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Outrage over anti-Semitic imagery: Documenta apparently wants to partially cover up controversial artwork by Taring Padi


A soldier with a pig's face and "Mossad" on his helmet: the federal and state governments criticized the anti-Semitic imagery of a banner at the Documenta; Israel demanded that the work be removed. Now the art exhibition is reacting.

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Detail from the large painting by Taring Padi: "An expression of old-style anti-Semitism"

Photo: Uwe Zucchi / dpa

According to media reports, the artist group Taring Padi, the management and the artistic direction decided on Monday evening to “cover up parts of a work of art by the Indonesian artist collective and to install a contextualisation in the work”.

This was reported by the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and the 3sat "Kulturzeit".

The Documenta press office was initially unavailable and did not respond to inquiries.

Shortly after the opening of Documenta fifteen, new allegations fueled the anti-Semitism debate surrounding the show, which had been smoldering for months.

The director of the Anne Frank educational institution, Meron Mendel, asked those responsible for the world art exhibition in Kassel to remove Taring Padi's contribution because of anti-Semitic motives.

Among other things, a soldier with a pig's face can be seen on the large-scale banner on Friedrichsplatz.

He wears a scarf with a Star of David on it and a helmet with the words "Mossad" on it.

That's the name of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency.

"This is a clear border crossing," said Mendelder German Press Agency.

»These pictures leave absolutely no room for interpretation.

This is clear anti-Semitic agitation.«

The work must be covered immediately or, at best, removed, he demanded.

In the second step, there needs to be a dialogue about what went wrong and where the blind spots of this documenta are.

Months ago, an alliance in Kassel accused the Indonesian curator collective Ruangrupa of also involving organizations that supported the cultural boycott of Israel or were anti-Semitic.

Ruangrupa and the Documenta firmly denied the allegations.

Later, the Central Council of Jews in Germany also got involved.

A series of discussions intended to calm people down has been cancelled.

Claudia Roth sees »anti-Semitic imagery«

Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth also found clear words: "In my view, this is anti-Semitic imagery," said the Green politician.

"I'll say it again: human dignity, protection against anti-Semitism, as well as against racism and any form of misanthropy are the foundations of our coexistence, and this is where artistic freedom finds its limits." The documenta must immediately communicate this to the curators and artists make it clear and draw »the necessary conclusions«.

"My personal impression is that there is anti-Semitic imagery here," said the deputy chair of the Documenta supervisory board, Hesse's art minister Angela Dorn (Greens).

She therefore immediately contacted the general director of the documenta, Sabine Schormann.

According to Dorn, Schormann has already taken action.

She expects "that we, as shareholders of Documenta GmbH, will soon deal with the results in a special meeting," explained the minister.

"The illustration on the artwork, which to my current knowledge was only installed on Friedrichsplatz on Saturday, is an anti-Semitic violation that cannot be dismissed out of hand," said Christian Geselle, Chairman of the Documenta Supervisory Board, Kassel's Lord Mayor , With.

At the same time, he asked the management of the show for clarification and to initiate necessary measures.

At the same time, he warned against placing documenta fifteen under general suspicion.

»In the Preview Days, which took place from Wednesday to Friday for trade visitors and the media, no anti-Semitic works of art could be identified in advance.«

Israeli embassy is outraged

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, was also outraged on Monday.

The Council had been criticized from many quarters for its concerns about this year's documenta.

He was even indirectly accused of racism.

"However, it doesn't matter where artists who spread anti-Semitism come from," emphasized Schuster.

Artistic freedom ends where misanthropy begins.

“This red line was crossed at the documenta.” Those responsible now have to live up to their social responsibility and draw the necessary conclusions.

The Israeli embassy in Berlin called for the controversial work to be removed immediately.

"We are outraged by the anti-Semitic elements that are being shown publicly at documenta 15, which is currently taking place in Kassel," the embassy announced on Monday.

"The elements shown in some exhibits are reminiscent of the propaganda of Goebbels and his henchmen in dark times of German history," the Israeli embassy explained.

Not only have all the red lines been crossed, they have been shattered.

“These items should be removed from the exhibition immediately.

They have absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression, but are an expression of old-style anti-Semitism.«

limits of artistic freedom

Against the background of the debate about the 15th edition of the documenta, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had already emphasized the limits of artistic freedom at the opening of the show on Saturday.

It is an important pillar of democratic societies, but it also has its limits.

»Art can be offensive, it should trigger debates.« Criticism of Israeli politics is allowed.

"But where criticism of Israel turns into questioning of its existence, the limit has been crossed," he had said.

The Documenta, which has been in Kassel since 1955, is considered the world's most important exhibition of contemporary art alongside the Venice Biennale.

It is only held every five years.

The show lasts until September 25th.

According to the description in the Documenta handbook, Taring Padi is “a collective of progressive artists and activists” that was founded in 1998 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The name of the collective can therefore be translated as »rice fangs«.

Regarding the artistic method, it says: "Through a striking and satirical iconography and an apt, striking text", their cardboard dolls, woodcut posters and large banners conveyed political messages.


Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2022-06-20

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