the documenta and the movies
As early as 1953, documenta initiator Arnold Bode formulated in his master plan for the world exhibition of contemporary art in Kassel the claim that the "decisive domestic and foreign films" of the respective year should be an integral part of the program selection. In 14 documenta editions since then, remarkably, this demand has hardly been met. Excluding contemporary feature films from the 1950s, the cinema program of the first exhibition in 1955 was already largely retrospectively oriented and presented, for example, socially critical classics from the pre-war years; the focus of many subsequent series also remained on the past.
The documenta retrospectives, often several per year, were usually held at Kassel's Gloria Kino and presented thematic selections that drew from the entire spectrum of cinema history. In addition to art films in the narrower sense, genre goods, pornography and animation works were also screened in the context of the World's Fair, canonized standards as well as marginal and now completely forgotten works.
These programs cannot be reduced to an overarching concept, as Bode had initially formulated for the art exhibition. Away from established curatorial demands and organizational procedures, the program directors, who changed year by year, were given the greatest possible freedom to present their own view of cinema history.
Despite the predominantly very ambitious compilations, film beyond installation art has played a rather marginal role in almost 60 years of documenta history, which is also reflected in a precarious archive situation. For some years, it is no longer possible to reconstruct beyond doubt which works were actually screened, often the available material is limited to meager leaflets, and even in more recent editions, cinema programs were not listed in the official exhibition catalog.
The exhibition accompanying series the documenta and the movies, curated in collaboration with Christian Lenz, follows a passage through the forgotten film curatorial work under the documenta banner along selected programs and invites to rediscover the exciting diversity of concepts and films in the context of the world exhibition.