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dOCUMENTA is a perfect summer field trip for your startup, three hours from Berlin Written by Marguerite Imbert on 12. June 2012

This Saturday kicked off dOCUMENTA 13, the experimental art festival that has drawn an international audience of innovators to the small German city of Kassel every five years since 1955. Featuring the work of 200 artists over the course of 100 days, this year’s festival serves us the kind of imagination that attracted many of us to Berlin in the first place. Just three hours from Berlin and spread out across an entire city (with plenty of open space and day passes only €20), this escape may be exactly the inspiration your team is lacking.

width="516"A URL typed on a mess of papers (alongside roses) links to the ‘dead woman’s’ blog

There’s a field of grass cut from five decades of Life magazine. A manufactured wind pulling visitors through the massive halls of the legendary museum Fridericanium. There’s a Spanish greyhound walking around called “Human” with his front leg painted pink (by French artist Pierre Huyghe). A forest deeply wired with a sound system affecting the realistic impression of a world-class symphony or a third-world bomb shelter. Moreover, there are tons of professional, open-minded people who (like at LeWeb or DLD) are there to get inspired, network, share ideas, and (if you bring it) maybe even swap apps.

One piece displayed is the Time/Bank, a sort of cash-free Craigslist

width="271"One of the more memorable pieces with digital implications was the Time/Bank, a similar-to Craigslist that makes an idealist currency out of units of time instead of money. If you DJ at someone’s party for two hours, you get two hours of bank ‘credit.’ If you help introduce someone to a city, it’s redeemable the next time you need a favor. Unlike a barter system, you don’t exchange one hour of work with another person’s hour of work. You can take an hour freely and give it back to someone else, not just the person who helped you out. There was even a blanket exhibited that ‘cost’ 12 hours to buy. “I guess it’s because it took 12 hours to make”.
While the community is far from robust (3000) and presents itself as an ideal rather than a startup, many of the questions were familiar to peer-to-peer platforms like Gidsy, for instance. “One day you’re a chef. The next day you’re a sailor. After all, we’re changing every day anyway,” the artist’s assistant told us.

Artists and techies share audience and interest

As its theme, this year’s festival takes “trans-Atlantic melding,” the “romantic potentials of globalization and also a critique of how digital platforms can complicate or interrogate the nature of such relationships.” But aside from a room of “gadgety things” (which Adrian Searle of The Guardian aptly described as “machines blinking, dials twitching, numbers gabbling across screens”), there wasn’t very much digital defense. At one point, I passed a guard telling a group “if you have noticed, many of the artists featured are opposed to technology, there are no Facebook-type pieces.” The start of a good conversation? I think so. And beyond that, opportunity to experiment yourself. Whether it’s by participating in performances and pieces, or letting people know about a new iOS concept you’ve developed.

Open fields, open minds: ground for demo’ing that app


Days before I set off to check it out, Witelist founder Francis Osih sent out a private beta version of his new, light-weight app called “Feeling Open.” As the rain came down over the central pavilion and all the dOCUMENTA pilgrims gathered under (from the Argentinian documentary makers to an Ivory Coast crowd with pipes to an old German couple going on their eighth festival), the scene was the app’s perfect use case. “Feeling Open” is a simple, real-life version of gchat’s ‘available’ and ‘busy’ flags. It lets people tell strangers around them if they’re “open” for coffee or a conversation based on a picture, a declared status, and a reliable GPS platform.

Need a spot to stay: Elwe Knast, a reformed prison that’s now a hotel.
Featured Image Credit: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

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