documenta as a Haunted Exhibition

11 March 2022, 6pm

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One of the first documenta’s aims in 1955, the year of the Federal Republic of Germany’s independence, was to rehabilitate the modern art that had been ostracized by the Nazis in the exhibitions of so-called degenerate art. While documenta has therefore generally been perceived as an arbiter of democracy, whose makers were performing a radical break with the Nazi past, in her talk Nanne Buurman will address some of the exhibition’s personal and spiritual continuities with Nazi Germany and beyond. Drawing on her recent curatorial research and practice, she will focus on documenta’s socially reproductive (or even reparative) functions as a cultural midwife of West German identity to discuss the ways in which the exhibition not only served as a ‘Weapon in the Cold War’ but was deployed by some of its founders as means for whitewashing German (art) history, including their own roles within ‘Third Reich’ cultural politics. In line with Irit Rogoff’s discussions of the museum as a “funerary site for uncomfortable or inconvenient historical narratives,” her presentation will thus unearth some of the völkisch-nationalist ghosts that were haunting the “100 day Museum” during its first editions and keep haunting it until today.

Nanne Buurman is an author, editor, curator and educator working as a researcher and lecturer for documenta and exhibition studies at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, where she has been part of the team building the documenta Institut since 2018. In that capacity, she was involved in founding the Transdisciplinary Research Center for Exhibition Studies TRACES and is currently co-heading a research group on Nazi continuities at documenta. After graduating from Leipzig University, she was a member of the International Research Training Group InterArt at the Freie Universität Berlin and a visiting scholar at Goldsmiths College in London, supported by a DFG scholarship for her doctoral research on the gendered economies of curating.

Buurman taught as an adjunct lecturer at the universities/art academies of Leipzig, Hildesheim, Bremen and Frankfurt/Main. She has also realized numerous art education, exhibition, and publication projects, such as Arbeitslose als Avantgarde (the unemployed as an avant-garde), which she organized in the framework of documenta 12 (2007), the curatorial research project dressiert in freiheit: being natural is simply a pose, she realized with students in Kassel and Leipzig (2019), the Networks of Care program, which she co-curated at nGbK in Berlin (2021), or the exhibition wir alle sind gespenster: haunting infrastructures. Versuchsanordnungen zu NS-Kontinuitäten, she curated with members of the dis_continuities research group at Kunstverein Kassel 2021.

Her research and publications focus on exhibition studies, the politics, economies and epistemologies of curating, the past and present of documenta, the shifting roles of race, class and gender in artistic and curatorial practice, as well as the transcultural conditions of cultural production in a global context. She co-edited documenta: Curating the History of the Present (with Dorothee Richter, 2017), Situating Global Art: Temporalities – Topologies – Trajectories (with Sarah Dornhof, Birgit Hopfener and Barbara Lutz, 2018) and serves as an editor of the research platform documenta studies, which she co-founded with Nora Sternfeld, Carina Herring, and Ina Wudtke in October 2018.