This is the controversy over the art presentation document | culture | DW

In a statement, Ruangrupa’s group of trustees and the documentary technical team described the events of last weekend as a “politically motivated threat”. Unidentified persons stormed the exhibition space of the “Fifteenth Document” and left drawings on the walls. Police investigate property damage. It does not rule out a political motive. Organizers also say they are taking the events “seriously” in light of the current controversy. The document brought criminal charges and increased the number of security personnel.

The anti-Semitism controversy surrounding the world art fair has been simmering for months. It can only be assumed whether burglary and graffiti had anything to do with them. But the reason for this is the writing “Peralta”, and possibly a reference to the name of Isabel Peralta, who is considered the head of a far-right youth organization in Spain, the document declared.

RuruHaus is the headquarters for document makers. In a few days the world art fair will start in Kassel

The number “187” may refer to the California Criminal Code section on murder (California Penal Code), which was taken up by parts of the youth scene. In addition, the “Question for Funding” collection of Palestinian artists will be exhibited at the WH22 Documentation Building. “We want a working atmosphere in which violence against people, places and works of art is not tolerated,” explained the Ruangrupa team curators. It is also known that anti-Muslim posters were found in April in another gallery building, ruruHaus, meeting place of the group of Indonesian artist Ruangrupa.

The debate over anti-Semitism continues

The anti-Semitic allegations against the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa persisted in the fifteenth documentary until the end. A few days before the opening, it seems that the situation has worsened.

A portrait of Secretary of State for Culture Claudia Roth.  She smiles openly for the camera.

Supporting document makers in the anti-Semitism debate: Secretary of State for Culture Claudia Roth

At the beginning of the year, a working group in Kassel expressed its suspicion in a blog that organizations supporting the cultural boycott of Israel or anti-Semitic were also involved in Document 15. Ruangrupa and the supporting company “documenta und Museum Fridericianum GmbH” rejected the allegations. The Document Supervision Board and even Secretary of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen) have also supported the makers of the World Art Fair.

Documenta is funded by the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse and with financial support from the German Federal Cultural Foundation. The organizers emphasized that they refuse to interfere with artistic freedom, but want to continue the discussion. To this end, they announced the Expert Forum “We Need to Talk! Art – Freedom – Solidarity”, in which three events at the beginning of May will discuss the “fundamental right to artistic freedom in light of rising racism, anti-Semitism and solidarity”. Increased Islamophobia.

There is no discussion of artistic freedom

It did not come to it. Documenta canceled online discussions. Reason: “After consulting with the various participants, it was decided to suspend the series of events.” They want to start the exhibition first and let it speak for itself, in order to continue the discussion “appropriately” on that basis. “At the present time, it seems difficult to achieve the goal that Documenta wanted to achieve through the series of talks, that is, to open a multi-perspective dialogue that goes beyond the institutional framework in the run-up to the ‘Fifteenth Document’.

The content of the letter written by the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, to the Secretary of State for Culture Claudia Roth became known. In it, Schuster criticized how the document deals with the topic of anti-Semitism, as reported by the German news agency (dpa). Among other things, he complained about the occupation of forums and complained about the lack of participation of the umbrella organization of the Jewish community.

Schuster also criticized the Indonesian curatorial team’s selection of artists. The head of the Central Council told Die Welt newspaper that it was hard to “believe a coincidence unless a single Israeli artist is represented.” He has the impression that the BDS call for a boycott of Israeli art and culture is already having an effect. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. The international movement wants to isolate Israel economically, culturally and politically. In 2019, the German Bundestag distanced itself of its decision from the BDS campaign to boycott Israel.

The German Bundestag meets.  View of the completed hall.

In 2019, the German Bundestag decided to distance itself from the BDS movement

There is no place for anti-Semitism in the document

Despite the abolition of expert panels, the document does not want to let the thread of conversation break, but instead, as it declared, “to develop it on site as a changing format.” A few days before the start of the World Art Fair, it is not clear what that means in concrete terms. Minister of State for Culture Roth and Minister of Culture of Hesse Angela Dorn (both Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen) announced their desire to hold further talks with representatives of Documenta and the Central Council. Both emphasized that anti-Semitism had no place in the document.

Founded in 1955 by painter and designer Kassel Arnold Bode, Documenta is today considered the most important exhibition platform for contemporary art alongside the Venice Biennale. It happens every five years. Many of the exhibition’s organizers faced criticism in advance. But the waves haven’t been this high this year before. “Documenta 15” begins June 18 and runs until September 25.

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