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Edited By Jennifer Creech and Thomas O. Haakenson

How does the visual nature of spectacle inform the citizenry, destabilize the political, challenge aesthetic convention and celebrate cultural creativity? What are the limits – aesthetic, political, social, cultural, economic – of spectacle? How do we explain the inherently exclusionary, revolutionary, dehumanizing and utopian elements of spectacle?
In this book, authors from the fields of cultural studies, cinema studies, history and art history examine the concept of spectacle in the German context across various media forms, historical periods and institutional divides. Drawing on theoretical models of spectacle by Guy Debord, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jonathan Crary and Michel Foucault, the contributors to this volume suggest that a decidedly German concept of spectacle can be gleaned from critical interventions into exhibitions, architectural milestones, audiovisual materials and cinematic and photographic images emerging out of German culture from the Baroque to the contemporary.
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Beyond the Global Spectacle: Documenta 13 and Multicultural Germany


With its sweeping overview of contemporary artmaking, documenta is one of the most important, and most challenging, of the many large-scale exhibitions that fill the calendar of the international artworld. Since its inauguration in 1955, the exhibition has brought a global survey of modern and contemporary art to the provincial city of Kassel, Germany. Once every five years, the show takes over Kassel’s urban environment, filling buildings, parks and commercial spaces with artworks in all possible media. Originally, documenta was conceived as a means of reintroducing West Germans to avant-garde art after the purges of the National Socialists. The show’s founder, Arnold Bode, used the occasion of the National Garden Show to gather great examples of classical modernism and newer European art in a city which had been badly damaged in the war and which was close to the East German border.1 Thus Bode’s documentas (1955, 1959 and 1964) served to educate the art-viewing public, to integrate West German art into the canon of modernism and the contemporary artworld and also to pose a significant challenge to the artistic production and art politics of socialist East Germany.2

Since Bode’s tenure ended in the mid-1960s, the character of the exhibition has shifted with each subsequent incarnation, with a new curator chosen by the documenta council determining the show’s theme and artists. Curators commission works for the event, and they also frequently bring ← 243 | 244 → existing works of art together as historical or contextual support for their chosen...

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