Future of the documenta: what's next?
Created: 01/03/2023 05:42
Claudia Roth (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Minister of State for Culture and Media, speaks.
© Boris Roessler/dpa/archive image
A good three months after the end of the controversial documenta fifteen in Kassel, the show is under scrutiny.
The federal government only wants to give money if it can also have a say in terms of content.
Kassel/Berlin - At the documenta fifteen in Kassel, everything should revolve around art for 100 days.
Instead, the most important exhibition for contemporary art next to the Venice Biennale became a political issue due to repeated allegations of anti-Semitism.
The structures of the show are now being put to the test.
In the run-up to documenta fifteen, the first voices had already been raised accusing the Indonesian curator collective Ruangrupa and a few invited artists of being close to the anti-Israel boycott movement BDS.
Shortly after the show opened in mid-June, a work with anti-Semitic imagery was discovered and taken down.
Other works later triggered harsh criticism and calls for the exhibition to be stopped.
The accusations brought the chairman of the supervisory board of the documenta, Kassel's Lord Mayor Christian Geselle (SPD), his deputy, Hesse's Minister of Art Angela Dorn, and Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (both Greens) into distress, and the documenta Director General Sabine Schormann even fell.
She resigned from her post a month after the start of the show.
As a reaction to the incidents, the documenta shareholders, the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse, appointed a committee of experts to deal with the matter.
Its final report is expected at the beginning of the year.
In the course of the scandal, calls for a far-reaching structural reform of the documenta had become louder.
Minister of State for Culture Roth had called for the federal government to have more influence on the exhibition in the future.
She threatened to turn off the money supply otherwise.
The federal government withdrew from the supervisory board in 2018, but continued to fund the exhibition with 3.5 million euros.
The chairman of the supervisory board, Geselle, then went openly on a confrontational course with Roth and announced that the city of Kassel would finance the art exhibition alone in case of doubt.
Nothing has changed in Roth's position.
"If the federal government should be there in the future, then I'll offer that," she told the German Press Agency.
She also contacted the chairman of the supervisory board and the state government again, held talks and made offers.
“Further financial participation by the federal government also requires a substantive one.
There must then also be some form of opportunity to have a say.
We're in the process of sorting that out."
A spokesman for the city of Kassel announced that the city was not striving to change its shareholding in the documenta.
Nevertheless, the integration of the federal government can happen in the short term and without structural changes.
“The Bundeskulturstiftung has the right to propose the two vacant seats on the supervisory board.
Participation for the federal government is and was possible at any time via the control committee.”
The Hessian Ministry of Art said that in the summer the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse “agreed on the common goal of working through the misconduct on the subject of anti-Semitism at documenta fifteen and the structural deficits, and doing everything possible to ensure that documenta continues in the future to secure its globally unique status as an exhibition for contemporary art.”
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The Supervisory Board recently confirmed that the structures, including competencies and responsibilities, as well as the processes would be reviewed.
To this end, at the beginning of the year, as a first step, the result paper of the scientific support will be available to him.
“The Supervisory Board emphasizes the need for the recommendations to be implemented quickly.
The management has announced that it will immediately name the parameters for the next work steps," it said.
This includes the organizational analysis that has already been decided.
"Both shareholders will remain in close dialogue with the federal government over the entire process."
Lessons from the documentafifteen
Roth speaks of a deep, sad veil that lies over this documenta and over the fears and injuries that have arisen among Jews and the horror of everyone.
"In the future, there must no longer be a kind of coordinated irresponsibility where suddenly nobody is responsible anymore," she emphasized.
With the ten-strong artist team Ruangrupa, a collective was responsible for the artistic direction of the documenta for the first time - critics saw this as one of the main reasons for the events.
Minister Dorn, for example, accused the group of "acting according to the principle of distributed irresponsibility".
A curatorial concept cannot exist without curating, Roth now said.
"Especially when confronted with culture from a completely different region of the world, curatorial responsibility is required that does not ignore the place where the exhibition is being exhibited."
Ruangrupa themselves do not see documenta fifteen as a failure.
"The fact that anti-Semitism was the main argument in public is nothing I regret - it's important," said Reza Afisina recently in an interview with the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit".
It makes no sense to invite curators from abroad and then first explain to them what works and what doesn't, said his colleague Iswanto Hartono.
“If you only want the German perspective at the documenta, you don't need to bring in international curators.
Just invite Germans: German curators, German artists, no problems, no discussion.
But if you want an international format, then we have to discuss it."
The sixteenth documenta is scheduled to take place in Kassel from June 12 to September 19, 2027.