documenta 12 invoked discussions between contemporary art and museum collections, for example in the Old Masters Picture Gallery of Wilhelmshöhe Palace. It was up to the visitors to decide whether it was about provocation or content-related convergence. There were extraordinarily successful juxtapositions.

When entering the Rembrandt room, the d12 visitors were surprised by a large black and white photomontage that was installed between the paintings of the 17th century with their moderately desaturated earthy color pallets. The work by the Polish artist Zofia Kulik (b. 1947) shows her own image. Her appearance is overloaded by an opulently emblazoned garment - similar to paintings of the Virgin Queen of England Elizabeth I (1533-1603). In many of her analog photomontages Kulik uses her own portrait. What appears to be accurately patterned lace ornaments covering most of the work, turns out on closer inspection a succession of masculine nudes: the man decorates the woman's clothing, a parody of the image of the classical female ruler.

The ornamentation composed of small photo elements in Kulik's pictures deals with the relationship between man and woman, the individual and the mass. In many of her works Kulik engages with the visual experience of totalitarianism by gathering and embracing manifestations of political gestures and symbols. The weaving of images in her practice resembles the technique of oriental carpets. The patterns of these photographic carpets seem like forms of calligraphy, in which the difference between text and ornament seems to dissolve - just as in the art of Kulik, the dividing  lines between discursivity and decorativeness, customs and contemporary, abstraction and narrativity, rhythm and the utilised ciphers blurr.

„In a sense it is easy, banal and kitschy”, said Kulik in 1998 “The subtlety of this work relies on its complexity. I feel that a great value of my work is the fact that I´m a talented organizer of compound visual structures. In turn all of the details are simple, like in a common song about love and death. My whole work is based on the fact that I permanently collect and archive the images of this world. The complexity of this work comes from the richness of the archive that I possess.”


Michael Gärtner