documenta 8
12 June – 20 September 1987

Artistic Director

Manfred Schneckenburger


Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Karlsaue, Kasseler Innenstadt, Kulturfabrik Salzmann, Renthof, Diskothek "New York", Karlskirche






8.960.963 DM

Hans Haacke, Kontinuität (1987) © Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Frank Mihm

Originally, Edy de Wilde and Harald Szeemann were supposed to share responsibility for documenta 8 as co-curators and artistic directors, but their collaboration ended prematurely due to substantive differences. Manfred Schneckenburger took over as artistic director on short notice and was thus the first and only person—except for Bode—in the history of the documenta to hold that office twice. Because so little time was left for preparation, Schneckenburger’s documenta, like documenta 7, dispensed with a theoretical concept. Unlike its predecessor, however, documenta 8 once again clung stubbornly to the principle of the sociopolitical responsibility of art; instead of emphasizing aesthetic autonomy, many of the works presented focused insistently on the “functional integration of art,” as Elke Bippus wrote in an article on the exhibition. Schneckenburger’s most notable achievement was to ensure for the first time that the question of the political quality of art was not addressed primarily with reference to the conceptual models of modernism, but rather from a postmodern perspective. In other words, Schneckenburger proclaimed the loss of utopia in advanced capitalist society, while emphasizing at the same time the dissolution of a hierarchical canon of style and form in art. Eclecticism was the order of the day; an “anythinggoes” approach appeared entirely possible near the end of the twentieth century. Both aspects—the loss of utopia and formal eclecticism—led to the demise of the concept of one grand narrative or, as Schneckenburger expressed it in the catalogue, to the abandonment of “belief in thematic encyclopedias” in which one theory “solves all of the puzzles of the world at once.”
Within the context of Schneckenburger’s second documenta, this postmodern approach amounted to a conceptual orientation that required above all a no-holds-barred investigation into violence and war. In addition, the reciprocal relationships between architecture, design, and art were examined from a formal perspective. Thus it is not at all surprising that paintings played a much less important role at this documenta than they had five years earlier, and that videos and performances, rather than sculptures and installations, occupied the foreground of the exhibition.

Ian Hamilton Finlay, A View to the Temple (1987)
Photo: Wolfgang Pfetzing

Kontinuität (Continuity, 1987), an installation by Hans Haacke, exemplifies Schneckenburger’s curatorial concept. Haacke staged a setting in the rotunda of the Fridericianum that spontaneously called to mind the entrance lobby of a large corporation. In the middle of the installation stood the abstract logo of Deutsche Bank, enlarged and configured as a sculpture, on top of which the artist also placed a huge Mercedes star. A large-scale photo of a procession of “black” mourners at a funeral in South Africa was hung behind this ensemble. Elegant information panels and green potted plants framed the aesthetic setting. In this work, stylish (interior) design and critical art joined hands to illuminate the politically precarious present—specifically the scandalous role played by these two traditional German corporations in the South African policy of apartheid. Both Deutsche Bank and Mercedes-Benz had refused to comply with international appeals for a boycott of South Africa during the 1980s. Instead, the principle of business as usual ensured continuity in their unscrupulous business policies. With his group of guillotines entitled A View to the Temple (1987), the Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay created one of the best-known works featured at documenta 8—one that also had a convincing impact by virtue of its “anti-utopian” stance. The wooden guillotines equipped with bronze blades stood “in rank and file,” so to speak, on the Karlsaue. The references to the French Revolution in the brief texts Finlay wrote on the guillotines served as a reminder of how easily utopian philosophies give rise to terror and violence. 

The U.S. artist Barbara Kruger presented her photo piece Endangered Species (1987), which displays three faces distorted in fear. Kruger mounted a sign bearing the words “Endangered Species” above the faces, thus bringing the possibility of an end to (human) history into artistic play. 

Although documenta 8 drew sharp criticism from some corners at the time, due among other things to the supposedly “random” selection of works (405 artists took part in the exhibition), it appears in retrospect to have been a thoroughly worthwhile and memorable venture.

