In the first room of the permanent exhibition "about: documenta" at the Neue Galerie in Kassel, which opened in November 2019, a film featuring footage from the 14 editions of the documenta exhibitions is shown. This video collage is part of the concept for the permanent display and at the same time the result of an ongoing viewing project of the Media Collection at the documenta archiv.


The VHS holdings of the archive which comprises of around 1,200 VHS tapes is currently examined. The aim of this review is primarily to create a basis and an overview of the state of this group of the collection setting priorities for the digitization of the videos, films and scenes. The tapes are systematically being viewed and evaluated according to various criteria: the film contents are being examined in terms of their relevance in relation to documenta, the physical condition of the videotapes is being evaluated and prioritized for digitization. Has one or more segment on a VHS cassette fulfilled these criteria then they will be digitized immediately at the archive’s multimedia studio.


The video collage, which was first cut together from smaller clips, is arranged according to the individual documenta exhibitions. This resulted to 14 sequences each of which representing one edition of documenta. Well know events and performances can be seen such as Joseph Beuys’ (1921-1986) melting of the Tsar’s crown at documenta 7 (1982) or Roman Signer’s (born 1938) explosive “Schlussaktion” [final action] on the Karlswiese for documenta 8 (1987). But also, more hidden moments and never shown scenes were included in the video, such as interviews with Marina Abramović (born 1946) and Ulay (1943-2020) directly after their performance "Nightsea Crossing" at documenta 7 (1982). Although each of these excerpts represents only a part of the respective exhibition, in themselves they offer a good overview of the individual basic ideas. This is also in line with the concept of the exhibition at the Neue Galerie, which wants to show "[...] how each documenta in its individual form was representative of the self-conception and topicality of art as well as of the public discourse of its time", as the Neue Galerie website describes the permanent display.


Since the digitized videos were arranged and edited for each documenta, they can also be made available to the public upon request individually from the documenta archiv.


Maximilian Preuss