Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Documenta 12: better pack your Hawaiian Tropic

Last week I gave you a first look at the new Plastic Pavilion rising before Kassel’s Orangerie for Documenta 12 this summer. This week I can confirm rumours circulating around the city that artistic director Roger Buergel isn’t altogether happy with the pavilion's architects, Jean-Philippe Vassal and Anne Lacaton.

Die Süddeutsche Zeitung is running an interview with the French team today in which they take the position that the structures should live and breathe Kassel's natural climate. Roger's not so sure.

"The problem is not the form of the pavilion," explains Vassal. "It's the system. One should feel the atmosphere of fresh air in the [Karlsaue] park, close to the river. In the summer, the Karlsaue should become a resting place that is as natural as possible and understood as part of the exterior. The climate should be felt inside, too, in a way that's different from the traditional museum. . . A greenhouse should not be sealed off."

Buergel, on the other hand is panicking that hanging art works -- many on loan from institutional collections -- in a hot and sweaty greenhouse all summer may not make him the most popular director among conservation staff. Word has it there are already threats of works being pulled from the show.

The architects argue the system meets Buergel's concept of an India-inspired "palm grove" where guests can congregate and discuss art and society, while Buergel is insisting his metaphor is being taken a little too far.

"The most important factor for the museum climate is the sweat of each individual visitor," Vassal says. "There, a purely artificial atmosphere becomes a problem. If Buergel has an image in mind of people sitting under trees in India, then he should think about what kind of architecture comes closest to this image."

Is modernity our antiquity, Roger asks? It will be soon enough if he starts shipping home Ruschas and Richters left faded, blistered and cracking from a summer in the sun.

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