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8 Must-See Asian Artists at dOCUMENTA 14


8 Must-See Asian Artists at dOCUMENTA 14
"Check Point Sekondi Loco. 1901–2030. 2016–2017" (2016/2017) by Ibrahim Mahama (Image courtesy of Benjamin Westoby for Artsy)


This year’s edition of dOCUMENTA has expanded beyond Kassel, Germany with the mega exhibition starting off in Athens earlier this year. Artistic director, Adam Szymczyk, who was previously the director and chief curator at Kunsthalle Basel, believes that “Athens is one of the most interesting cities in Europe… It is one of the very few places currently reinventing itself. The city is fertile ground for people and ideas. It has been pretty much wasted in the last 10 years.”

"The Parthenon of Books" by Marta Minujín
Image courtesy of Ocula

Although Athens has been criticised by some to have failed to address the well-documented Greek crisis, and that many local artists and curators were overlooked in the list of 160 participating artists, there have been quite a few Asian artists included in the roster. If you missed the Athens half of dOCUMENTA, here is our pick of eight artists and their works produced for Athens, as well as what to expect from them in Kassel!


Rasheed Araeen

Karachi-born artist Rasheed Araeen is recognised as one of the pioneers of minimalist sculpture in 1960s Britain, when he moved there in 1964. “Shamiyaana – Food for Thought: Thought for Change” is one of Araeen’s performance pieces in which the artist invites viewers to sit together and enjoy a free meal under a shamiyaana - a traditional Pakistani wedding tent - decorated with geometric patterns in primary colours. “The Reading Room” is an extension of Araeen’s ‘Third Text’, a journal founded by the artist that looks at de-colonising culture. Placed on top of his iconic structures, issues of ‘Third Text’ will be displayed alongside his paintings to look at the relationship between art and reading.

“Shamiyaana – Food for Thought: Thought for Change” (2016-17) by Rasheen Araeen
Image courtesy of Yiannia Hajiaslanis

“The Reading Room” (2016-17) by Rasheed Araeen
Image courtesy of Thomas Wagner and Stylepark


Banu Cennetoğlu

Banu Cennetoğlu is a Turkish artist who works in the medium of photography, installation and print media. Her practice focuses on the exploration of scio-political uncertainty and the ability of documentation such documentation - especially photography - to capture these situations objectively. “Gurbet’s Diary” is an installation work in which a library of lithogrpahic limestone texts are placed in the garden of the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Stacked like books, they contain the text of a now-banned diary of Gurbetelli Ersŭz, a Kurdish journalist, and are a symbol of the struggle for freedom as they respond to the books in the nearby library. “BEINGSAFEISSCARY” replaces the signage bearing the Fridericianum’s name as a mark of the site’s history as the traditional headquarters of documenta, and as a comment on the works from the permanent collection of the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Athens, which are currently held there.

“Gurbet’s Diary (27.07.1995-08.10.1997)” (2016-17) by Banu Cennetoğlu
Image courtesy of Freddie F

“BEINGSAFEISSCARY” (2017) by Banu Cennetoğlu
Image courtesy of Roman Mörz


Mounira Al Solh

Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh focuses her artistic practice on her Lebanese-Syrian heritage and socio-political and religious conflicts that surround these two regions. Using the mediums of video, painting, embroidery, photography, performance and installation, she relates narratives of migration, assimilation, and dissociation. Covered in embroidery inspired by ancient civilisation and stories of people she met in Athens and Kassel who have been forced from their homeland, “Sperveri” is tent that hangs from the ceiling of the Benaki Museum in Athens; a symbol of refuge for displaced individuals. In Kassel, Al Solh presented “Nassib’s Bakery”, an installation of a bakery that was a means for survival during civil war that was eventually bombed and burned down, expressing life on the edge during conflict.

