Interview with Bettina Funcke, Head of Publications for dOCUMENTA (13), published in Artecapital, September 2011.
New York-based writer and editor, Bettina Funcke, is currently the Head of Publications for dOCUMENTA (13). Her book, Pop or Populus: Art between High and Low, was recently translated into English and published by Sternberg Press (2009). She has lectured on aesthetics, art theory, and art writing at Bard College, the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Columbia University, and Yale University. Her writings on contemporary art and its production have been published widely, in both artist monographs and magazines including Afterall, Artforum, Bookforum, Parkett, Public, and Texte zur Kunst. Latest essays include texts on Elad Lassry, Wade Guyton, Gerard Byrne, Jacques Rancière, as well as conversations with Carol Bove, Johanna Burton, and Peter Sloterdijk. After editing books at Dia Art Foundation (1999–2007), she was Senior Editor U.S. for Parkett, and is also a co-founder of The Leopard Press and the Continuous Project group.
How did the 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts idea begin?
Two years ago, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Chus Martínez had the idea to include a large circle of radical thinkers from different fields and from different geographic contexts into the process of developing dOCUMENTA (13) so that an important public platform for thinkers would be produced that will exist in parallel with the ones for the artists. We got excited that publishing the notebooks throughout the 18 months leading to the opening of the exhibition in Kassel in June 2012 would allow the public to anticipate the developing ideas for dOCUMENTA (13). The notebooks exist spatially as well as time-wise beyond the exhibition in Kassel, which is essential to Carolyn Christov-Bakaergiev’s approach.
As a whole, how would you define the guidelines for this publication project?
The ambition is high, though it is important for the notebooks to be modest, too. There is a need for a new methodology in general, but also in respect to how we talk about art and why we look at art – the series states that we have to move beyond art to get to the core of art, that is, to address some of the larger questions we are facing today. We invite authors and artists to share their thinking as a process; we don’t want final truths or fully developed theses. We want to be able to witness how thinking emerges, how there is freedom in that process, how it is messy and poetic, and never final.
Why publishing a series of notebooks?
Notebooks are the right format for that sensibility. They are open, intimate, preliminary, allow for writing, drawing, and lend themselves to diagrammatic thinking.
What were your criteria regarding collaborations, the selection of texts and commissioned essays?
We invite authors to write essays and to illustrate them if they wish, and we invite artists to do what they want within the limitations of the printed page and the budget, and that is often working with and responding to texts of their choice, and we invite scholars and artists to share existing notebook pages with small introductions to contextualize the material reproduced.
All contributors have influenced the thinking of Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev on her way to dOCUMENTA (13). The various disciplines and lines of thinking express themselves in their own ways and interact in the different formats and ways of speaking, which is a central idea for dOCUMENTA (13). Topics and schools of thought range from radical sciences and technology, such as quantum physics, and their alliances with the oldest traditions to ecology, poetry and local history. The archive and the artist book, collapse and recovery all come together here.
In the presentation of the project it is referred that it follows “publishing the unpublishable and presenting a space for intimacy and not yet of criticism”. What is your view on the present role and the models of art criticism?
To say it in too few words: there is a crisis. And there is a lot of publishing of writing about art. And there is a lot of art to see. And we don’t know what to do with it all. And that is also how it should be: to make us hesitate, stop, think again, and not know. It is hard to escape the jargon-effect. There is, of course, the valuable monographic text that shares relevant back ground information about specific artists and their ways of working after long research and possibly a long-standing relationship between artist and writer. But we need specialists, specialists from different fields, too, who can bring their knowledge to the mute objects and to connect the art to where we are today, to help us formulate the relevant questions we are facing historically and maybe even ways to possibly give answers to these questions so we know how to move on from here. And to make these thoughts accessible and not too specialized, the notebook can be a useful form: there the notes are still close enough to an impulse, not fully formed, that they can sometimes take on a universal meaning, or a poetic potential. It is also a fragile moment of writing or drawing and thus it can seem unpublishable and is rarely criticism.