Documenta 12 reflects the best and the latest in contemporary art

More than 150 artists showcase their works at Documenta 12, a major event on international art calendar. Considered to be a seismograph of contemporary art movements worldwide, it also has a significant Indian presence this year. Art on view is from the different parts of the world and reflects contemporary art trends in terms of style, subject and media. The exhibition space is spread over five different locations in Kassel, Germany.

At the Documenta, installations became workshops; they become live stages for performances and locations of interaction. Artists and groups work with a communicative approach; take part in public presentations and get the audiences directly involved in their work. Even while making an effort to put the works by different artists into relationship with each other, curators place varied works by individual artists at different venues of the exhibition. The idea is to give viewers differing perspectives on the same artist in varying contexts.

Summing up the spirit of the art event, the NY art critic Holland Cotter writes in an essay: 'There are no instructions, no statements, no polemics, and no signature style. You wouldn't know you were looking at the work of a single artist unless you asked. Visitors wander into the gallery, scope out the situation and look confused. Most move on fairly quickly; a few settle down to see what - if anything - would happen. That's the dynamic of Documenta 12 as a whole.'

Indian representation at Documenta 12 is through works of artist Atul Dodiya. His participation at the event is in form of 12 large works on paper. They are titled, Antler's Anthology', and are being displayed at the main exhibition hall. These are calligraphic watercolors installed in a gallery in the Museum Fridericianum. Literary in nature, they reproduce the texts of contemporary Gujarati poems. English versions of the poems are included in accompanying wall labels. Other participating Indian artists at Documenta 12 comprise Sheela Gowda (installations titled 'And Tell Him of My Pain' and 'Collateral'), Nasreen Mohamedi, CK Rajan (collage work) and Amar Kanwar (an eight-screen video installation).

Sheela Gowda's installation 'Collateral' installation comprises eight horizontal panels of molded ash, filling a 10-metre-diameter circular room, specially built for it at one of the Documenta venues. Another of her installation titled 'And Tell Him of My Pain' comprises 170m of thick, encrusted red cords, which hang from the walls and lie on the floor, suggesting umbilical cords.

Amar Kanwar's eight-screen video installation comprise screens that light up with images of a blue window as a "container" of time or of leaves - the memory of past violence. Seven of the projection screens are meant to be blank part of the time. Kerala-born artist CK Rajan is showcasing collages with political overtones. These are cut and conceived out of news clippings from Indian newspapers and magazines, and deals with the debate over disruptions caused by the rapid urbanization and its impact on socio-economic fabric of the nation. The late Pakistan-born Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi's sublime ensemble of linear drawings from the 1970s is also being showcased. It's accompanied by a few of her tiny, handwritten notebooks.

The Indian connection is also visible in the works of artist Simryn Gill's assemblage titled 'Throwback'. The installation is a quixotic representation of an old truck driven in India using river clay, soils from termite mounds, seashells, dried grasses, fruit skins and coconut bark. It renders the drive shaft, gears and motor ports of this ubiquitous vehicle.

Documenta 12 continues till September, 23, 2007.

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