[artinfo] Harald Szeemann Film is shown on 3sat German TV

Adele Eisenstein adele at c3.hu
Sat Aug 12 17:03:55 CEST 2006

Dear Friends,
The long version of the Harald Szeemann Film is shown on 3sat German TV
12.08.2006  at 22.20.

Harald Szeemann, 1933-2005

Harald Szeemann, 71, Swiss curator, died Feb. 18.05 .Szeemann 
virtually invented the role of the independent curator--ideally a 
peripatetic scout and intrepid synthesizer of cultural trends--and 
refashioned both Documenta and the Venice Biennale, opening those 
established international exhibitions to new media and fresh ideas. 
Although his independence had its prickly side, Szeemann remained a 
man of great congeniality and abiding optimism. His thematic subtitle 
for the first Seville Biennial, which he organized in 2004 and which 
closed just two months before his death, was "The Joy of My Dreams."
Born in Bern, Szeemann studied art history, archeology and journalism 
before making his curatorial debut in Saint Gall with "Painters 
Poets/Poets Painters," a tribute to Hugo Ball, in 1957. Four years 
later, he was appointed director of the Bern Kunsthalle, a hitherto 
phlegmatic institution with a local focus. Szeemann accelerated the 
kunsthalle's metabolism with an ambitious schedule of exhibitions 
that culminated in the landmark show of 1969 "When Attitudes Become 
Form: Live in Your Head." (A revised version opened at the London ICA 
later that year.) With characteristic inclusiveness, he forged a 
big-tent show of nearly 70 practitioners, from Andre to Zorio, of 
Minimalism, Conceptualism, Arte Povera, process art, land art, 
installation and information art--everything, in short, that 
challenged the traditional museum object.
In a now-legendary act of defying the system, Szeemann followed this 
achievement by quitting the kunsthalle to embark on a freelance 
career. He organized "Happenings and Fluxus" in 1970, a show at the 
Cologne Kunstverein comprising actions, environments, performances 
and concerts. Appointed director of Documenta 5 (1972), Szeemann 
recast what had been dubbed the "museum of 100 days" by programming 
"100 days of events" that included film and performance. Among the 
provocative subthemes of the show were the artists' museum, 
individual mythologies and "parallel picture worlds," which embraced 
advertising, science fiction, everyday culture and "national piety."
Lean years followed the heady success of Documenta, during which 
Szeemann pursued a series of quixotic endeavors under the rubric of 
his imaginary "Museum of Obsessions." These included a show in his 
apartment of his grandfather's hairdressing equipment, a series of 
exhibitions staged on a hill in the canton of Ticino and dedicated to 
utopian thinkers, and "Machines Celibataire" (Bachelor Machines) of 
1976, a tribute to obsessional figures (i.e., Marcel Duchamp and the 
19th-century postman Ferdinand Cheval, that ur-figure of outsider 
art) which, with the assistance of Jean Clair, traveled to eight 
European cities.
In 1980, Szeemann, still an insurgent, returned to the official arena 
when he and Achille Bonito Oliva introduced the "Aperto" section for 
emerging artists at the Venice Biennale. The following year, Szeemann 
accepted the part-time position of independent curator at the 
Kunsthaus Zurich, where his many shows ranged from an exhibition of 
works on paper by Victor Hugo (1989) to "Illusion, Emotion, Reality" 
(1996), a centennial celebration of film. For the Universal 
Exposition in Seville (1992), Szeemann curated Switzerland's national 
pavilion, inviting Ben Vautier to exhibit his impudently titled 
paintings Switzerland does not exist and I think therefore I Swiss
Szeemann occasionally curated monographic exhibitions, among them the 
Centre Pompidou's 1993 retrospective of Joseph Beuys. More typical in 
recent years was the theme-driven inquiry, such as "The Real Royal 
Trip" (2003), a look at contemporary Spanish-Latin American cultural 
exchanges that he organized for New York's P.S.I. He was tapped to 
direct the fourth Lyon Biennale (1997), the second Kwangju Biennial 
(1997) and two editions of the Venice Biennale, in 1999 and 2001. The 
1999 effort earned a particularly warm critical reception, as he 
presided over the expansion of the show into several newly restored 
spaces of the Arsenale, two of which housed dazzling installations by 
Cai Guo-Qiang and Serge Spitzer. He also invited a substantial number 
of young and youngish Chinese artists; for many Western visitors, 
this was a first encounter with the work of Ai Weiwei, Ma Liuming, 
Zhang Huan and Zhao Bandi. Despite a strong showing of new video 
artists (including John Pilson, Anri Sala, Tiong Ang) and the 
participation of well-known filmmakers (Chantal Akerman, Atom Egoyan, 
Abbas Kiarostami), the return engagement in 2001 seemed less 
energetic, less revelatory; Szeemann probably lacked the temperament 
for sequels, and he was plainly impatient with the Biennale's administration.

As younger, more publicity-savvy independent curators appeared on the 
scene, Szeemann wore his age lightly and adhered to his ideals. The 
oldest individual to direct the Venice Biennale--he celebrated his 
66th birthday at the June preview in 1999--Szeemann seemed ever 
animated and open-minded, always pointed toward the next possibility. 
Rejecting the notion that exhibitions should aspire to have the last 
word, he explained his task on the occasion of last year's Seville 
Biennale by saying, "It's not about presenting the best there is, but 
about discovering where the unpredictable path of art will go in the 
imminent future." Although the title of his acclaimed 1969 exhibition 
is often quoted (and misquoted), it is significant that Szeemann's 
generous legacy includes no style name, no catchphrase, no "post-" or 
"neo"-anything that would corral or impede the unfolding of the new 
in art. [Szeemann's exhibition "Visionary Belgium," part of that 
nation's festivities celebrating 175 years of independence and 25 
years of federalism, remains on view in Brussels at the Palais des 
Beaux-Arts through May 15. It includes works by Ensor, Magritte, 
Broodthaers, Panamarenko, Tuymans and Delvoye.]

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