Online artwork commissioned by the documenta studies
‘abstracta’ is an online archive gathered by artist Minna Henriksson as an attempt to address the Cold War politics of abstract art in the first three documenta exhibitions, which took place between 1955 and 1964.
The makers of the early documentas claimed the exhibition is devoid of politics. It is well known that Arnold Bode initiated documenta with the aim to display what the Nazi regime had deemed as “degenerate art”, and to legitimate once again the place of that expressive modern art in the cultural history. The online archive ‘abstracta’ brings forth selection of quotes from researches, where different kind of politics relating to early documenta exhibitions is brought forward; exclusion of radical practices of abstract art from its presentation of 20th century art, and USA-supported anticommunism as its driving agenda.
After the first three documenta exhibitions, the agenda of documenta was no longer as strongly dominated by the ideology of western abstraction but increasingly also included realist tendencies: the fourth documenta (1968) displayed the latest trends in Pop art and Op art, for instance inviting the group Dvizhenie from Moscow. The fifth documenta (1972) radically broke away from Arnold Bode’s and Werner Haftmann’s modernism by including prominent works of photorealism. The sixth documenta (1977) eventually displayed works by artists from East Germany, despite boycott of some West German artists. Many younger documenta editions, among them documenta X (1997), Documenta 11 (2002) and documenta 14 (2017), each have in different ways radically challenged the limits of documenta as a West-European, German and Hessian endeavour.