Manfred Schneckenburger

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Endangered Species) (1987)
Photo: H. Göbel

Lili Fischer, Waschlappendemo (1987) © Lili Fischer/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Frank Mihm

Roman Signer, Schlussaktion, (20.09.1987)
Photo: Gerhard Vaupel © documenta Archiv

Boris Nieslony, Das Brakteatenstück (1987)
Foto: Frank Mihm

Participating Artists


  • Adam Noidlt Intermission (Gruppe Adam Noidlt Intermission)
  • Akademia Ruchu (Ruchu, Akademia)
  • Allende-Blin, Juan (Blin, Juan Allende-)
  • Allen, Terry
  • Amirkhanian, Charles
  • Anderson, Laurie
  • Applebroog, Ida
  • Arad, Ron
  • Armajani, Siah
  • Armleder, John M. (Armleder, John & Armleder, John Michael)
  • Artaud, Antonin
  • Artschwager, Richard (Artschwager, Richard Ernst)
  • ASA (Art Sevice Association & Gruppe ASA)
  • Ashley, Robert
  • Atlas, Charles
  • Aycock, Alice


  • Balla, Giacomo
  • Baquié, Richard
  • Barlow, Klarenz
  • Bauchet, François
  • Becker, Jürgen
  • Bense, Max
  • Berio, Luciano
  • Bermagne, Barry
  • Bermange, Barry
  • Beuys, Joseph
  • Binazzi, Lapo
  • Birnbaum, Dara
  • Blase, Karl Oskar
  • Blumenthal, Lyn & Klonarides, Carol-Ann (Blumenthal, Lyn und Klonarides, Carol-Ann)
  • Bódy, Gábor
  • Boltanski, Christian
  • Borkenhagen, Florian
  • Borofsky, Jonathan & Glassman, Gary (Borofsky, Jonathan und Glassman, Gary)
  • Bosslet, Eberhard (Boßlett, Eberhard)
  • Brandolini, Andreas
  • Branzi, Andrea
  • Brecht, George
  • Brixey, Shawn & Knott, Laura (Brixey, Shawn and Knott, Laura)
  • Brock, Bazon
  • Brodbeck, Christine
  • Brummack, Heinrich
  • Bruszewski, Wojciech
  • Burden, Chris
  • Burton, Scott
  • Bustamante, Jean-Marc
  • Byars, James Lee


  • Cage, John
  • Cahen, Robert
  • Cantsin, Monty (Kantor, Istvan)
  • Carr-Harris, Ian (Harris, Ian Carr-)
  • Casiniere, Joelle de la (De la Casiniere, Joelle)
  • Cattani, Giorgio
  • Chion, Michel
  • Chlebnikov, Velimir
  • Chopin, Henri
  • City Souvenir (City-Souvenir)
  • Cloud Chamber (Gruppe Cloud Chamber)
  • Cohn, Norman
  • Collyer, Robin
  • Compagnia Giorgio Barberio Corsetti
  • Corsetti, Giorgio Barberio
  • Cragg, Tony (Cragg, Anthony)
  • Cucchi, Enzo
  • Curran, Alvin


  • Dawn (Gruppe Dawn)
  • Deganello, Paolo
  • Die Tödliche Doris (Tödliche Doris)
  • Döhl, Reinhard
  • Dossi, Ugo
  • Drescher, Jürgen
  • Dufrêne, François


  • Ecker, Bogomir
  • Eller, Ulrich
  • Emshwiller, Ed
  • Endo, Toshikatsu
  • Ernst, Max (Ernst, Maximilian)
  • Etant Donnès (Gruppe Etant Donnés)


  • Fassbinder, Rainer Werner
  • Ferrari, Luc
  • Finlay, Ian Hamilton
  • Fischer, Lili
  • Fischer, Thomas F.
  • Fischl, Eric
  • Fischli & Weiss (Gruppe Fischli-Weiss & Fischli und Weiss & Fischli-Weiss)
  • Flaxton, Terry - Triple Vision (Terry Flaxton/Triple Vision)
  • Fontana, Bill
  • Fox, Terry
  • Franke, Marlis A.
  • Friedmann, Gloria


  • García Sevilla, Ferrán (García-Sevilla, Ferran & Sevilla, Ferrán García)
  • Garhel & Galindo (Gruppe Garhel e Galindo & Garhel e Galindo)
  • General Idea (Gruppe General Idea & Miss General Idea)
  • Gerz, Jochen
  • Globokar, Vinko
  • Godard, Jean-Luc
  • Goebbels, Heiner
  • Goldstein, Jack
  • Goldstein, Malcolm
  • Goldstein, Zvi
  • Golub, Leon
  • Gorilla Tapes (Gruppe Gorilla Tapes)
  • Görlich, Ulrich
  • Gormley, Antony
  • Gould, Glenn
  • Grosvenor, Robert (Grosvenor, Robert Strawbridge)
  • Group Material (Gruppe Material)
  • Günther, Ingo


