documenta curators cite ‘misunderstandings’ in anti-Semitism row (2022)

1 min read
documenta curators
ruangrupa, f.l.t.r. Ajeng Nurul Aini, farid rakun, Iswanto Hartono, Mirwan Andan, Indra Ameng, Daniella Fitria Praptono, Ade Darmawan, Julia Sarisetiati, Reza Afisina, 2019, Foto: Jin Panji.

documenta curators have cited their own mistakes and ‘cultural misunderstandings’ behind the accusations of anti-Semitism plaguing this year’s show.

The Indonesian curatorial collective Ruangrupa is responsible for the content of this year’s edition of documenta, a massive international art show held in Germany once every five years.

In remarks published Monday, two members of the collective, Reza Afisina and Farid Rakun, told the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel that they had underestimated the art show’s high public profile in Germany.

While no one really noticed the Ruangrupa collective at home in Indonesia, documenta was almost a matter of state in Germany, they explained. The documenta curators ought to have come to this realization sooner, they asserted.

The first allegations of anti-Semitism caught them by surprise in January, Afisina and Rakun explained, adding that they never thought things would escalate as they did. When politics and the media got involved, “a new dynamic” emerged.

The two Indonesian artists said they had learned that they need to better explain what they do.

Afisina admitted that the collective only commented on the allegations of anti-Semitism quite late, saying the Indonesian collective initially did not understand that it was not enough to publicly admit their mistake and apologize to the people in Kassel with whom they feel connected.

He also charged that although the theme of documenta fifteen is “dialogue,” no-one really listens. Afisina also lamented what he called a lack of desire to understand each other.

documenta curators
Photo: Profimedia

The recurring global art exhibition, which opened in the German city of Kassel in mid-June and closes at the end of September, has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitic art. Former director Sabine Schormann resigned last month. © dpa

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