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Preview: Theaster Gates

dOCUMENTA 13 (or d13) is one of the exhibitions I wish I had been able to travel to this year. Founded by Arnold Bode in 1955, the exhibition originally was part of a flower show that happened every year in Kassel Germany. It is 100 days of events and exhibitions that really has helped define the town since its inception. It has become the most individual exhibition on the international art fair circuit as it isn't held in a convention center or in temporary white walls; it strives to be as site specific as possible, placing art into unusual spaces and challenging artists to be as responsive to the town as possible.

Theaster Gates is the perfect candidate for a complicated exhibition like this. Holding degrees in religious studies, urban planning, and ceramics, his artistic practice is equal parts social activism, sculpture, and a spiritual response to the challenges at hand.

Heather Kapplow interviewed Gates about his work at d13, 12 ballads for Huguenot House. Huguenot House is a building in Kassel that was damaged in WWII. Involving unusual artistic materials (musicians, dancers from other artists' projects, carpenters), 12 ballads started with a building and ended with a comfortable social space that was appealing to the surrounding community.

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