  • Haacke, Hans
  • Hamos, Gusztáv
  • Handke, Peter
  • Harig, Ludwig
  • Harrison, Helen & Newton (Harrison, Helen and Newton)
  • Hausmann, Raoul
  • Haus-Rucker-Co (Haus Rucker & Co & Rucker-Co)
  • Hays, Doris Sorrel (Hays, Doris Ernestine)
  • Heinrich Mucken (Gruppe Heinrich Mucken & Mucken, Heinrich & Das Heinrich Mucken Saal Orchester)
  • Heissenbüttel, Helmut
  • Helms, Hans G. (Helms, Hans Günter)
  • Henry, Pierre
  • Hien, Albert
  • Hill, Gary
  • Hollein, Hans
  • Holzer, Jenny
  • Hoover, Nan (Hoover, Nancy)
  • Hooykaas, Madelon & Stansfield, Elsa (Stansfield, Elsa & Hooykaas, Madelon)
  • Horvers, Toine
  • Huber, Stephan (Huber, Felix Stephan)
  • Huene, Stephan von
  • Humpert, Hans Ulrich


  • Idemitsu, Mako
  • Isozaki, Arata
  • Ivekovic, Sanja & Martinis, Dalibor


  • Jaar, Alfredo
  • Jandl, Ernst
  • Jarry, Alfred
  • Jetelová, Magdalena
  • Johnson, Bengt Emil
  • Jonas, Joan
  • Jovanovic, Arsenije
  • Joyce, James
  • Julius (Julius, Rolf)
  • Jünger, Patricia


  • Kagel, Mauricio
  • Kandinsky, Wassily (Kandinsky, Wassily Wassilijewitsch & Kandinski, Vassili & Kandinsky, Vassily & Kandinskij, Vasilij)
  • Kaprow, Allan
  • Karavan, Dani
  • Kawamata, Tadashi
  • Kemps, Niek
  • Kiefer, Anselm
  • Klauke, Jürgen
  • Kleihues, Josef Paul
  • Klein, Astrid
  • Kleinefenn, Florian & Rahmann, Fritz (Florian Kleinefenn & Fritz Rahmann)
  • Klier, Michael
  • Klingler, Monica
  • Knoebel, Imi (Knoebel, Wolfgang & Knoebel, Wolf & Knoebel, Klaus Wolf)
  • Knowles, Alison
  • Komar & Melamid (Komar und Melamid)
  • Kostelanetz, Richard
  • Kriesche, Richard
  • Kriwet, Ferdinand
  • Kruger, Barbara
  • Krypton (Gruppe Krypton)
  • Kubisch, Christina
  • Kubota, Shigeko
  • Kumrow, Klaus


  • Lafontaine, Marie-Jo
  • Laib, Wolfgang
  • Lang, Nikolaus
  • Lavier, Bertrand
  • Leccia, Ange
  • Levine, Les
  • Logue, Joan
  • Longo, Robert
  • Lord, Chipp & McGowan, Mickey
  • Lucier, Alvin
  • Luy, Wolfgang


  • MacLow, Jackson
  • Magazzini Criminali (Gruppe Magazzini Criminali & Il Carrozzone)
  • Magor, Liz
  • Majakovskij, Vladimir Vladimirovič (Maiakovskii, Vladimir Vladimirovich & Majakowsi, Wladimir & Majakowski, Wladimir Wladimirowitsch)
  • Malevic, Kasimir (Malevich, Kazimir Sewerinowitsch & Malewitsch, Kasimir & Malevic, Kasimir & Malewitsch, Kasimir Sewerinowitsch & Malevitch, Kazimir & Malevic, Kasimir Severinovic)
  • Marinetti, Fillipo Tommaso
  • Mariscal, Javier
  • Marshall, Stuart
  • Mayröcker, Friederike
  • McLean, Bruce
  • Mendini, Alessandro
  • Merz, Gerhard
  • Metzel, Olaf
  • Miller, Branda
  • Minus Delta T (Gruppe Minus Delta T)
  • Mon, Franz
  • Moore, Charles W.
  • Morrison, Jasper
  • Morris, Robert
  • Morrow, Charles


  • Nakai, Tsuneo
  • Nakajima, Ko
  • Nannucci, Maurizio
  • Nechvatal, Joseph
  • Nestler, Wolfgang
  • Nieslony, Boris
  • Nikolic, Vladimir Lalo
  • Nordman, Maria
  • Nyst, Jacques-Louis


