abstracta (archive about the political nature of the early documentas)
Installation, Compilation of quotes from various sources, loaned objects and artworks from the Costakis collection, books, paper, charcoal.
“Stasis”, when meant to allow a comprehension of contemporary art and a critical appraisal of how it helps shape social and political balances and conflicts, requires investigating the mechanisms attributing meaning to it, rendering it accessible, important and interesting, and ultimately recognizing it as such or discounting it. The work Minna Henriksson created specifically for the 7th Thessaloniki Biennale, as part of the Biennale’s residency program, is a follow-up to her 2018 work abstracta, an online archive commissioned by the documenta studies. The latter is a web platform dedicated to the research and critical examination of Documenta and the exhibition policies.
Henriksson’s goal is to create a “map” of quotes/fragments selected from earlier and contemporary texts that deal with the Cold War politics of abstract art in the early documenta editions (1955-1964). For Henriksson, the diagrams she often uses are not annotations to her work, but artworks themselves. They are knowledge-organizing processes that indicate connections, contradictions and associations, highlighting the processes of meaning-making. In this particular diagram, the decorative motifs for the abstracta fabric line, designed for mass production by Arnold Bode, the founder of documenta and the main curator of these early editions, create –both literally and metaphorically– the field of reading and associating the texts.
In Thessaloniki, this work obtains a material existence, with Bode’s motifs relocated from the digital space of the internet into the physical walls of the exhibition room in Moni Lazariston, where they are transformed into colorful text “bubbles”. Here, the online archive is enriched, in an attempt to point out the confrontation between the decorative-consumerist ideas of documenta’s originators about abstraction and the consciously political-revolutionary approach adopted by the artists of the Russian avant-garde. This colorful diagram of associated texts is presented alongside modern art history diagrams by Unovis and Alfred Barr, as well as reference books and works from the Costakis Collection, thereby mapping the different approaches of capitalism and socialism to abstract art: for the former, abstraction is an ideological means to promote individual freedom, whereas, for the latter, it serves as a process that helps shape collective, class-based, political action.
Text by Louisa Avgita