9 June – 16 September 2012

Artistic Director

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev


Museum Fridericianum, Neue Galerie, documenta-Halle, Brüder-Grimm-Museum, Ottoneum, Orangerie, Karlsaue, Hauptbahnhof, Oberste Gasse 4, Untere Karlsstr. 14

Off the Main Sites

Kabul, Alexandria-Kairo, Banff






30.672.871 Euro



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dOCUMENTA (13) in Kabul (2012)

For the second time in its history, documenta was directed by a woman. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who recruited “agents” from all over the world for her team of advisors led by Chus Martínez from Spain, caused confusion in the press prior to the exhibition with her “non-concept,” eco-feminism, dog calendars, an absurd title that no one could remember (The dance was frenetic, animated, clattering, twisted, and lasted a long time), and the announcement of a parallel exhibition in Kabul, Afghanistan. Taking the concept of platforms from documenta 11 a step further, documenta 13 included not only events outside the city of Kassel in advance of the exhibition but also a concurrent event at a different location. Another venue was an equally important element of the concept: the former Benedictine Monastery in Breitenau outside Kassel, which had served as a labor and concentration camp under the National Socialist regime and later as a boarding school for girls and a psychiatric clinic. Between these two locations—Kassel/Breitenau and Kabul/Bamiyan—documenta 13 established a primary motif that recalled the original underlying idea of documenta: “Zusammenbruch und Wiederaufbau” (Collapse and Recovery)—in other words, healing the trauma of war through art. Many artists (all of whom had visited Kassel and Breitenau before the exhibition, while several had been to Kabul and Bamiyan as well) presented newly produced works that related specifically to these venues—among them Clemens von Wedemeyer, Mariam Ghani, Goshka Macuga, Michael Rakowitz, and Omer Fast. In addition, the results of workshops held in Kabul and Bamiyan were incorporated into works shown at an exhibition devoted to Afghan artists in Kassel. The exhibition in Kabul attracted 27,000 visitors, while the public was excluded for the most part from the events in Cairo/Alexandria and Banff. Christov-Bakargiev linked other states of being that were of importance to the program of documenta 13 with these locations in presentations that revealed their oscillating relationships: onstage (Kassel), under siege (Kabul), hope and revolt (Cairo and Alexandria), and retreat (Banff).

Structures were also reconfigured in terms of time as well. Documenta 13 officially began with the installation of Giuseppe Penone’s Idee di Pietra (Ideas of Stone), a bronze tree with a boulder in its crown in the Karlsaue in May 2010. This was Christov-Bakargiev’s reference to her own roots in Arte Povera. Closely associated with documenta since Beuys’s time, the tree-planting motif reappeared at other points in the exhibition in works by Korbinian Aigner and Jimmie Durham. Another important theme of documenta 13 was anti-anthropomorphism, as expressed in the form of seeds, apples, and dogs as well as people and art.

Giuseppe Penone, Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone) (2003/2008/2010)
Photo: Rosa Maria Rühling

Visitors entering the Fridericianum found the first two rooms on the ground floor almost completely empty, freshened only by a cool breeze—a work by Ryan Gander (I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorize, 2012). The only items exhibited there were three sculptures by Julio Gonzáles that had been installed at the same place for the second documenta in 1959 and a letter from Kai Althoff, in which he retracted his pledge to exhibit at documenta 13 (although for completely different reasons than Robert Morris had cited in 1972). One project that had been in preparation for quite some time but could not be realized was the proposal by the artists Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg to bring “El Chaco,” the second-largest meteorite on Earth, from northern Argentina to Kassel for 100 days. Evidence of the plan is preserved in the form of a pedestal that stands near Walter De Maria’s Vertical Earth Kilometer of 1977 and a documentation of the project in the Fridericianum.


