Virtual documenta. Archives in Translation

Kumu Art Museum


“Archives in Translation” is an experimental research project of Kumu Art Museum made up of four exhibitions held from autumn 2007 to autumn 2008 and attempting to provide a fresh outlook on some historically fixed dogmas and mental burdens.


In 1955, in Kassel, Germany, the first series of exhibitions under the title documenta was opened, and by today, this event is known as the leading forum of contemporary art in the world, taking place in every five years. In the years 1955–2007, twelve documentas have been organised and all of them have earned a place in the history of art as the exhibitions that have influenced the development of contemporary Western art to the greatest extent.


Soviet Estonia was naturally left aside from this central international forum of avant-garde art, and nowhere in the vast territory of the Soviet Union can we find information on the documentas having taken place.


Estonia’s cooperation with documenta has only just begun. We took part in a satellite project called documenta 12 magazines, which offered a selection of contemporary art magazines, including, in the framework of documenta 12 events.


Within the series Archives in Translation, Kumu generates a virtual archive introducing the activities of documenta and the participating artists. The volume of documenta discourse forces us to make choices. Virtual documenta in Kumu is based on the overviews of the exhibitions, on printed material, video and audio recordings, and interviews dealing with the issues of modern art. Our archive would be the starting point for events introducing avant-garde art, and the exhibition pays particular attention to documenta 5, which has become a legend that influences contemporary art to this day.


Virtual documenta cooperates with the following institutions: Das Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V. (ifa), Documenta Archiv, The Art Institute of Chicago, Video Data Bank and many others.

The project has been carried out within the framework of translate and with the support of the Culture 2000 programme of the European Union.