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Three South African artists will participate in the prestigious mega-exhibition dOCUMENTA 13, in Kassel, Germany, which opens on 4 June. After a grueling selection process, which eliminated several likely contenders, curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev selected works by Zanele Muholi, Kudzanai Chiurai and William Kentridge for inclusion.

dOCUMENTA is a recurring exhibition, which takes place in Kassel every five years. Each edition of the exhibition lasts only 100 days, and this year, the show features just 180 participants, all of whom are leading or emerging figures in the international art world. Christov-Bakargiev prefers to avoid calling the selected participants “artists”, because, she maintains, not all of them work in the art world under the mantle “artist” and the modes of practice which this term conventionally connotes. That said, most of the participants are, in fact, “artists” in the accepted sense of the word. Christov-Bakargiev’s reservations perhaps point more to her desire to articulate the place of art and artists in a wider social context. Since the first edition of documenta in 1955, the aim of the exhibition has been not only to showcase leading contemporary art from around the world, but also to provide a space for reflection on the relationship between art and society.

Along with avoiding the ascription of titles, Christov-Bakargiev has avoided formulating a conceptual frame for the show, attempting instead to allow impulses that emerge from selected works to guide the form of the exhibition. She does, however, concede four guiding principles in her curation, which come from “the attitudes artists have when they make work, divided into points of view relevant to our socio-economic position today”, she said in an interview with the Financial Times. These are the states of being under siege, in retreat, on stage, and “in a state of hope”.

Kentridge will present an highly anticipated opera “for spoken voice” titled “The Refusal of Time”, which issues from a collaboration between Kentridge, a scientist and composer Phillip Miller.

Chiurai departs from his recent satirical work in photography to explore, through wood carving and mixed media drawing, spiritual and mythological relationships between man and nature.

Muholi, who sees her debut at dOCUMENTA as a debut not only for herself but for all black African lesbians, will present sixteen larger than life portraits of black lesbian, gay and transgender individuals from various African countries. dOCUMENTA 13 previews to the media and special guests from 6 June and opens to the public on 9 June. The exhibition will run until 16 September 2012.

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