A letter from the documenta 14 team, following the attacks in Beirut on November 12 and Paris on November 13, 2015
We arrived in Beirut last Thursday morning, November 12. On that day, two blasts hit the southern suburb of the city, leaving 43 people dead and 239 wounded. On Friday, November 13, a series of coordinated attacks at six different locations in the center of the city shook Paris. As of today, November 15, 129 people have been confirmed dead and 352 are wounded, nearly one hundred of them in critical condition.
We came to Beirut to participate in Home Works 7, A Forum on Cultural Practices, at Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts (in existence since 1993), a constellation of exhibitions, public programs, and collateral events, bringing together a number of outstanding artists and thinkers coming from the Middle East as well as from the outside of the region.
Confronted with what seemed unspeakable at first—confronted with death—we have realized, while listening to talks and seeing practitioners from various fields perform at Ashkal Alwan, how important it is not to fall silent. We thought and felt it should be possible to make the many voices we heard in Home Works 7 also heard in documenta 14, one and a half years ahead of its scheduled openings in Athens and Kassel. On this website, we will publish statements, notes, fragments, and quotes solicited from those we meet—in Beirut, and soon in Algiers and elsewhere—since many members of our team find themselves at different places around the globe at this point in time, as the reality around us has been going through profound changes.]
The day after the Beirut attacks, the people from documenta, with whom I interacted, seemed quite ok. However, the day after (the day when Paris happened) they definitely seemed shook up; they seemed a bit lost, as if the North had become nothing more than just a dream. It is somewhat ironic, considering they had chosen a Greek magazine called ‘South as a State of Mind’ to be their official organ.
I suppose suppose ‘South as a State of Mind’ could very well be a derogatory expression, a ‘Triste Trope?’ In any case, since Lebanon as a State of Mind was launched in 2010 —two years before Marina Fokidis launched her magazine— and seeing that documenta14 chose it officially speak for them, things have come full circle, and warrant that one should explore the inherent contradictions in showing (art) in Kassel, or elsewhere, while still getting money from here and there, as if there’s some kind of inverse correlation between artistic production and arms manufacturing and dealing, for example.
An endeavor such as this one, might not amount to much, but at least there would be some dcouments about some things documenta says and does./////