Song Dong, Doing Nothing Garden (2010-2012)

Brain (2012)

Tacita Dean, Fatigues (2012)

Thomas Bayrle, Carmageddon (2012), Flugzeug (1982-83), Monstranz (2010), Rosenkranz (2009)

Walid Raad, Scratching on Things I Could Disavow (2008)
Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Michael Rackowitz, What dust will rise? (2012)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz

Theaster Gates, 12 Ballads for the Huguenot House (2012)
Photo: Werner Maschmann

Haegue Yang, Approaching: Choreography Engineered in Never-Past Tense (2012)

In terms of content, the various conceptual strands of documenta 13 came together in the “Brain” in the rotunda. There, the Bactrian Princesses (stone miniatures from Central Asia dating from about 2000 BC) converged with such works as photographs of Adolf Hitler’s bathtub by Lee Miller taken on April 30, 1945, and Vandy Rattana’s photos of bomb-crater lakes in Vietnam on bottles painted by Giorgio Morandi as models for his paintings. 

Aside from new works produced by contemporary artists, historical positions represented by women artists of the modern era (including Hannah Ryggen and Maria Martins, for example) set significant accents in the Fridericianum and the Neue Galerie. The subject of science was represented by experimental models created by the physicist Anton Zeilinger. Yet documenta 13 evoked some of its most memorable impressions at locations at which long-forgotten places in downtown Kassel were reactivated: in the derelict Hugenottenhaus, which had been vacant since the 1960s and was temporarily transformed into a living work of art by Theaster Gates and his cohorts with building material from Chicago; and next to it Tino Sehgal’s 100-day performance in the dark side room of the historical ballroom of the Hessenland; Francis Alÿs’s miniature painting from Afghanistan in an empty shop, and Tacita Dean’s atmospheric chalk drawings of Afghan landscapes in a former bank vault. Pierre Huyghe’s compound in a hidden corner of the Karlsaue inhabited by hallucinogenic plants, a sculpture of a woman with a beehive on her head, and a dog with a pink leg (Untilled [2012]); Lara Favaretto’s industrial-junk sculpture behind the north wing of the main railway station (Momentary Monument IV [2012]); and Susan Philipz’s fragmentary sound installation at the end of a railroad platform, which was based on the Studie für Streichorchester (Study for String Orchestra), a composition by Pavel Haas, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944, were among the most impressive works featured at this documenta. 

Pierre Huyghe, Untilled (2012)
Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz

Having expanded to numerous locations apart from the traditional institutions of the Fridericianum, documenta Halle, and the Neue Galerie to include museums with collections of their own, such as the Naturkundemuseum (Museum of Natural History) in the Ottoneum, the astronomy exhibit in the Orangerie, and the Brüder-Grimm-Museum, as well as the two wings of the former main railway station and the entire Karlsaue (on which small, temporary prefab buildings had been erected), documenta 13 could hardly be taken in completely in just a few days. Visitors were also treated to an elaborate program of events and films, as well as numerous “living” works of art presented as continuous performances. The 12,500 season tickets sold bear witness to the extraordinary response on the part of the local public. Particularly noteworthy features of the “Maybe Communication Campaign and Other Programs” carried out during documenta 13 also included the “Worldly Companions”—citizens of Kassel from different backgrounds who, after completing their schooling, passed their personal knowledge about documenta 13 on to visitors during “d-Tours.”

Drawing 905,000 visitors, documenta 13 was yet another documenta that broke all previous attendance records. Yet the long lines, which ultimately made it impossible to visit all venues despite the expansive layout of the exhibition, raise doubts about whether attracting more visitors to Kassel makes sense or is even possible.


Participating Artists


  • Abdul, Lida
  • Abidi, Bani
  • Adnan, Etel
  • Aigner, Korbinian
  • Akhunov, Vyacheslav
  • Akram, Barmak
  • Ali, Khadim
  • Allora & Calzadilla
  • Alÿs, Francis
  • Althoff, Kai
  • Alves, Maria Thereza
  • Anastas, Ayreen
  • Applebroog, Ida
  • Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (Rasdjarmrearnsook, Araya)
  • Asefi, Mohammad Yusuf
  • Ashford, Doug
  • Atoui, Tarek
  • Attia, Kader


