The art of the 1960s pushed the boundaries and relationships between concept, outcomes, documentation and document. Yet looking again at Agnes Denes’ 1982 installation ‘Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan’, I wonder whether the question of the role of documentation within the context of ephemeral art has ever really been answered.
The monumental nature of ‘Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan’ has been acutely documented in photographs depicting the artist standing amongst the expansive field of golden wheat. Highly alluring and graphic, it is almost difficult to comprehend the massive human power it took to remove debris and prepare the site as well as sew and maintain the vast field.
As a work that was created with the intention of bringing attention to our misplaced corporate priorities and construction-focused identities, does the work’s documentation contradict its intention? Does the documentation of ‘Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan’ imbue the work with a sentiment of indifference? Considering that the work’s documentation processes included the harvesting of the wheat grown for the purpose of exhibiting it internationally, can we ask of documentation what we ask of a work? Or are we asking too much? Does documentation have a responsibility to truth?