An important collaborative work, the Document was created in 1969 by the American artist Paul Thek (1933-1988) and the Dutch photographer and designer Edwin Klein (1946-) for the Paul Thek and the Artist’s Co-op installations at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
At the installation stage of his career, and until the end of his life, Paul Thek questioned the validity of the idea of solo authorship: its negation was at the heart of his work. He was thinking, in the context of the time, of a group political ethos. Creativity, for him, was an essentially collaborative event somewhat relating to the pyramid and cathedral builders. He saw each one of his installations as the spontaneous result of a group with shared sensibilities, thinking as one mind.
Beate Svedhoff, a Swedish reviewer, called Paul Thek’s work the new Walden: “Thek and his friends have built up a nature which they look after like temple servants: a nature which has the signs of togetherness—but which cannot keep out death. The transcendental, pantheistic feeling is also present. Everything is included—even what we are running away from. And there is an attempt to forget that the end is near. The idea of time, which Paul Thek works with, is particularly noticeable in newspapers. The catalogue gives us a whole stack of this—and these serve amongst other things to make fun of our need to understand. To understand is impossible. To know is possible—to feel is possible: to intuit. This probably explains why, in 1966, Susan Sontag dedicated Against Interpretation to Paul Thek.”
In various Museums in Europe, Paul Thek and his collaborative group built large-scale papier-mâchè pyramids—ritual architectural spaces—out of the daily newspapers, with a chronology of dates painted on them. Photographs of the work in progress were glued to these newspaper structures throughout the installation, marking the actual passage of time.
A work of art much in the same vein, the Document follows Klein’s original concept of what a book should be and Thek’s wish to turn his diary into a catalog—a three-dimensional album, each double page a photograph of a still life with pictures, drawings, books, cards and objects laid out over newsprint. The “Document” has the dimensions of an open newspaper, actual size. Manipulated by both artists, the pictures and the objects change from one image to the next. As the various elements are placed at different spots on the double page, turning the pages keeps everything in a constant accelerating motion.
While at the time of its publication—jointly published by the Stedelijk Museum and the Moderna Museet—the Document was much acclaimed, and all copies quickly sold out, this is the first time that the original photographs of the Document have been exhibited.