  • Bachzetsis, Alexandra
  • Balestrini, Nanni
  • Balkin, Amy
  • Barry, Judith
  • Bartolini, Massimo
  • Baruchello, Gianfranco
  • Basiony, Ahmed
  • Bayrle, Thomas
  • Bel, Jérôme
  • Bennett, Gordon
  • Biscotti, Rossella
  • Boetti, Alighiero (Alighiero & Boetti)
  • Boghiguian, Anna
  • Bove, Carol
  • Büttner, Andrea
  • Buch, Kristina
  • Byrne, Gerard


  • CAMP
  • Cardiff, Janet & Miller, George Bures
  • Carr, Emily
  • Castillo Deball, Mariana (Deball, Mariana Castillo)
  • Chan, Paul
  • Chiurai, Kudzanai
  • Critical Art Ensemble
  • Cruzvillegas, Abraham (Cruzvillegas Fuentes, Abraham & Fuentes, Abraham Cruzvillegas)
  • Csákány, István
  • Csörgő, Attila (Csörgö, Attila)
  • Cumella, Antoni


  • Dalí, Salvador
  • Dean, Tacita
  • De Boer, Manon (Boer, Manon de)
  • Dion, Mark
  • Djordjadze, Thea
  • Doherty, Willie
  • Donnelly, Trisha
  • Durant, Sam
  • Durham, Jimmie


  • Epaminonda, Haris & Daniel Gustav Cramer
  • Erek, Cevdet


  • Faivovich, Guillermo & Nicolás Goldberg
  • Faldbakken, Matias (Rasul, Abo)
  • Farmer, Geoffrey
  • Fast, Omer
  • Favaretto, Lara
  • Floyer, Ceal
  • Foulkes, Llyn
  • Foushanji, Abul Qasem
  • Fumai, Chiara


  • Gabri, Rene
  • Gander, Ryan
  • Garcia, Dora
  • Garcia Torres, Mario (Torres, Mario Garcia-)
  • Gates, Theaster
  • Gaussi, Jeanno
  • Ghani, Mariam
  • Gill, Simryn
  • Gonzalez, Julio (Gonzales, Julio)


  • Haidary, Zainab
  • Hall, Fiona
  • Hecker, Florian
  • Henderson, Tamara
  • Hiller, Susan
  • Hoheisel, Horst
  • Hopf, Judith
  • Hourani, Khaled
  • Huyghe, Pierre


  • Ivekovic, Sanja


  • Jacir, Emily
  • Johannessen, Toril
  • Jonas, Joan
  • Jungen, Brian


  • Kaesbach, Rudolf
  • Kahn, Robin & La Cooperativa Unidad Nacional Mujeres Saharauis (Kahn, Robin & The National Union of Women from Western Sahara)
  • Kamandy, Masood
  • Kanwar, Amar
  • Kentridge, William
  • Khan, Hassan
  • Kurenniemi, Erkki


  • Lara, Adriana
  • Larrain Barros, Horacio (Barros, Horacio Larrain)
  • Lê, Dinh Q. (Dinh Q. Lê & Lê, Dinh Quang)
  • Lester, Gabriel
  • Link, David
  • Loboda, Maria
  • Lombardi, Mark
  • Lopez, Anibal
  • Lucas, Renata
  • Lutyens, Marcos und Raimundas Malasauskas, featuring Sissel Tolaas (Marcos Lutyens und Raimundas Malasauskas, featuring Sissel Tolaas)


  • Macuga, Goshka
  • Maiolino, Anna Maria
  • Malani, Nalini
  • Martins, Maria
  • Matarrese, Francesco
  • Mauri, Fabio
  • Mehretu, Julie
  • Menick, John
  • Menke, Christoph
  • Metzger, Gustav
  • Miller, Lee (Miller, Elizabeth)
  • Müller, Christian Philipp
  • Mojadidi, Aman
  • Moon, Kyungwon & Jeon, Joonho (Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho)
  • Moore, Gareth
  • Morandi, Giorgio
  • Mroué, Rabih
  • Muholi, Zanele


  • Nordheim, Arne
  • Numminen, M.A. (Numminen, Mauri Antero)


  • Ohtake, Shinro
  • Omarzad, Rahraw
  • Ondák, Roman
  • Onur, Füsun
  • Otolith Group (The Otolith Group)


