2014 Wednesday December 10 at 19:45 The Sonsbeek Series ~ Session Nr 3. ~ Documenta and Sonsbeek Out of Bonds: Jef Cornelis' documentaries and the spectacle of art. Lecture by Vesna Madzoski. Response by Jelena Vesic. Location: DAI's auditorium, Kortestraat 27 in Arnhem

tag: Arnhem


Photo by Nil Ilkbasaran: Jelena Vesic ( and Vesna Madzoski behind the table) at the DAI, December 2014. 

Documenta and Sonsbeek Out of Bonds: Jef Cornelis' documentaries and the spectacle of art

One of the biggest and most important exhibitions of the past several decades, documenta in Kassel, Germany, was initiated in 1955 by professor Arnold Bode with a two-fold function: partly as a "regeneration initiative for a small town that had suffered extensive damage during World War II and partly as an attempt to counter the attack on modern art by the Nazis". What was planned as a one-time event in a provincial town in the framework of a bigger national garden festival turned into a large success: the event grew and inspired its initiators to repeat it up to the present day.

In her new book DE CVRATORIBVS. The Dialectics of Care and Confinement, Vesna Madzoski finds two documentaries by the Flemish filmmaker Jef Cornelis to be crucial in the analysis of the history and ideology of documenta. In the lecture, she will offer an overview of problems raised by the documentaries, as well as point out the specificity of Cornelis' method in filmmaking. Among other things, we will recount the problems and changes provoked in Europe by the first arrival of the artists from the new art center of the world – New York. The following investigation aims at detecting the traces that contradict the master narratives of documenta, the evidence that had managed to escape the control and speak about the processes and procedures obscured by the spectacle.

As a final point in our discussion, we will compare the questions and problems raised in the documentaries on documenta 4 and documenta 5 to the ones encountered during the controversial edition of Sonsbeek in 1971, in the neighboring Arnhem in the Netherlands. After this analysis, we might be able to understand better Cornelis' decision to stop filming the art world after filming documenta 5 in 1972.

Special guest Jelena Vesic will respond to Vesna Madzoski's presentation and moderate the discussion with the public. 

Please note that prior to the lecture DAI kindly invites you to attend two screenings in it's auditorium: 

Tuesday December 9 at 17:00: Jef Cornelis - Sonsbeek buiten de perken (Sonsbeek Out of Bonds).  Dutch, English and French with English subtitles 46' 1971 

Wednesday December 10 at 17:00: Jef Cornelis – Documenta 4. Dutch, English, French and German spoken, English subtitles 53'40, 1968

The screenings and the lecture & discussion are open to the public and free of charge.


The Sonsbeek Series