Conflict over documenta: Controversial works remain | free press

The ailing documenta does not make the headlines. A panel of experts wants to stop the screening of a film. Criticism also comes from the Central Council of Jews. The artistic direction sees it differently.


During the documenta in Kassel, an open discussion about criticized works of art broke out again. After the most recent criticism of works of art judged to be anti-Semitic, the artistic direction is sticking to the works. Even the documenta leadership does not want to act.

Previously, the expert committee set up by the documenta shareholders to deal with the allegations of anti-Semitism against the Weltkunstschau in Kassel had demanded that pro-Palestinian propaganda films no longer be shown.

According to the magazine, a documenta statement for the Berlin art magazine “Monopol” on Monday said: “The management of the documenta and Ruangrupa have taken note of the assessment of the panel of experts. The recommendation of a temporary removal of the work “Tokyo Reels” from Subversive Film from the exhibition, Ruangrupa, who, as artistic directors of the Documenta Fifteen, have the sole decision-making power, does not want to comply.”

The committee for dealing with the allegations of anti-Semitism against the Weltkunstschau calls for pro-Palestinian propaganda films to no longer be shown at the exhibition. From the point of view of the experts, the most urgent task is to stop the screening of a contribution by the collective Subversive Film, according to an initial assessment by the advisory board published on Saturday.

“Hatred of Israel and Glorification of Terrorism”

Highly problematic about the work “Tokyo Reels Film Festival” are not only “the film documents provided with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist set pieces, but also the comments of the artists inserted between the films, in which they describe the hatred of Israel and the glorification of terrorism in the source material through their legitimize uncritical discussion,” said the committee on the documenta gGmbH website.

The material, a compilation of pro-Palestinian propaganda films from the 1960s to 1980s, is not critically reflected, “but affirmed as a supposedly objective factual report.” As a result, the films, with their potentially inflammatory effect, posed a greater danger than the work “People’s Justice”, which had already been removed.

A possible resumption of the screenings of the films is only conceivable “if they are contextualized in a form that makes their propaganda character clear, their anti-Semitic elements are clearly identified and historical misrepresentations corrected”. The Hessian anti-Semitism commissioner Uwe Becker also demanded that the showing of the “anti-Israel propaganda films” be stopped immediately by the artistic director of the documenta.

The Central Council of Jews demands the end of the broadcast

Clear criticism also came from the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster. “The broadcasting of the propaganda films “Tokyo Reels” must be stopped immediately. With their tirade, the curators and artists show that they only respect scientific findings if they fit into their worldview,” he said on Monday. It is the task of the shareholders and the politically responsible persons to draw clear conclusions from the results of the expert panel. “This documenta damaged Germany’s reputation,” said Schuster.

In a second statement, part of the advisory board of the artistic direction of documenta fifteen, the Indonesian curatorial collective Ruangrupa, accuses curatorial imbalance. Almost all works dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict express “one-sidedly critical to decidedly anti-Israel attitudes”. This declaration bears the signatures of five of the seven members of the panel.

documenta fifteen has been accompanied by allegations of anti-Semitism for months. Several works were criticized as anti-Jewish. Indonesian art collective Taring Padi’s ‘People’s Justice’ banner has been taken down over anti-Jewish depictions. In view of the allegations, the shareholders, the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse had appointed an expert committee made up of seven scientists to provide scientific support for the world art show in the coming months. (dpa)


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