Iranian photo-journalist and cameraman Seifollah Samadian pointed his video camera out of his Tehran window and filmed a woman in a black chador struggling with an umbrella in a vicious snowstorm while waiting for a bus. There is only the blizzard, and waiting, her silhouette and the cawing of crows, bare trees and a menacing, barbed-wire-topped wall beyond. Nothing happens, except more of the same, more waiting. It is one of the current Documenta’s unforgettable moments, of which there are many… [Not coincidentally, Samadian was the cinematographer on Abbas Kiarostami’s ABC Africa.]
There are those who find the present Documenta patronising, or complain that it is like some horror National Geographic tour of a collapsing world. It is nothing of the sort. It is news from elsewhere, and news from home. We are all in it together, however impossible it is to deal with everything. Uneven, at times annoying, upsetting and even uplifting, Documenta 11 isn’t a perfect show. It isn’t a perfect world.