Stadtplan Kassel

dis_continuities

07. June 2021

From the very beginning, documenta, founded in 1955, was more than just an exhibition: as an artistic-intellectual sign of a democratic-pluralistic new beginning, it stood for a clear break with National Socialism. Aesthetically and politically, it was received as a counter-design and rehabilitation of what the Nazis called "degenerate art" - sometimes even as an act of reparation. The research group dis_continuities subjects the founding myth of the documenta, which has become blatantly flawed not only since the discovery of the NSDAP and SA membership of Werner Haftmann and other founding figures of the documenta, to a comprehensive critical revision.

To what extent did völkisch-nationalist narratives, networks, and structures from the time before 1945 or 1933 shape the exhibition series? What are the personal, political, economic, discursive, and aesthetic continuities? Who (or what) was not exhibited at the first editions of documenta? What role does the narrative of documenta's discontinuity with National Socialism play - not only for the documenta myth, but also for the post-National Socialist self-image of the FRG and reunified Germany?

Using means of scholarly, artistic, and curatorial research, dis_continuities is dedicated to a critical examination of the politically ambivalent im/material legacy of modernism, which particularly shaped documenta due to its specific geopolitical position in the Cold War, and investigates the uncanny persistence of völkisch, anti-Semitic, racist, and patriarchal patterns in art and culture to this day.

A central concern is also to consider the situatedness of the different research approaches themselves in past and present power relations and epistemological regimes. In a critical engagement with forms of addressing and communicating the "legacy of this time," the group will develop various artistic, scholarly, and curatorial formats that will manifest themselves, for example, in exhibitions, publications, or interventions in public space.