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Harald Szeemann: documenta 5

Harald Szeemann: documenta 5
Onsite [at] OCAD U

Thursday October 25, 2012 to Saturday January 12, 2013

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 25, 6 to 9 p.m.
Curator’s talk with David Platzker: Wednesday, October 24, 6:30 p.m.

Curated by David Platzker

Documenta originated in 1955 as part of Germany's Bundesgartenschau (Federal Horticultural Show), but the two spectacles quickly parted ways and by 1972, its fifth iteration, documenta had nothing flowery about it. Indeed, critics like Barbara Rose and Hilton Kramer castigated the show as "deranged" and "sadistic."

However, even Kramer admitted that something had changed with documenta 5: dada-and its progeny, neo-dada-had become "established culture." Kramer meant it insultingly. For him, the avant-garde's absorption into the cultural mechanism it claimed to despise proved that it had been play-acting all along. And artists like Hans Haacke, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson and Carl Andre shared Kramer's reservations, Sandback and Andre (among others) withdrawing and Smithson contributing only a catalogue essay.

Unlikely though it may seem now, documenta 5 wasn't the only trouble-making exhibition of the time: Hans Haacke's participation in MoMA's "Information" show (1970) and his solo show at the Guggenheim (1971) were similarly fraught, as was Daniel Buren's participation in the 6th Guggenheim International (1971). The art world was changing and, as we can see from forty years later, the change was permanent. The barrier between art and everything else, if not gone, was certainly permeable.

This legacy is the point of "Harald Szeemann: documenta 5." Harald Szeemann was the legendary curator under whose stewardship this sprawling exhibition was organized. True to his wide-ranging interests, Szeemann expanded documenta to include performances and happenings along with painting and sculpture, effacing the boundary between art and everything else ("100 Days of Inquiry into Reality -- Today's Imagery" was his subtitle) and re-imagining documenta as a cultural and informational spectacle: a 100-day "process of mutually interrelated events." Merging an expansive understanding of art with a belieft that anything and everything could be relevant to art's context, Szeemann's curatorial vision remains influential today.

"Harald Szeemann: documenta 5" is part of ICI's Exhibitions in a Box series. Circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, this exhibition has been curated by David Platzker. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the ICI Board of Trustees; and ICI Benefactors Barbara and John Robinson.

David Platzker is the director of Specific Object, an innovative gallery, bookshop, and think tank dedicated to artists’publications ranging from ephemeral materials to unique artworks produced between 1960 and 1990. Prior to founding Specific Object, Platzker was the executive director of Printed Matter, a non-profit institution dedicated to the promotion of artists’ publications from 1998 to 2004, and he has curated exhibitions of artists including John Baldessari, Dan Graham, Jonathan Monk, and Claes Oldenburg. He most recently curated SCREW YOU, an exhibition about the intersection between 1960s tabloid pornography and the artworld.

Insite Gallery Tour with Ian Carr-Harris: Thursday, November 8. 6:30 p.m.

Insite Gallery Tour with Ruth Spitzer: Thursday, January 10, 6:30 p.m.

Organized by Independent Curators International (ICI)

Onsite [at] OCAD U

230 Richmond St. W.

Toronto, Ontario


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