Anti-Semitism scandal
Scandal about art show: consequences and clarification required

documenta fifteen - allegations of anti-Semitism

The day after the removal of the controversial large banner “People’s Justice” by the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi, only the scaffolding and the stands for the cardboard figures, which were also removed, remained on Friedrichsplatz. Photo: Uwe Zucchi/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

The scandal surrounding a work criticized as anti-Semitic at the documenta is spreading – now Olaf Scholz is also speaking out. He’s not the only one who calls for personal consequences.

After the anti-Semitism scandal surrounding a large-format banner at the documenta fifteen the calls for consequences are getting louder.

Corresponding considerations were expressed on Wednesday not only by the Central Council of Jews – but also by the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke up through a government spokeswoman in a newspaper report. In the meantime, there have been initial attempts to explain what bad planning could have led to the installation of the work by the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi, which has been criticized as anti-Semitic.

Newspaper: Scholz stays away from Documenta

According to a report by the “Jewish General”, the allegations of anti-Semitism caused Scholz to refrain from visiting the art exhibition. A government spokeswoman told the weekly newspaper that the SPD politician had “probably not missed a Documenta in the past 30 years,” but will not follow up this time kassel to travel. The reason is the anti-Jewish images on the mural by Taring Padi, which has since been removed.

As a reminder, the installation showed, among other things, a soldier with a pig’s face. He wears a scarf with a Star of David and a helmet with the inscription “Mossad” – the name of the Israeli foreign intelligence service. According to the spokeswoman, the Chancellor described this presentation as “disgusting”. It was “completely right and appropriate” to remove the mural. In his opinion, «in Germany no place for anti-Semitic depictions, not even at an art exhibition”.

Scholz spoke out in favor of reviewing the inclusion of the controversial works in the exhibition. “The Chancellor is convinced that the Documenta management should face up to their responsibility for this process and examine themselves,” said the government spokeswoman.

Head of the Central Council speaks of “damage” to Germany’s image

“It is correct that the anti-Semitic work of the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi was removed from the documenta,” said the President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, in Berlin. However, this does not mean that the topic of anti-Semitism and the debate about whether this year’s documenta is related to BDS are over. BDS stands for “Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions”. The movement wants to isolate Israel economically, culturally and politically.

“Now we have to think about personal consequences,” said Schuster. He did not give any further details. Germany’s image in the world has already been damaged by this incident.

The German-Israeli Society (DIG) is also demanding consequences. “The general director of the documenta, Sabine Schormann, must resign immediately or be dismissed by the supervisory board,” said DIG President Volker Beck to the “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger” (Thursday). The former Greens member of the Bundestag demanded that the members of the supervisory board led by Kassel’s Lord Mayor Christian Geselle (SPD) should also make their positions available.

“Following the allegations of anti-Semitism, the supervisory board should have taken action in advance and ensured that anti-Semitism had no place at the documenta,” said Beck. “Instead, journeyman always prayed everything healthy.”

In an e-mail to Roth, Beck accused the management and the supervisory board of complete failure, according to information from the “Kölner Stadtanzeiger”. In addition to the mural by the Indonesian artist group Taring Padi, which has since been taken down, he referred to the work “Guernica Gaza” by the artist group Eltiqa from the Gaza Strip and to a “terrorism-affine, anti-Israel film series” by the collective Subversive Films from Brussels and Ramallah. Beck demanded that sponsorship of the documenta be stopped immediately.

criticism of those responsible

FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai said that now it is important to “relentlessly clarify how this shameful incident could have happened and who was specifically responsible for which decisions and when”. The most important thing is that consequences are drawn from it. “Anyone who approves of these inhuman failures should not be responsible for an internationally known cultural event in Germany,” demanded the FDP politician.

The problem of the missing curator

How did it even come to this? Hesse’s Minister of Art Angela Dorn (Greens) sees the problem partly as a result of the lack of a responsible curator. «Responsibility for the art shown lies primarily with the artistic direction. The fact that this time this was assigned to a collective by the selection committee, and not to a single curator, apparently meant that the care and responsibility of curating suffered,” she told the German Press Agency on Wednesday.

Dorn emphasized that she had always been assured that there was no evidence of anti-Semitic imagery at the exhibition when she was asked several times by documenta gGmbH. “Why not all works were examined in detail in the light of the debate in the run-up to the opening and what contribution better communication through society could have made remains to be clarified.” The shareholders gave the documenta the clear mandate to check all the works shown “in the sense of responsible curating”.

Looking ahead: Meeting with the Anne Frank educational institution

The head of the Anne Frank educational center, Meron Mendel, meanwhile pleaded for a look ahead: “All is not lost yet, now this crisis must be used as an opportunity to really start a conversation,” Mendel told the dpa. Without dialogue, the debate will continue to escalate. The Anne Frank educational center wants to support Kassel with educational offers to educate about anti-Semitism and racism. The educational institution is also in contact with the documenta. An event together with Minister Dorn is planned for Wednesday next week. The documenta initially did not comment on the further course of the debate on Wednesday.