  • Panayiotou, Christodoulos
  • Penone, Giuseppe
  • Pentecost, Claire
  • Philipsz, Susan
  • Phinthong, Pratchaya (Phinthong Pratchaya)
  • Pich, Sopheap
  • Porsager, Lea
  • Portnoy, Michael
  • Preston, Margaret
  • Price, Seth
  • Prvacki, Ana


  • Raʼad, Walid (Atlas Group & The Atlas Group & Raad, Walid)
  • Rakowitz, Michael
  • Ray, Man (Man Ray & Radnitzky, Emmanuel & Rudnizky, Emmanuel)
  • Reid Nakamarra, Doreen (Nakamarra, Doreen Reid)
  • Reyes, Pedro
  • Richter, Gunnar
  • Ringholt, Stuart
  • Robbins, Ruth & Tremmel, Red Vaughan
  • Rodas, Juana Marta und Isidrez, Julia
  • Ryan, Paul
  • Ryggen, Hannah


  • Sadr Haghighian, Natascha (Haghighian, Natascha Sadr)
  • Sala, Anri
  • Salomon, Charlotte
  • Samb, Issa
  • Schaber, Ines
  • Sehgal, Tino
  • Serra, Albert
  • Shah, Tejal
  • Shawky, Wael
  • Sherzad, Zolaykha
  • Solakov, Nedko
  • Song, Dong (Song Dong)
  • St. Turba, Tamas (Saint Turba, Tamas)
  • Sukhareva, Alexandra


  • Taanila, Mika
  • Taasha, Mohsen
  • Tarakhovsky, Alexander
  • Texmon Rygh, Aase
  • Thornton, Warwick
  • Time/Bank (Time Bank)
  • Tjapaltjarri, Warlimpirrnga
  • Téllez, Javier
  • Trockel, Rosemarie


  • Vandy, Rattana
  • Vaṇṇ Ṇāt (Vann, Nath & Vann Nath & Ṇāt, Vanṇ & Vaṇṇ, Ṇāt & Nath, Vann)
  • Villar Rojas, Adrián (Rojas, Adrián Villar-)
  • Voss, Jerónimo
  • Vu Giang Huong (Vu, Giang Huong & Huong, Vu Giang & Vu-Giang-Huong)


  • Warboys, Jessica
  • Waxman, Lori
  • Wedemeyer, Clemens von (Von Wedemeyer, Clemens)
  • Weerasethakul, Apichatpong (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • Weiner, Lawrence
  • Worldly House (The Worldly House)


  • Yang, Haegue (Yang Haegue & Haegue Yang)
  • Yan, Lei (Yan Lei & Lei, Yan)


  • Zaatari, Akram
  • Zalmaï
  • Zeilinger, Anton
  • Zuse, Conrad

Artistic Director
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Born in 1957 in Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

bis 1981

Studied philosophy at the University of Pisa, Pisa


Curatorial Director, P.S.1, New York


Chief Curator, Castello der Rivoli, Turin


Artistic Director of the 16th Biennial of Sydney, Sydney


Artistic Director of documenta 13, Kassel


Artistic Director of the Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul

Selected exhibitions:


John Cage, Il suono rapido delle cose, 45th Biennale di Venezia, Venice


Alberto Burri, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Lenbachhaus, Munich


Città-Natura, various exhibition venues, Rome


La Ville, le Jardin, la Mémoire, Villa Medici, Rome


Carla Accardi, P.S.1, New York


Georges Adéagbo, P.S.1, New York


Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties, P.S.1, New York


Greater New York, P.S.1, New York


Animations, P.S.1, New York


Janet Cardiff, P.S.1, New York


Francis Alÿs: Matrix.2, Castello di Rivoli, Turin


The Moderns/I moderni, Castello di Rivoli, Turin


William Kentridge, Castello di Rivoli, Turin; K20, Düsseldorf; MCA, Sydney; MAC, Montréal; Art Gallery, Johannesburg


documenta 13, Kassel

Awards (selection):


Awarded the Hessian Culture Prize for her work as Artistic Director of documenta 13