CAROLYN CHRISTOV-BAKARGIEV: Notes towards documenta (13)


A curator and writer, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (b. Ridgewood, NJ, 1957) is the Artistic Director of documenta (13), 2012. She has been Chief Curator at Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea since 2002, and is Interim Director for 2009. The author of publications including Arte Povera (London: Phaidon Press, 1999), she was Senior Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center / a MoMA affiliate, New York, from 1999 to 2001.

This talk will focus on the nature and meaning of documenta, its history and future. In the early 1950s, documenta was conceived as a direct response to the Third Reich’s policies towards ‘degenerate art’; at the time, in Germany, only an art which celebrated the regime was allowed, while all avant-gardes were banned. Over the years, it came to signify, in the context of Western Europe, a space in which full freedom of expression could be achieved. More recently, it has been a platform for a critique of Euro-Centrism. In contrast to other periodic international exhibitions that have emerged from the world fair models of the 19th century, documenta is therefore characterized by a strong theoretical grounding and a sense of the urgency of art in society.

documenta (13) is being developed from an archeological perspective, according to which every cultural project that moves forward must be grounded in a backward gaze, in an ecological relationship to the past. How was the present imagined in the second half of the 20th century and what was considered urgent at each successive edition of the exhibition?

The Curatorial Lecture Series is organized by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in collaboration with the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, the Museum of Anthropology, the Department of Anthropology, with the support of the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies and the Faculty of Arts at The University of British Columbia.

For more information contact Allison Collins or Naomi Sawada at (604) 822-3640 or