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15/06/2007

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

A day before documenta

Der Tagesspiegel
15.06.2007

Documenta, the major contemporary art exhibition taking place every five years in Kassel, opens tomorrow. Nicola Kuhn writes that the show never really manages to get off the ground. Especially disappointing is the Auepavillon, or greenhouse-like temporary pavilion: "The pavilion is supposed to be the heart of the exhibition - airy and light like a greenhouse, a playful reference to the first documenta, which accompanied the 1955 German Horticultural Show. Instead, it's become a junk room. To protect the artworks, the roof and outer walls were covered with silvery cloth, and then air conditioning pipes were stuck in as well. The art itself hardly has a chance on the rough asphalt floor of the pavilion. This deficiency is most clearly felt in works by artists also shown elsewhere: here they seem strangely lame."


Die Tageszeitung
15.06.2007

Brigitte Werneburg recounts her first impression of the documenta: "The museum-like quality that the documenta 12 emanates in many places has nothing to do with artists like Martha Rosler, Eleanor Antin, Tanaka Atsuko, Yvonne Rainer or Jo Spence – whose works now belong to the historical canon. Eleanor Antin's art, which depicts political role-playing, still seems far too fresh and feisty to be gawked at in the basement of the New Gallery as a strange puppet theatre of yesteryear. Generally speaking, it seems that the artists, be they new discoveries or old finds, are the character actors of the art business, just like the casting of Harvey Keitel as lead actor in James Coleman's film installation 'Retake with Evidence' (2007). No, their museum-like character also has nothing to do with the fact that the documenta does not believe in the star system. It has to do with the all-too harmonious and subtle sequences and purely formal contrasting of the individual pieces; in the apparent need to make connections between old and new art, between abstraction and figuration."


Die Welt 15.06.2007

Uta Baier is also disappointed after her first trip through documenta. The show's guiding concept of the "Migration of Form" is perhaps a cute turn of phrase, she writes, but in practise it's got all the appeal of a post-graduate seminar: "The search for meaning between art and forms hovers like a lead weight over the works chosen for the show. What's lacking here is the guts to admit anything strident, gaudy or loud. Everything is too controlled, trimmed to the arbitrary curatorial will."


Frankfurter Rundschau 15.06.2007

Elke Buhr is undeterred by criticism and highlights positive sides to the the documenta show: "The artistic director Roger M. Buergel and his curator Ruth Noack have made the 'migration of form' the guiding principle of their Documenta 12. They wanted to show how forms change through time and from culture to culture, and they wanted to examine how similar aesthetic approaches fuse in different ways with contexts and contents. And when this approach works the effect is amazing... In this respect documenta 12 doesn't only show today's avant-garde - it does that as well, and with an international perspective that no longer seems contrived - but it also shows on whose shoulders these artists are standing. It reaches out not only to the female side of recent art history, but also to the avant-garde of Eastern Europe, and despite all the harshness that sometimes reigns there it also gives its visitors the means to see the beauty and the specific aesthetics of the structuralist abstractions."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.06.2007

Sonja Zekri met Poland's "darkest girl wonder," the best-selling author Dorota Maslowska, "with a child's face and a style like a clogged drainpipe": "At 15, Dorota went to the big city of Gdansk for the first time. Is it any wonder that she moved to the Praga district in Warsaw - the equivalent of the Bronx - full of derelicts, drugs and dirt? 'Without pain, you can't feel yourself. Without pain you can't express yourself artistically,' she says, not noticing how charmingly naive she sounds. Dorota Maslowska isn't the first person to rush straight to the gutter after the vacuum of a childhood idyll. But in the cleanly swept, enforced idyll of the Kaczynski twins' Poland, her idiosyncratic milieu studies give her the aura of subversion, and make her seem eminently political. There's no doubt: Poland needs Dorota Maslowska, but Dorota Maslowska needs Poland just as much." See our feature "The sweet taste of underground" on Dorota Maslowska and Poland's young generation of writers.

Historian Saul Friedländer has been named this year's recipient of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, which is awarded each year at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Franziska Augstein looks back on Friedländer's life and work. Born in Prague to Jewish parents, Friedländer fled to France with his family in 1939, where the young Saul - then Paul - was taken in by a Catholic boarding school. His parents were murdered in Auschwitz. On Friedländer's three-part history of the Holocaust "The Years of Extermination," Augstein writes: "Friedländer uses diaries and letters left behind by Holocaust victims, and accompanies their authors from the beginning of their persecution to the end. Had he left it at that, however, he wouldn't have been a good historian. He was well aware that the words of 'eyewitnesses' - be they dead or alive - are often misused to evoke a minor, undiscerning feeling of excitement in the reading public.... Friedländer explains what happened, why and where and how. It's in this contextual framework that the quotes he uses from the papers of the Jews who were persecuted, harassed, imprisoned and condemned to death get their force." See our review of "The Years of Extermination" here.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 15.06.2007

Babak Khalatbari and Mohammed Belal El-Mogaddedi describe how the Taliban are putting religious moderates under ever greater pressure. "This year, the Islamic extremists, with their guerilla tactics, seem to be playing tough not only with the Nato and Isaf but also with the moderate forces: spreading fear and terror in the war on the right to interpret Islam, to force them to capitulate. A sense of defeat prevails among Afghan teachers. Even academics who have studied and done their PhDs at Cairo's famed Al-Azhar University no longer dare to go near the 'hot iron' in their Friday sermons."

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