Arin Rungjang, 246247596248914102516 … And then there were none (2017). Video still.
The German friend I went with said aloud what I was thinking: “Whoever at Documenta decided to call this the ‘Neue Neue Galerie’…just…shouldn’t…ever…” accompanied by a grim sächsische head-shake. Restyling the already-interesting and well-known Brutalist Neue Post building in this way is so typical of Documenta 14: It’s that Mentos-commercial “humor” that isn’t funny and also isn’t nostalgic, ironic, kitschy, or whatever else might have settled the account with the “marketing team.” Nonetheless despite being afflicted by branding and the continuing curatorial confusion that has muddled much of Documenta 14, some of the art inside the former mail-sorting center ascends on its own merits.
The most interesting, and centrally important to Kassel, entries in all of Documenta is the project by the Society of Friends of Halit, a group of artists and researchers who apply pressure to the investigation into the 2006 murder of 21-year-old Halit Yozgat. Yozgat was shot to death in the Internet café his family ran on Höllandischestraße, just around the corner from the Neue Post, the ninth in a string of Neo-Nazi hate crimes. Hessian undercover detective Andreas Temme was in the café yet claims to have seen and heard nothing. With 77sqm_9:26min (2017), the Society reveals their findings – reconstructed through forensic architectural, olfactory projection (!), and sound renderings; interviews with passersby, and film clips of testimony and evidence. Finally an example of the ability of art to change and influence events in the world, and even render justice.
Arin Rungjang (geb. 1974, Bangkok) 246247596248914102516 … And then there were none (2017) Digitalvideo, Farbe, Ton; Holz- und Blechplastik; 2 Malereien und 2 Arbeiten auf Papier Video: 30 min
Perhaps the lone Documenta installation aspiring to Gesamtkunstwerk is Arin Rungjang’s 246247596248914102516… And then there were none (Democracy Monument) (2017). The installation is composed of a wood and brass panel-frieze, sculpture, photographic portraits, video installation, paintings, drawings, and books. The video itself includes an original modern dance performance about World War II historic sites in Berlin and Munich, the manufacture of the frieze, and an attendant controversy in Thailand, and – rare for Documenta Kassel – an acknowledgment of the fair’s earlier iteration in Athens. 246247596248914102516 is a reach that might not have worked, but Rungjang’s combination of precision and sincerity is peerless.
Much as I enjoy burying the lede, the headline on this story is that I found a heretofore unpublished photo, and this is the Franz Marc photo, taken in the spring of 1914 by the artist’s brother, Paul Marc, in Munich:
Franz Marc, 1914, in Munich. Photo by Paul Marc. Germanisches Nationalmuseum | Des Deutschen Kunstarchivs | Nürnberg
The whole story of finding the Franz Marc photo and a thorough analysis of why it might be that significant images of people and animals are overlooked is forthcoming in the second part of the “Exposing Animals” sequence of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture in September, and this photograph and some others will be reproduced there, but it is also appearing in a different kind of work I did for Empty Mirror Books that comes out this week, so I decided to post it, finally (I first found it in 2015!), here today.
Beyond standing as a strong reminder that there is so much we have not yet learned about the historical avant-garde, this is just a wonderful photograph, “eerie and magnificent,” as Marc would say, so I will just leave it at that for now.
Klara Hobza, Animaloculomat, 2017
Already by 1909 Jakob Johann von Uexküll had, in Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere, given a great deal of consideration to the „Innenleben“ of animals. For Franz Marc this led to the question of how a horse, an eagle, a deer, or a dog saw and experienced the world, prompting the reflection „die Tiere in eine Landschaft zu setzen, die unsren Augen zugehört, statt uns in die Seele des Tieres zu versenken, um dessen Bildkreis zu erraten“.
A painting like Liegender Hund im Schnee, a depiction of Marc’s dog Russi, radiates the oneness between the surrounding nature and the resting dog – „eine gemeinsame Stille von belebter und unbelebter Natur.“ .“ But Marc was interested in the actual physical reality of the dog’s vision as well.
Inside Klara Hobza’s Animaloculomat
During February and March I am a Wissenschaftliche Gäste of sorts at the Universität Kassel’s Tier-Mensch Gesellschaft. I’m doing some research in the dOCUMENTA Archiv, finishing up a chapter in my dissertation, and giving a talk at this first-of-its-kind conference, “Animal Biographies: Recovering Animal Selfhood through Interdisciplinary Narration?”.
