Three Athenians in Kassel, Episode Four: The Report

I made no count of anything, letting them bring it in there, they’re accustomed to disparage me for everything. The amount cannot be found, in any case…

– Smikrines in Menander’s Aspis

Every day, directly after their performance, one of our three Athenians has to meet with a documenta 14 official in their tiny house to deliver a report, mainly focused on the numbers of people who participated that day. Today it is Nina who is responsible for this somewhat tedious bureaucratic procedure. Here she is, in the kitchen (which for this meeting has been cleared of Alexis’ bed and the living room furniture, so for once it actually looks like a kitchen – they even have a table!), making the documenta 14 official dinner. I know, it seems strange, but this meal has been included in the reporting process and has something to do with hospitality and ‘giving back’ to the crisis-stricken people of Kassel who are employed to work for documenta 14.

The documenta 14 official starts asking questions: How many Greek visitors were there? How many people took photos during the performance? How many people in this room were wearing a colorful necklace? How many people in the room were wearing glasses? How many people were wearing black? How many people were barefoot? How many people do you personally know inside this room? How many people thought that this experience gave them value for money?

To all of these questions, Nina, looking at her notes taken during the performance, is able to give specific, number answers. However, something else happens with the next question – let us listen in to their exchange:

documenta 14 official (d14O): How many people liked the performance?

Nina (N): I don’t know

d14O: Did you not ask?

N: Yes, we did

d14O: Well, how come you don’t know how many?

N: There were many, but we lost count

d14O: Ok, let’s try another way. How many people felt instrumentalized?

N: Many, but again I don’t know the exact number

d14O: Well, think, was it the same number of people who felt instrumentalized that didn’t like the performance?

N: Um….perhaps

d14O: Ok, Nina, you need to try harder, we need these numbers for our records. Surely you can manage to count during the performance? It is not that hard. Look, how many empty bottle are there over there?

(The documenta 14 officer points at the corner of the kitchen/Alexis’ room/the living room):

N: Well, let me see, 14…or is it 15. Wait, maybe 17?

d14O: I see (writing something in his notebook). What about the number of reindeer skulls in Máret Ánne Sara’s Pile o’ Sápmi at the Neue Neue Galerie?

N: What? But how could I…

d14O: But you have seen the art work, right?

N: Yes, but…

d14O: So you simply didn’t pay attention? Am I wrong? You were there, present in the exhibition, looking at this artwork, but you were, at the same time, somewhere else, not present, because you cannot answer my question. Am I wrong?

N: No, but, yes, anyway, who cares?

d14O: What did you say?

N: No disrespect, but these are such, how can I put it, communistic questions.

d14O: (visibly shocked) What on earth do you mean?

N: I mean that all these questions about numbers, they are detracting from the individualized experience of art…

d14O: No, no, they are not, they are important, significant and symbolic questions. The answers will help us to see, if we even have these answers, to have data to process if your performance helped the collective subject emerge. As you know, any collectivity starts with the individual, as Marx and Engels wrote, the conditions for the freedom of all starts with the freedom of the individual. Without the numbers, we simply don’t know what we are doing. Anyway, you need to do better next time, ok?

N: Ok, but…

d14O: Now, I have to go, but I have one final question and this one is vital – the creative director asked me to ask you this specifically, so I need the right answer. Ok?

N: Sure, I’ll see what I can do

d14O: If you had single out the most engaged participants in the performance, the ones who asked the best questions and made the most significant observations, and who, perhaps were wearing red, how many were they?

N: (not speaking, but gesturing the number with her fingers)

d14O: Good, very good, that’s a relief. Thank you for you report, Nina. I’ll be back the same time tomorrow. Oh, and thanks for the lunch, it was delicious.

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