Saabumenta XII, made in collaboration with Jessica MacCormack, is a satirical video responding to the often-unnoticed political and social issues surrounding the business of major international art exhibitions like documenta. The performance on location at documenta 12 resulted in a video that addresses art world politics and stardom, representation of the Other, the power of cultural capital, and the often dubious tie between corporations and art institutions.
MacCormack and I pretended to be curators of the biennale and had several colleagues pose as famous artists or critics. The video takes the viewer on a whirlwind interpretive tour of artworks, those that were a part of documenta 12 and works we ‘discovered’ at the Saab Art Lounge at Kassel’s main train station.
As the sponsor of documenta 12, Saab attempted to marry the worlds of high art and automobile technology at their Art Lounge, which boasted internet connections, delicious coffee drinks, and a daily featured concept car as the centerpiece. The whitewashed futuristic space was decorated with factory-made airbrushed paintings that extolled the many virtues of Saab: speed, environmentalism, technology, beauty. Even documenta 12 curator Roger M. Buergel got in on the fun, as he was the recipient of a white Saab convertible, one of five Saabs given to the event organizers.
In the video we discuss the artistic merits of a screensaver on a computer in the Saab Art Lounge, experience the resonance of silence emanating from Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s short-wave radio, test out the Saab concept cars on display, and take time to meditate on two of Ai Wei Wei’s 1,001 historic Chinese chairs.
Through placing equal importance on the famous artworks and the blatant marketing tactics, we draw attention to the already blurred borders between sponsorship and artworks, art market and cultural experience. We also highlight in a humorous way how easily art can be stripped of its meaning and imbued with a significance that serves the purpose of the interpreter, be that a corporation, art institution, or self-anointed expert.
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