Today starts a new phase of this year of daily posts (Minus Plato Today), as between now and early August I will be posting while traveling throughout Europe (including stops in Madrid, Bilbao, Athens, London, Malaga and Kassel). Central to this journey is my experience of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel and the question of how ancient sites are appropriated and reactivated by the artists of this expansive exhibition. Yet I also want to post about the idea of location for both the Classical and Contemporary Art. To quote a question from Tirdad Zolghadr’s recent book Traction (which I am packing as we speak):
What kind of a place is art? And, what kind of place would we like it to be?
Zolghadr proceeds to offer two broad responses to these questions: the ambassadorial and the breezy. In the former we find art as ‘a place behind thick, heavy curtains, where the rule of law is suspended in a smoky haze of good cigars’, while in the latter it is ‘a studio, or an experimental university, or a roaring biennial’. He then proposes that there are ‘surprising commonalities’ between them:
between the breezy and the ambassadorial, and even between the open university and the roaring biennial.
While Minus Plato is on location across these European cities (yes, even London still counts in spite of Brexit), I want to try to fund some of these commonalities, while also adding the new ingredient of the Classical into the mix. How can ancient sites, museums of antiquities and other remnants of the ancient Greek and Roman past, which would seem to be squarely located in the musky prestige of the ambassadorial, also be activated for the breezy, the open and the experimental, between the biennial and the university?
To kick-start our journey, putting our best foot forwards, here is traveler-artist Nikhil Chopra’s mapping of his work for documenta 14, Drawing a Line through Landscape. Following Chopra’s advice, let’s hit the road to ‘see for ourselves’ in the spirit of the autopsies of a Herodotus or Pausanias.
Find what is common between us
Find histories/stories we share
Occupy city squares/village squares/countryside/railway platforms
Be a nomad
Fill the distances between places