“Sperveri” (2017) by Mourina Al Solh
Image courtesy of Haupt & Binder

“Nassib’s Bakery” (2017) by Mourina Al Solh
Image courtesy of Fred Dot


Nevin Aladağ

Turkish artist Nevin Aladağ is a sculptor whose works frequently employ the use of sound to explore socio-political boundaries that govern public spaces and interactions. “Music Room” is an installation consisting of musical instruments built from vintage furniture pieces, invoking a domestic interior. In Kassel, Aladağ presents “Jali”, drawing on the ornamental pattened designs of perforated screens used as architectural devices, known as Jalis found in Indian, Indo-Islamic and Islamic architecture. She reproduced them in ceramics glazed in soft pastel hues, reminiscent of bathroom tiles in 1950s Germany.


“Jali” (2017) by Nevin Aladağ
Image courtesy of Wentrup Gallery

Wang Bing

Chinese video artist and filmmaker Wang Bing was propelled to the international film community when he released his nine-hour-long documentary “Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks”, lauded for being both in spirit and scale. Wang’s films focus on the banality of life in China and the existential realities of the human condition, which contrasts with the larger narratives of contemporary China. “15 Hours” is his most recent work, a single-shot documentary filmed in a centralised garment processing factory in China that employs 300,000 migrant workers, touching upon the changes happening in China’s society. His real piece de resistance, which will be on show in Kassel is “Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks”, detailing the gradual decline of Shenyang’s industrial Tiexi district, which was once a shining example of China’s socialist economy.

“15 Hours” (2107) by Wang Bing
Image courtesy of Mathias Völzke and dOcumenta



Amar Kanwar

Amar Kanwar is an artist shaped by a commitment to social activism. Born in New Delhi, he works strictly with documentary and archival images in the process of documentary filmmaking, employing various methods of editing and presentation to create a sense of atmosphere and reveal underlying motives and histories. “Such a Morning” captures a mood of global political tension through “a modern parable about two people’s quiet engagement with truth”, when a mathematician loses his sight and in the darkness begins to see the light of a different world. “Letter 5 (Such a Morning)” show at Kassel alongside “Such a Morning” is a six-channel installation that is an extension of his video work.

“Such a Morning” (2017) by Amar Kanwar
Image courtesy of Freddie F


Nikhil Chopra

Born in Calcutta, Nikhil Chopra’s artistic practice is a unique combination of live art, theatre, painting, sculpture and installations. Known for his largely improvised performances, Chopra focuses on issues relating to identity, the pose and self-portraiture, reflecting of the process of transformation and the role the duration of the performance plays. For both Athens and Kassel, he will be spend three days in the site-specific installation he has created, producing a wall drawing of the open sea.

“Drawing a Line Through Landscape” (2017)by Nikhil Chopra
Image courtesy of Angelos Giotopoulous


Arin Rungjang

Thai artist Arin Rungjang is no stranger to mega exhibitions, having represented his country at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. For Rungjang, art is a means in which socio-political and ideological barriers can be overcome, enabling us to connect with one another and bridge divisions between people of different cultures and backgrounds. “And then there were none (Tomorrow we will become Thailand.)” is a film piece that features two dancers moving around a hotel room overlooking Hitler’s bunker, as a voiceover - interspersed with Runjang’s own experiences of Berlin - tells the story of Thai diploma, Prasat Chutin, who was the last person to sign the the guest book in Hitler’s bunker. Upon the fall of Nazi Germany, he was interrogated by Russia before being allowed to return home. In Kassel, Runjang presents “246247596248914102516... And then there were none” that features the video work alongside an installation that comprises a life-size replica of “Soldiers Fighting for Democracy” (1939) by Corrado Feroci, one of the relief sculptures at the base the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, the replicated memoir of Prasat Chutin, and the last page of Hitler’s guestbook. It is a means for us to appreciate the complexities of historical narratives and to draw our own conclusions based evidence as a means to ‘unlearn’ history.

“And then there were none (Tomorrow we will become Thailand.)” (2016) by Arin Rungjang
Image courtesy of Yiannis Hadjiaslanis

“246247596248914102516... And then there were none” (2017) by Arin Rungjang
Image courtesy of Mathias Völzke



dOCUMENTA 14 is on show till 9 September 2017 in Kassel, Germany. For more information and to see the full list of artists, click here.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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