Arts: the Documenta exhibition, in Germany, undermined by accusations of anti-Semitism

Arts: the Documenta exhibition, in Germany, undermined by accusations of anti-Semitism

She had the place of honor, on Friedrichplatz, beating heart of Documenta in Kassel, Germany: Monday, June 20, the monumental work of the Indonesian collective Taring Padi was covered with a black veil. A blow for the five-year mega-exhibition, each edition of which sets the tone for future artistic debates. Reason: this fresco of twenty meters, critical parable “of the capitalist system and military violence”, according to its authors, has been accused of anti-Semitism by several associations representing the Jews of Germany, as well as the Israeli Embassy.

Not yet mounted during the professional days, which were held from June 15 to 18, this canvas-manifesto entitled People’s justice was only visible for two days. Just opposite the Fridericianum museum where the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa, artistic director of this fifteenth edition, reveals its ambitions: to put the South at the center, for the first time in a Documenta marked since its birth by the predominance of Western aesthetics. All the souths, from Cuba to Haiti via Southeast Asia, but also all minority fights, from Indian BDSM queers to Palestinians. This new controversy relegates them, alas, to the background.

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The fresco pointed to dates from 2002 and was originally produced for an Australian festival in Adelaide. It should be dismantled in the coming days. Two of his characters, among several dozen others, focus the gaze: a pig wearing a Star of David and a Mossad (Israeli secret service) helmet, and a man with vampire teeth, wearing a black hat marked with the two lightning bolts of the SS logo. Cigar on the lips, curls behind pointy ears: all the attributes of the anti-Semitic caricature demonizing Jewishness are combined there.

“This should never have happened”

“This should never have happened, apologized the director of Documenta, Sabine Schormann, as soon as the controversy arose. Together with Ruangrupa, the artistic team and the guest artists, we had assured that there would be no anti-Semitic content in Documenta 15. Unfortunately, we did not keep our promise. We solemnly apologize for not identifying these anti-Semitic images when the artwork was installed. »

In agreement with Taring Padi, the institution has added a text at the foot of the veiled work giving some keys to this evocation of the resistance against the dictatorship of Suharto, who reigned from 1967 to 1998. The collective has tower defended from all anti-Semitism. “Some details of this banner have been understood differently from our original purpose, and we are sorry. We apologize for any injuries caused. It is with great regret that we recover this work. It becomes a monument of mourning, the mourning of an impossible dialogue for the moment. But we hope it will be the starting point for a new dialogue. »

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