Prior to dOCUMENTA (13)’s exhibition and series of seminars held in Afghanistan, Kabul was already entangled with the history of documenta through the artist Alighiero Boetti. It was in Kabul, at his guesthouse One Hotel, that Boetti made the embroidered map work Mappa (1971–72) that he intended to show at documenta 5 in 1972, directed by Harald Szeemann. The work is presented in dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel within a display of artworks by Mario Garcia Torres, who has also rehabilitated the One Hotel in Kabul.
If art communicates through space and time, it can be said that One Hotel closes the temporal gap between the four decades that separate Szeemann’s exhibition from this thirteenth edition of documenta directed by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Once lost and now temporarily regained through the work of Garcia Torres, the One Hotel serves as a cipher in the reading of the transformation of art and the world from the 1970s to now, distilling a fundamental crisis of temporality embodied in the rise of the notion of the “contemporary.” It also closes what at first may seem the untenable spatial gap between Kassel, Kabul, and Bamiyan. The presence of Afghan and international artists in all three places helps to visualize a mutual space for thinking, through art, about the time being and the time to come, about the conditions of being there and being here.
The project began with a series of seminars that looked at ways to relate ideas and people; ways of doing and ways of sharing, and of understanding the role of artists in producing sense when surrounded by the paradoxical and unsustainable circumstances of being in a condition of conflict and occupation. The physical presence of the people involved in realizing this series of seminars, as well as the exhibition, acts on a number of levels, emphasizing the structures of historical change through an investigation into the art production of a place under siege.