Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Neue Galerie, Karlsaue
Although documenta exhibitions take place in a regular sequence, each exhibition does not necessarily build on the previous one. Every documenta “invents itself anew,” as Annelie Lütgens quite rightly pointed out in an article about documenta 6. In a certain sense, however, documenta 6, curated by Manfred Schneckenburger, elaborated on a theme that had been heralded in documenta 4 and 5, namely that of an expanded view of the field of art. The latter two exhibitions introduced such currents as Pop art, Photorealism, and Fluxus to a broad public in Germany for the first time. Documenta 6 then proceeded not only to secure this newly conquered aesthetic terrain through a process of reflection on everyday life in the capitalist system but to extend its boundaries as well. Thus, for example, artists’ books and historical photographs from 140 years of photographic history were exhibited at a documenta for the first time in 1977, and “Autorenkino“ celebrated its premiere. The “Utopian Design” section offered visionary reflections on the problems associated with motor vehicles and prospects for their further development, and never before had so much video art been presented at a documenta. The latter aspect, of course, was a direct outgrowth of the exhibition concept, which, as Manfred Schneckenburger wrote in his exhibition proposal, was concerned with “an idea born in the media-critical 1970s.” The (technology-obsessed) enthusiasm for the mass media that had prevailed in the 1960s gave way in the media world of the 1970s to a critical attitude focused on the growing power of the media and its tendency to distort reality. In much the same way that the world reacted increasingly to the media, rather than the media to the world, this new trend had become evident not least of all in the strategy of the terrorist Red Army Faction, which succeeded in exploiting German television, in particular, for its own propaganda purposes. Yet documenta 6 did not confine itself to far-reaching media criticism; it also undertook an investigation of the media qualities of art, of the “self-reflection of artistic media,” as Schneckenburger wrote in his introduction to the catalogue. Thus paintings about painting were presented, as was film that exposed its own visual grammar, and sculptures that reflected on the options available to them in public space. The resulting self-referential character of many of the works exhibited explored both the limits and the opportunities of art in postmodern event society. And it emphasized the distinctive formal qualities of the arts that emerge from their respective media structures rather than relying on their more or less disturbing substantive content, as had been the case in previous documenta exhibitions. It was precisely this aspect that distinguished this exhibition from documenta 4 and 5.
Only a few of the 2,700 works of art exhibited can be discussed here by way of example. The presentation devoted to painting began with an in-house scandal. Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, A. R. Penck, and Markus Lüpertz removed their works from the walls the day before the opening because they were not satisfied with Schneckenburger’s presentation. On the other hand, painters from East Germany were represented for the first time ever: Werner Tübke, Wolfgang Mattheuer, Willi Sitte, and Bernhard Heisig exhibited paintings whose aesthetic substance was variously indebted to realism—and which spoke of the options available to art in a real socialist state. The “selfreflective” painting mentioned above was represented by such works as Gotthard Graubner’s Farbraumkörper (Color Space Bodies), Palermo’s reductionist pictures, and the Abstract Expressionist paintings of Willem de Kooning.
Studied German language and literature, history, art history, and ethnology Worked as a higher secondary school teacher Worked as a freelance art and theater critic
Artistic Director, Weltkulturen und Moderne Kunst at the Olympics in Munich
Director of the Kunsthalle Köln, Cologne
Artistic Director of documenta 6, Kassel
Artistic Director of documenta 8, Kassel
documenta Professor at the Gesamthochschule Kassel, Kassel
Director of the Kunstakademie Münster, Münster
Curator of the lichtsicht biennial, Bad Rothenfelde
Awarded the Hessian Culture Prize for his work as Artistic Director of documenta 6 and 8