18

– Summer 2008

Some Afterthoughts on the Migration of Form

Ruth Noack, Roger M. Buergel

Mira Schendel, Droguinhas, 1966, twisted and braided sheets of rice paper, 66.6 x 26 x 15.7 cm and 66 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm respectively. Photograph: AP Jens Ziehe. Courtesy the Estate of Mira Schendel.

Mira Schendel, Droguinhas, 1966, twisted and braided sheets of rice paper, 66.6 x 26 x 15.7 cm and 66 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm respectively. Photograph: AP Jens Ziehe. Courtesy the Estate of Mira Schendel.

As it is well known to the readers of Afterall, documenta 12 was organised around three leitmotifs: modernity's fate and legacy, the biopolitical turn and aesthetic education as a possible alternative to both commodity fetishism and the complacency of critical studies. As is also known to those who visited the exhibition in Kassel, the works of art on display were not deployed to illustrate the leitmotifs, but stood in a rather more bewildering, some might say 'eccentric' relationship to the questions posed. There is a reason for this: if, as we have claimed, an exhibition is to be conceived of as a medium, it is only in the correlation of works that answers can be found. 1 The viewer must be willing to look for these answers in what is there to be seen. Yet not all answers pertain to the leitmotifs. Though we would argue that both individual works and the exhibition proper engage in serious and fruitful ways with the leitmotifs, and thus it made sense for the audience of documenta 12 to navigate through the spaces with them in mind, the organising principle of the show was another: the migration of form. The following text is an attempt to start clarifying this concept. What was it about and where might it guide us in the future?

We must start with a disclaimer: when we profess an organising principle for documenta 12, we are not talking about a coherent rule or strict concept that could be generalised to a universal law independent of the works of art that were shown or of the specific encounters between the works and

Footnotes
  1. See Ruth Noack and Roger M. Buergel, 'Preface', in documenta 12. Catalogue, Cologne: Taschen, 2007, pp.11-13.

  2. See Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony. The World System A.D. 1250-1350, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

  3. See Kaja Silverman, World Spectators, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

  4. Juan Davila was born in Santiago de Chile in 1946. He has lived in Australia since 1974.

  5. See Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, Forms of Being. Cinema, Aesthetics, Subjectivity, London: British Film Institute, 2004.