Spillover and Spillover Governance at Documenta in Kassel, by Liu Weitian
。。。English translation below 。。。
“学术-艺术综合体”（academic-artistic complex）这一说法来自Fred Moten与Stefano Harney合著的文章“Suicide as a Class”，详见All Incomplete, Minor Compositions出版社, 2021年, 148页。
The borders of contemporary art are expanding at an accelerated rate, the borders themselves are losing their original meaning and the boundaries that demarcate the territory are becoming a murky zone where erosion grows in both directions. Spillover and pollution occur here. With the disintegration of borders, the relationship between centre and periphery loses its support and the coherence of the field itself breaks down. Stakeholders who stand at the centre of the art world and inherit a glorious legacy still have illusions of control over borders and frontiers, despite the cracks in the ground beneath their feet.
Our familiar knowledge of ‘art’ is increasingly unable to help us understand the situation, and terms such as ‘artwork’ or ‘artistic creation’ are becoming increasingly irrelevant and anachronistic. Keen art historians and art critics are trying to understand the changes that are taking place and to mend the cracks and reorder the situation through historical and theoretical writing. They seem happy to see the expansion of artistic boundaries and are actively engaged in this enterprise, but such work is often based on a reverence for and nostalgia for boundaries themselves. The resulting narratives and theories are insufficient to help us understand the whole picture. For example, the historical narrative and call for ‘artistic intervention in society’ has been far too slow to dissolve the boundaries of art into the real world. When the barriers that protect art have been reduced to nothing, ‘artistic intervention in society’ is just a pseudo-proposition to help art save some face.
Through the efforts of a number of stakeholders, new terms and taxonomies are being produced, evolving into new artistic paradigms that enter the manuals of art production and appear in the labels and catalogues of the art market. There is value in trying to penetrate and master the overflow, as new discourses and new historical constructions are a necessary way to claim the future. However, the impulse to penetrate and master is a cautionary one, as it is often driven by the taming-colonial logic that goes hand in hand with capitalism. This logic underpins a powerful system of defence and production that seeks to wrap, weaken, neutralise, exploit and transform all spillages into the nutrients that keep the art world alive, and academic research is a key tool in this system.
The contradictions inherent in so-called ‘radical’ art practice are also evident here: as the ‘radical’ is given more and more value in art discourse, the art system, through its collection of works and exhibitions on radical ideas, the artistic “radical” has been stripped away from social reality. It is easy to see that the term ‘radical’ has quietly become a new favourite in the art world, moving freely between academic papers and the art market, appearing in works and exhibition presentations, bringing a sense of self-satisfied excitement to the dulled perception of contemporary intellectuals while providing artists and curators with the credit to navigate and climb the ladder in today’s art world. The art system has thus been transformed into a financial game, where action and change have given way to valuation and speculation in a virtual world of games. 
The dichotomy between artistic autonomy and social intervention is no longer relevant today. The crisis facing the autonomy of art is resolved one by one by the sophisticated means of neoliberal management of art. It is at the same time a technique of governance on a psychological and emotional level, which delivers to every citizen of the art world the mission that autonomy cannot fulfil through the obsessive pursuit of self-enhancement and self-fulfilment, so that he or she consciously and religiously upholds the dignity of art, thus achieving the purification and reflux of the muddy elements in the border areas of art. In this sense, spillover means escaping the management of emotions by neoliberal governance techniques, leaving behind the vanity and shame of artistic citizenship.
Documenta 15 in Kassel is an art scene of spillover, where spillover and spillover governance wrestle with each other. The Indonesian art collective ruangrupa, who acted as curators, put ‘lumbung’ (meaning ‘rice barn’ in Indonesian) at the heart of the exhibition. In rural Indonesia, villagers store surplus grain from their harvests in barns that are jointly managed and used by all. The meaning of lumbung, which is derived from this practice, goes beyond art, as it addresses issues of communal living and resource distribution, pointing to reflection on and experimentation with social structures.
During the Documenta exhibition, the main venue, the Fridericianum Museum, was transformed into a school, with Gudskul, an educational platform and contemporary art ecosystem from Jakarta, replicating the co-learning project Sekolah Temujalar in the ground floor gallery.
Although collective modes of work that transcend individualism have begun to gain attention in contemporary art discourse in recent years, existing understandings of the ‘art collective’ tend to view it narrowly as a new art form, or simply as a shift from individual creation to multi-person collaboration. Rather than ignoring the profound significance of the collective mode of work in social structures, this perspective deliberately avoids discussions of artistic infrastructures and the mechanisms of social functioning, in order to gain a sense of stability and security within the narrow framework it has defined. This Documenta excludes the distraction of these formalistic discussions and goes straight to the heart of the matter: how to escape once and for all the limitations placed on our perception of the world by the legacy of colonialism – relations of exploitation, ownership, individual sovereignty and free will independent of others, and thus imagine and build a new way of being together?
It is remarkable that ruangrupa is not content to show and present the practice of ‘rice barns’, but rather to organise the entire Documenta using ‘rice barns’ as a method of practice. If the former is the most customary way of dealing with spillover in the current ‘academic-artistic complex’, the latter is a disruption of the art system.  For the highly professionalised Western art system, such a disruption would undoubtedly cause confusion and discomfort, even fear and hostility. When the scale and extent of the spillover exceeds the tolerance limits of the stakeholders (note the role of the ‘shareholders’ in Documenta’s anti-Semitism controversies), the machinery for managing the spillover is set in motion.
It is also a challenge for the invited artists to manage their practice in relation to the art exhibition and the audience. The practice is incompatible with the work in the art context and the public projects in the institutional framework, and the logic of presentation and reproduction makes it difficult to capture the most crucial working methods of the practice and the social relations that sustain it. As a result, a variety of hand-drawn mind maps, as well as tables and benches that scattered around the room, become distinct elements in this Documenta. These ‘exhibits’ invite the viewer to imagine gatherings that spill out of the exhibition and cannot be materialised, while at the same time ironically revealing the limits of the very logic of the exhibition.
Ruangrupa is not unconcerned with the standards and expectations of the art system itself; rather, ruangrupa is aware of the anxieties and aspirations of the Western art world, and dares to stir up the system from within, opening up channels for ‘spillover’ within its intricate complicity. In this sense, the significance of Documenta is not to expand the realm of art, but to further loosen the valves that hold the boundaries of art, allowing spillover to accelerate in unpredictable directions before new techniques of spillover governance are invented and implemented.
 Interestingly, the word ‘portfolio’ in English can refer to both a selection of an artist’s work and a personal or institutional investment portfolio.
 The term ‘academic-artistic complex’ comes from Fred Moten’s article ‘Suicide as a Class’, co-authored with Stefano Harney, in All Incomplete, Minor Compositions Press, 2021, 148 pp.
Liu Weitian is an editor at Divergent Criticism