documenta fifteen
Anti-Semitism scandal: curatorial team apologizes

documenta fifteen

The now empty scaffolding on which previously hung the work of art by the collective Taring Padi, which was classified as anti-Semitic. Photo: Uwe Zucchi/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

Anti-Semitic depictions at the documenta caused horror. After sustained criticism, the curatorial team from Indonesia apologizes. It announces that it wants to continue to be in dialogue.

The curating collective of documenta fifteen in Kassel has apologized in a written statement for the anti-Semitic depictions at the world art show. “We all failed to discover the anti-Semitic figures in the work,” Ruangrupa wrote on the documenta website on Thursday. “It is our fault. We apologize for the disappointment, shame, frustration, betrayal and shock we have caused to viewers.”

A work of art by the Indonesian collective Taring Padi classified as anti-Semitic was dismantled after a few days at the documenta. It had previously had anti-Semitism allegations against it for months curating Collectively given to Ruangrupa from Indonesia.

“As we now fully understand, this imagery seamlessly ties into the most horrifying episode in German history, in which Jewish people were attacked and murdered on an unprecedented scale,” Ruangrupa wrote about the work. “We take this opportunity to educate ourselves on the gruesome past and present of anti-Semitism and are shocked that this character has made it into the work in question.” The banner, made collectively, refers to the “unsolved dark history of Indonesia».

The collective also thanked them for the “constructive criticism and solidarity”, but also emphasized that they did not feel they were being treated fairly by others: “We have the feeling that many of the allegations were made against us without an open exchange and mutual learning was sought.» One wants to continue the “dialogue with those who have honestly supported us, believed in us”. “We would like to continue to engage in dialogue with the public, visitors and local grassroots initiatives that speak to our work.”

Documenta gGmbH had previously announced that it would start the dialogue next Wednesday with a panel discussion organized jointly with the Anne Frank educational institution. The educational institution will also “establish a meeting and information stand on Friedrichsplatz” where visitors and artists can enter into a dialogue on questions of anti-Semitism and racism, according to the documenta fifteen homepage on Thursday.

The exhibition is also being examined for other critical works. “Clearly anti-Semitic representations are uninstalled, and in the case of controversial positions, an appropriate debate is held.” The group also reserves the right to uninvite individual artists.