documenta Advisory Board gets backing from shareholders | free press

The documenta shareholders support the demand of a panel of experts to temporarily stop a controversial film screening at the documenta. The Advisory Board resolutely rejects the allegations of censorship by the Artistic Director.


Even shortly before the end of their season, the discussion about the documenta in Kassel does not break off. Following recent criticism of works of art at the show that were deemed anti-Semitic, its shareholders are now also in favor of no longer showing pro-Palestinian propaganda films.

“The shareholders agree with the vote of the scientists, according to which the “Tokyo Reels” of the collective Subversive Film should no longer be shown, at least until an appropriate contextualisation has been carried out,” the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse announced on Tuesday . The current commentary on the films is not suitable “since they do not historically classify the propaganda films, some of which glorify anti-Semitic and terrorist violence”.

The expert committee set up by the shareholders to deal with the allegations of anti-Semitism against the documenta had previously recommended temporarily no longer showing the controversial pro-Palestinian propaganda films with material from the 1960s to 1980s. 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”.

Letter to the Mayor

The artistic direction, the Indonesian curator collective Ruangrupa, and the documenta leadership had rejected corresponding demands on Monday. The management of the documenta and Ruangrupa took note of the assessment of the committee. Ruangrupa, who, as the artistic director of documenta fifteen, has the sole decision-making power, does not want to comply with the recommendation, according to a documenta statement for the Berlin art magazine “Monopol”.

Ruangrupa also accused the committee of trying to censorship and “a racist tendency”.

The Advisory Board firmly rejects these allegations. Ruangrupa’s statements were described by its chairman Nicole Deitelhoff to the German Press Agency as disturbing. “It is ridiculous that our committee is accused of our statement being racist or German-centric,” said the head of the Leibniz Institute Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research. Almost half of the members of the eight-strong body are not even German nationals.

The advisory board does not censor either, emphasized Deitelhoff. “That is not our mandate. We are far from censoring anything.” The experts are only in favor of stopping the film screening as long as there is no new contextualization, she underlined. “Showing the film sequences in itself is not problematic.” The type of presentation without explanation of the historical-political context is problematic. “The previous framing, which Ruangrupa commissioned itself, is completely inadequate,” says Deitelhoff.

The panel of experts will continue to investigate the allegations regardless of its work. “We were not appointed by the artistic direction or the management of the documenta. We advise the shareholders,” said Deitelhoff. This order remains unaffected. “We make recommendations based on our scientific assessment. The shareholders must act accordingly.”

Josef Schuster demands immediate action

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, welcomed their statement. However, he had wished for such a sign from the shareholders much earlier, he announced on Tuesday. “I expect those responsible to ensure that the state-sponsored anti-Semitism displayed here is ended immediately, before September 25,” emphasized Schuster. “If the documenta management doesn’t act now, it will show that setting up the panel of experts was just a fig leaf that doesn’t even deserve the name.”

The Hessian anti-Semitism commissioner Uwe Becker sharply criticized the artistic direction of the documenta. “Anyone who simply dismisses the clear statement of the documenta’s panel of experts and continues to show anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist films that legitimize hatred of Israel and the glorification of terrorism are themselves acting anti-Semitically,” he said, according to the statement. “The refusal of the documenta management to stop the showing of the anti-Israeli propaganda films is unbearable and a disgrace.” According to the expert judgment, there are no other words for this procedure than intentionally anti-Semitic action. (dpa)


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