Documenta magazine

Title Documenta magazine
Location Kassel; Cologne
Publisher documenta 12; Taschen
Periodicity Thrice a year
ISSN isbn 978 3-8228-2530-3
URL Documenta magazine Worldcat
Published Since 2007
Indexed Holdings 2007


ccindex office

Periodical's Overview

“How does documenta gain access to specific knowledge in the world? And how can it communicate this knowledge?

One possible approach was found with documenta 12 magazines. 18 months ago, about 90 publications with different formats, orientations and focuses, as well as art, culture and theory media from around the world were invited to think collectively about the motifs and themes of documenta 12. They actively took on the exhibition’s guiding questions, discussing them at editorial level and passing them on to writers and artists.

In the intervening period, this has generated over 300 articles, essays, interviews, commentaries, and illustrated essays. It has also created a space for exchange, debate, controversy, and translation - a many-layered "communication process that throws up a great deal of dust and issues we can use for the exhibition," as Roger M. Buergel puts it, "themes or priorities that were lying dormant and which we had not expected."

The material generated by the three issues leading up to the exhibition — Modernity?, Life!, and Education: — is intended to act as a navigation aid for readers and visitors to documenta 12.”[1]

Selected Subject Headings

  • Apartment houses - social aspects
  • Archivos del aparatobarrio (periodical)
  • Avant-garde (aesthetics) - China
  • Brigands and robbers
  • Buen Tono, S.A.
  • Experiments in Art and Technology (organization)
  • Functionalism (architecture) - Sweden
  • Documenta (Kassel, Germany) - history
  • Human-animal relationships - Malaysia
  • LSD (drug)
  • NIMBY syndrome
  • Performance art - Yugoslavia
  • Political activists - Korea (South)
  • Postcolonialism and the arts - Africa
  • Rabat (Morocco) - intellectual life
  • Right to life
  • Shades and shadows - symbolic aspects
  • Time perception - Palestine
  • Unidentified flying objects in art
  • Yogyakarta (Indonesia) - religious life and customs


Since it was established in 1955, documenta has been regarded as a key international exhibition of contemporary art worldwide and a moment of reflection on the relationship between art and society. It takes place every five years, and runs for 100 days.[2]

In 2007, one of these moments of reflection took place, documenta 12.

Via its magazine component documenta 12 also tried to expand beyond the allotted 100 days of public exhibition, as that had been the mode of the last two documenta exhibitions: in 1997, for documenta X, a series of three magazines (Documenta X Documents) and broadcasted video travelogue diaries depicting the curator’s musings beyond and against the white cube were produced; in 2002, for documenta 11, a series of dispersed global events convened by its curatorial council took place and resulted in a series of books under the umbrella of successive platforms, each addressing social, cultural and political themes; one after another, importantly ending in an art exhibition, as art and artists is what allowed all of them to take place as “a key international exhibition of contemporary art worldwide.”

In a strategic, and intelligently encompassing move, documenta 12 decided to invite a very specific list of magazines and journals to answer the questions or leitmotifs[3] posed by its artistic directors, questions that were reactive to the previous exhibitions: the artistic directorship having returned to Germanic soil, and the main postcolonial paths having been previously explored, magnificent, elegant and obscure gestures were now needed; but we will focus here on the inclusion of the magazines, rather than on the exhibition, which falls out of our purview. Or interest.

Georg Schöllhammer, one of the editors of Springerin, was in charge of a Vienna-based team of editors coordinating this complex endeavor of selecting, and inviting more than 90 international publications; from this invitation, three issues of Documenta magazine were produced; each issue appearing under a rubric trying to condense the rhetorical questions posed by its curators. These condensations were:

  • Modernity?
  • Life?
  • Education

There was also an online component, and a stated desire at continuation: “the future of the project lies in the hands of the magazines involved.”[4]

We are not aware that this desire has been carried out, but in the indexed Reader bringing all three issues together, we encounter a distillation of the “more than 650 articles, essays, interviews, glosses or pictorial essays published in the respective media.”[5] Schöllhammer describes that the Documenta Magazine “created a space for exchange, debate, controversy, and translation;” read from a distance, one can imagine a range of responses from the diverse publications invited: from the excitement at being included by the perceived of as peripheral and minor, to a circumspect nod to an acknowledgment of discursive influence, to a full on antagonism.[6] Without having had access to the documenta hall in which all participating magazines or journals were displayed, one wonders if the resulting display would fall under the undesired fetishism of information display as knowledge.

Thus the interest of the printed version of the project: a document, a paper distillation of many interests, an attempt at taming the discursive Babel that our reality has become. The results might be fragmented, but nonetheless they are traces of creative human attempts at figuring out a space in which to exchange, and debate, but also a delineation and excavation of artistic practices that existed, exist, and will exist beyond and despite the utilitarian frameworks imposed by the exhibition makers. Yes, they might perceive all these attempts at thinking and creating and diffusing as a "communication process that throws up a great deal of dust and issues we can use for the exhibition,” but in the end, once the overbearing stronghold of mediation and instrumentalization is dispelled, an indexical perusal of the dust will direct us to the sources of knowledge, imagination or wisdom produced or ignited by artists.

Beyond the flattening out of Kassel by aerial bombs, and the creation of a new German civic society after the excesses of the Enlightenment carnage, this is, and we hope it will continue to be, documenta’s reason of being.

An imagined and existing system of continuing chimerical endeavors.

To peruse the indexed contents of Documenta magazine, please log into the database.


[1]Documenta 12 Magazines.

[2]En route to documenta 13; we believe that it is important to mention that in order to understand why this event is so highly regarded, one needs to be aware of the lavish budgets allotted to its production and diffusion. For example, documenta X costed 21.73 million Deutsch Marks; documenta 11, 18.1 million Euros, and documenta 12, the one that concerns us, 26.89 million Euros. We also believe that the publishing turn these exhibitions have taken has to do with a desire to have material remnants beyond the ephemeral 100 days exhibition.

[3]The leitmotifs can be found here.

[4]Georg Schöllhammer. "Editorial," Documenta magazine reader (Kassel), no.1-3 (2007): 6.

[5]Ibid., 5.

[6]One example of contestation would be Multitudes' counter-project, which reformulated, and appropriated the questions posed by the institutional event; in their words, a détournement.