fallen, and died of its injuries during an Israeli military operation. Friedl purchased the amateurish taxidermic specimen fashioned by the veterinarian at the zoo and had it shipped to Kassel, where it was placed among garden carpets from Iran and stuffed-animal sculptures by Cosima von Bonin. As a (political) work that is comprehensible only to those familiar with its history, the “zoo story” interrupts the migration of media images.

Peter Friedl, Cosima von Bonin

With the inclusion of the Kulturforum Schlachthof in the Nordstadt district and Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, where artworks from documenta were integrated into the old-masters collection (among them Danica Dakic’s video El Dorado [2007], which was filmed against a background of wallpapers from the Kassel wallpaper pattern collection), documenta 12 expanded far beyond the city limits of Kassel. In advance of the event, an effort was made to establish especially close ties with Kassel through the documenta Advisory Council. Composed of forty interested citizens of Kassel, who were involved in various aspects of concept development and communication, the council played a particularly important role as an “integral part of the curatorial composition.”

Participating Artists


  • Abián Rose, Sonia (Abián, Sonia)
  • Adrià, Ferran
  • Afif, Saâdane
  • Ai, Weiwei (Ai Weiwei)
  • Altindere, Halil
  • Antin, Eleanor
  • Aoki, Ryoko
  • Aradeon, David
  • Aranberri, Ibon


  • Baer, Monika
  • Bajević, Maja
  • Bartana, Yael
  • Bartuszová, Mária
  • Basbaum, Ricardo
  • Billing, Johanna
  • Bonin, Cosima von
  • Brown, Trisha


  • Carnevale, Graciela
  • Chand, Mihr (Mihr, Chand & Mihr Chand)
  • Chen, Zaiyan (Chen Zaiyan & Zaiyan, Chen)
  • Coleman, James
  • Creischer, Alice


  • Dakić, Danica
  • Davila, Juan
  • Dias & Riedweg (Dias, Mauricio & Riedweg, Walter)
  • Diaz, Gonzalo
  • Dodiya, Atul
  • Doujak, Ines
  • Dujourie, Lili
  • Duwenhögger, Lukas


  • Farocki, Harun
  • Ferrari, León
  • Freitas, Iole de (DeFreitas, Iole)
  • Friedl, Peter


  • Gernes, Poul
  • Geyer, Andrea
  • Gill, Simryn
  • Goldblatt, David
  • Gosh, Nibaran Chandra (Gosh Nibaran, Chandra & Chandra Gosh, Nibaran & Nibaran Chandra Gosh)
  • Gowda, Sheela
  • Grigosrescu, Ion
  • Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia (Archivio Tucuman Arde & Arbeitsgruppe Tucuman Arde & Tucuman Arde)
  • Gutov, Dmitrij (Gutov, Dmitri & Gutov, Dmitry)


  • Hazoumé, Romuald
  • Hu, Xiaoyuan (Hu Xiaoyuan & Xiaoyuan, Hu)


  • Ivekovic, Sanja


  • Jacob, Luis
  • Jáuregui, Jorge Mario


  • Kanwar, Amar
  • Katsushika, Hokusai (Nakadschima, Tokitaro & Hokusai, Katsuschika & Taito, Katsushika & Kawamura, Tokitarō)
  • Kelly, Mary
  • Kelly, Mary & Ray Barrie
  • Klee, Paul
  • Kolářová, Běla (Kolár, Bela)
  • Konaté, Abdoulaye
  • Kouélany, Bill
  • Kovanda, Jiři
  • Krue-on, Sakarin (Sakarin Krue-on)
  • Kulik, Zofia
  • Kwiekulik


  • Lawler, Louise
  • Leonard, Zoe (Leonhard, Zoe/Fotografie)
  • Lin, Yilin (Lin Yilin & Yilin, Lin)
  • Lozano, Lee
  • Lu, Hao (Lu Hao & Hao, Lu)


  • Madikida, Churchill
  • Manglano-Ovalle, Iñigo (Ovalle, Iñigo Manglano-)
  • Maqsud at-Tabrizi, Haddschi (Maqsud, Haddschi & Haddschi Maqsud at-Tabrizi)
  • Marshall, Kerry James
  • Martin, Agnes
  • McCracken, John
  • Mohamedi, Nasreen
  • Monastyrskij, Andrej (Monastirsky, Andrei & Monastyrsky, Andrey & Monastyrskii, Andrei & Monastyrski, Andrey & Monastyrsky, Andrei)


