Critics’ Picks

Joachim Koester, The Kant Walk, Friedrichsburg Castle #2, 2003.

Basel

“The Need to Document”

Kunsthaus Baselland
St. Jakob-Strasse 170
March 19–May 1, 2005

Filmic and photographic documentaries have become commonplace in museums in recent years. Now this “documentary turn“ has itself become the subject of scrutiny. Many of the participating artists in “The Need To Document” come from former Eastern-bloc countries; the effort to come to terms with recent political transitions and to negotiate the constructs of globalized media seems to have figured in the artists' use of self-reflexive strategies. Mircea Cantor's contribution at first looks like an educational film about the manufacturing of matches in Romania—at least until the matches are revealed to have two “heads” each. Both the documentation and the actual matches are beautifully absurd, as is a mockumentary about the conception of a new project by Polish collective Azzoro. Many of the works challenge the illusory objectiveness of classic documentary with subjectivity, humor, and fiction: Jens Haaning's fashion portraits of immigrants in Denmark; Zbynek Baladrán's self-censored films from socialist archives; Joachim Koester's photographic journeys tracing Bram Stoker's paths through contemporary Transylvania; Kirsten Pieroth's installations derived from incidents (some real, some made up) from the life of Thomas Edison; or the Hungarian-Scottish collective Big Hope, whose members shift the act of documenting itself by handing out disposable cameras to their subjects.