  • Odenbach, Marcel
  • O'Kelly, Alanna
  • Olbrich, Jürgen O. (Olbrig, Jürgen O. & Olbrick, Jürgen O. & O.Olbrick, Jürgen)
  • Oliveros, Pauline
  • Ono, Yoko
  • Opie, Julian
  • Oppermann, Anna
  • Oursler, Tony


  • Paik, Nam June (Nam June Paik & June Paik, Nam)
  • Palestine, Charlemagne (Palestine, Charlemagne Tzadyk Kohayn)
  • Pastior, Oskar
  • Peichl, Gustav
  • Penone, Giuseppe
  • Pentagon (Gruppe Pentagon)
  • Picasso, Pablo (Picasso, Pablo Ruiz)
  • Pitz, Hermann
  • Platz,Robert HP
  • Plessi, Fabrizio
  • Pörtner, Paul
  • Prinz, Bernhard
  • Projekt Rübenspäher (Rübenspäher)
  • proT (Gruppe proT)


  • Quartucci, Carlo


  • Rabinowitch, David
  • Radermacher, Norbert
  • Radulescu, Horatiu
  • Raskin Stichting (M. Raskin Stichting & Raskin Stiching)
  • Reeves, Dan
  • Reichlin, Bruno & Reinhart, Fabio (Bruno Reichlin & Fabio Reinhart)
  • Renzi, Guglielmo
  • Richter, Gerhard
  • Rosenbach, Ulrike
  • Rosenthal, Rachel
  • Rossi, Aldo
  • Rothenberg, Jerome
  • Rückriem, Ulrich
  • Rudnik, Eugeniusz
  • Rühm, Gerhard
  • Ruller, Tomás
  • Ruttmann, Walther


  • Sala, Annamaria & Marzio (Sala, Annamaria und Marzio)
  • Sanborn, John
  • Santachiara, Denis
  • Sarmento, Julião (Sarmento, Juliao)
  • Schaeffer, Pierre
  • Schafer, R. Murray
  • Schein, David
  • Scheuer, Winfried
  • Schnebel, Dieter
  • Schober, Helmut
  • Scholte, Rob
  • Schuler, Alf
  • Schulz, Thomas
  • Schütte, Thomas
  • Schwartz, Buky
  • Schwegler, Fritz
  • Schwitters, Kurt
  • Serra, Richard
  • Seuphor, Michel (Berckelaers, Fernand Louis)
  • Signer, Roman
  • SITE Projects, INC (SITE & Sculpture in The Environment Projects, Inc)
  • Smith, Michael
  • Snowball Project
  • Società Raffaello Sanzio (Raffaello Sanzio)
  • Solano, Susana
  • Sottsass, Ettore
  • Spitzer, Serge
  • Staeck, Klaus
  • Starck, Philippe
  • Steckel, Ronald (Steckel, Roland)
  • Steele, Lisa & Tomczak, Kim
  • Steinbiß, Florian
  • Stein, Gertrude
  • Studio Azzurro
  • Suzuki, Akio


  • Tansey, Mark
  • Tarlo, Relly & Bedaux, Jacoba (Tarlo, Relly und Bedaux, Jacoba)
  • Teipelke, Ilse
  • Tevet, Nahum
  • Totem (Gruppe Totem)
  • Trakas, George
  • Tusquets Blanca, Oscar (Blanca, Oscar Tusquets)


  • Ulay-Abramović (Abramović/Ulay & Ulay/Abramović)
  • Ûlman, Mîkhah (Ullman, Micha & Ullmann, Micha)
  • Ungers, Oswald M. (Ungers, O. M. & Ungers, Oswald Mathias & Ungers, Oswald Matthias)


  • Vasulka, Woody (Vasulka, Bohuslav)
  • Velez, Edin
  • Vercruysse, Jan
  • Vieille, Jacques
  • Vilaverde, Xavier
  • Viola, Bill
  • Virnich, Thomas
  • Vom Bruch, Klaus (Bruch, Klaus vom & VomBruch, Klaus)


  • Wakolbinger, Manfred
  • Wewerka, Stefan
  • Wondratschek, Wolf
  • Woodrow, Bill
  • Wühr, Paul
  • Wunderlich, Stephan


  • Yoshizawa, Mika
  • Young, Graham


  • Zobl, Wilhelm

Artistic Director
Mandred Schneckenburger

Born in 1938 in Stuttgart

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

Awards (selection):


Awarded the Hessian Culture Prize for his work as Artistic Director of documenta 6 and 8