  • Neuwirth, Olga


  • Ojeikere, J. D. 'Okhai
  • Osmolovskij, Anatolij (Osmolovsky, Anatoli & Osmolovskii, Anatolii & Osmolovsky, Anatoly)
  • Osodi, George
  • Oteiza, Jorge


  • Pootoogook, Annie
  • Posenenske, Charlotte
  • Preobrazenskij, Kirill (Preobrazhenskiy, Kirill & Preobrashenskij, Kirill)
  • Pumhösl, Florian


  • Rainer, Yvonne
  • Rajan, Ck
  • Richter, Gerhard
  • Riera, Alejandra
  • Rockenschaub, Gerwald
  • Rosenfeld, Lotty
  • Rosler, Martha


  • Sacilotto, Luis
  • Schendel, Mira
  • Schmidt, Dierk
  • Šedá, Kateřina
  • Sekula, Allan
  • Shibli, Ahlam
  • Siekmann, Andreas
  • Solakov, Nedko
  • Spence, Jo
  • Spence, Jo & Rosy Martin & Maggie Murray & Terry Dennett
  • Stern, Grete
  • Steyerl, Hito
  • Stidworthy, Imogen
  • Stilinovic, Mladen
  • Stollhans, Jürgen
  • Sulaiman, Shooshi (Sulaiman, Susyilawati)
  • Sun QinglinSun, QinglinQinglin, Sun
  • Sy, Oumou
  • Szapocznikow, Alina


  • Tanaka, Atsuko (Atsuko, Tanaka)
  • Thorne, David & Katya Sander & Ashley Hunt & Sharon Hayes & Andrea Geyer (Scripts & 9 Scripts from a Nation at War & Nine Scripts from a Nation at War)
  • Tillim, Guy
  • Tseng, Yu-Chin (Tseng Yu-Chin & Yu-Chin, Tseng)


  • Ven, Lidwien van de (Van de Ven, Lidwien)


  • Wachsmuth, Simon


  • Xie, Nanxing (Xie Nanxing & Nanxing, Xie)


  • Yangjiang Calligraphy Group
  • Yan, Lei (Yan Lei & Lei, Yan)


  • Zheng, Guogu (Zheng Guogu & Guogu, Zheng)
  • Zmijewski, Artur

Artistic Director
Roger M. Buergel

Born in 1962 in Berlin


Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna


Private secretary of Hermann Nitsch, Vienna


Studied philosophy and economics, University of Vienna, Vienna


Tutor in filmstudies at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte of the University of Vienna, Vienna


Research on the historiography of postwar American art at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA and UC Berkeley, California


Instructor in visual theory at the University of Lüneburg, Lüneburg


Artistic Director of documenta 12, Kassel


Artistic Director of the Busan Biennale, South Korea

seit 2014

Director of the Johann Jacobs Museum, Zurich

Exhibitions (selection):


Revisionen des Abstrakten Expressionismus. Malerei zwischen Erhabenheit und Vulgarität, Kunstraum Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Lüneburg; Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft/Kunstverein Nürnberg, Nuremberg


Dinge, die wir nicht verstehen, kuratiert mit Ruth Noack, Generali Foundation, Vienna


Gouvernementalität. Kunst in Auseinandersetzung mit der internationalen Hyperbourgeoisie und dem nationalen Kleinbürgertum, Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover


The Subject and Power (the lyrical voice), CHA Moskow, Moskow


Formen der Organisation, curated in collaboration with Ruth Noack, Kunstraum Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Lüneburg; Škuc Galerija, Ljubljana; Galerie der Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig


Die Regierung, curated in collaboration with Ruth Noack, Kunstraum Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Lüneburg; Macba Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona; MAC Miami Art Central, Miami; Secession, Vienna; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam


documenta 12, Kassel


Ai Weiwei, Museum DKM, Duisburg

Awards (selection):


Winner of the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement, The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas


Awarded the Hessian Culture Prize for his work as Artistic Director of documenta 12