"Who wants to be part of a D-11 artwork?" The documenta launched this call in the press in May 2002 for the upcoming exhibition. As a reward for participating in the performance Untitled (Kassel), 2002 by the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera (born 1968) each participant received an official documenta 11 certificate after two hours, a limited edition of lithographs after four hours, and a season ticket after participating for 20 hours or more. The initiative proved to be very popular. At the first award ceremony on August 29, more than 100 participants received a certificate.

 

The work Untitled (Kassel), 2002 was exhibited in the former Binding Brewery. It was a mixed media installation consisting of video, installation, and performance components. The audience entered a completely darkened room and were suddenly blinded by spotlights from a partial wall. Glaring bursts of light flashed through the darkness. Due to the short-term loss of their sense of sight the audience perceived the threatening military noises around them even more intensely: heavy steps with boots and the clicking of guns. Only gradually could the audience locate the sounds and their eyes got used to the oncoming light, so that the overall situation could be better comprehended. Two performers marched on an elevated catwalk repeatedly loading their weapons. Suddenly, light and sound stopped. 100 country names with dates were projected onto a wall reminding them of wars, dictatorships, political oppression, and persecution. In order to grasp the performance in its entirety, the audience had to expose themselves to this frightening situation for a long time.

 

Bruguera's intention was to make the experience of state violence impressively palpable. The audience should strongly feel the oppression edging on losing control as if they were being targeted by invisible performers, becoming intensely aware of their own vulnerability. She understood the artwork as a commentary on the events of the Second World War and on Kassel's history as a location for weapon industry. By displaying the country names and dates, the general statement was to be covered up with the concrete statement.

 

Bruguera's work always has a political dimension, even in its early phase in Cuba. In drastic performances she deals with the poverty of her country and the violence of the regime. She often works with unusual materials that are symbolically charged and act ritualistic. With her way of working she always wants to question physical and social behavior, and through a variety of sensory experiences provide visitors with an active perception that is strongly anchored in their own memories.

 

The documenta archiv was able to acquire one of these editions mentioned above at the end of 2019. It is a series of six lithographs of preliminary studies. The selected sheet shows a rectangular installation view. It is framed by a bright U-shaped walkway on which two shadows can be seen. Sketchy lamps are visible on its inside, brightly illuminating two thirds of the interior, while the left side lies in darkness. At the right side, a dark chute leads into the room. The lower side is open. The remaining sheets show sketches of the installation and performers from other perspectives, a list of country names and dates, which seems to be in flames; as well as an abstract graphic. All sheets are titled and signed by hand in pencil at the bottom margin.

 

The work Untitled (Kassel), 2002, which was specifically developed for documenta 11 was subsequently transferred to the collection of the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt. The documenta archiv is pleased to be able to document a further aspect of this particular work in its holdings and make it accessible to the public through these six lithographs, in addition to the materials that are already in its archive and media collection.

 

Saskia Mattern