The program is incredible and the speakers amazing, each talk as fascinating as the next. There are also several installations and exhibits by Mathias Antlfinger and Ute Hörner and the interspecies collective from CMUK Köln. The program is free and you can register through 25 February through the link above.
I don’t know if I can quite live up to the talents of the other panelists, but I am confident of the attraction, pathos, and intrigue of my animal biographic subject, Russi Marc, whose death exactly 100 years ago this week was noted by his lifelong human companion, Franz Marc, who made many drawings and paintings of Russi through their lives together. Franz Marc himself died just a few weeks later. Studying Russi has taken on a life of its own in my research, and as this was a very well-documented dog and one who had many humorous and thrilling adventures I am very excited to be able to share his story with other animal lovers.
One thing I like so much about animal studies (in discussing the title of our nascent discipline, which is now beginning something like its second wave most of us are happy to jettison the “human-” prefix) is that its adherents are for the most part partisan activists. This challenge to the academy as we fight the losing battle of the Anthropocene and the Sixth Mass Extinction has not gone unnoticed; this week, a sort of prank article was exposed (and one could extrapolate perhaps planted by the same people or person), in the December 2015 issue of the academic journal Totalitarismus und Demokratie. In retrospect, perhaps a “discovery” about the inherited aggression of “German” German Shepherds was too good to be true…but I am very curious to see what the fallout will be, since the “research” depended upon “primary sources” about dogs…another reason to be glad for Russi’s well-established canine celebritude, I guess.
Hund vor der Welt, Franz Marc (1912). Oil on canvas, 118 by 83 centimetres, private collection, Switzerland
I write about this painting a lot – in fact I once, for quite a long time, devoted my academic research solely to this painting – but I realised I don’t often say anything about it in this space. So here is a little excerpt not from my current chapters but from a side project.
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Franz Marc made an innovative painting – a metaphysical genre portrait of his dog Russi – called Hund vor der Welt in the spring of 1912. The large vertical canvas shows the white hound seated on a hillside, facing the sun and the landscape at an angle across an indeterminate space. We have an account of what Marc had in mind in making this image in particular and Marc’s other thoughts about painting his frequent model. There is also a substantial amount of documentation about Russi, the dog, who, as the artist’s constant companion, was a character who populated the art, photographs, and writing of other people. We even know where Russi was born, how he came as a puppy to live with Marc, and when he died. So despite its slightly whimsical affect, Hund vor der Welt is an image of a real dog about whom much historical information is available. Marc made many paintings in which Russi also appears as a peripheral regular “character;” he leads the way in Im Regen (1912) and leaps after Die gelbe Kuh (1911).
August Macke, who came into frequent contact with Russi and made his own drawings of the dog, prevailed upon Marc to change the name of the painting from the one Marc originally had in mind, So wird mein Hund die Welt sieht.3 We know from Marc that he wanted to show Russi in thought, so the dog’s seated posture suggests that this is what is happening in the stillness. The strange view of the landscape Russi “sees” is nonetheless completely identifiable as a typical one from around Sindelsdorf where Marc lived. By placing buildings in the recognizable, managed farmlands of Bavaria, Marc suggests that people and animals are part of the same ecology, which, for dogs as the primary animal of domestication, is certainly true.
Russi did not have the life of a working dog, instead, with Marc, dividing his time between Munich, Berlin, and the small towns of Sindelsdorf and Ried. Russi lost part of his tail in 1911, an adjustment to his appearance that is reflected in his 1912 portrait. This shows that Marc had a commitment to showing morphologically accurate details even about the animals he painted, even as the paintings themselves broke with academic naturalism.
Die gelbe Kuh,
Franz Marc, 1911
189.2 × 140.52 cm
Oil on canvas
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. That is Russi Marc in the lower left corner.
 Franz Marc, Briefe, Schriften und Aufzeichnungen, (Leipzig: Kiepenheuer, 1989), 11. Observing Russi at this moment, Marc wonders: “Ich möchte mal wissen, was jetzt in dem Hund vorgeht.”
 Marc, Briefe, 196-197.
 Franz Marc, August Macke, Briefwechsel, (Köln: DuMont, 1964), 124-126.