For the first time, ruangrupa, the Indonesian artist collective that organizes Documenta 15 in Kassel, Germany, has addressed the allegations of anti-Semitism the famous five-year-old has faced this year across Germany.
In a strongly worded article published on the e-flux platform, ruangrupa denied that Documenta 15 had ever published anti-Semitic statements. The allegations, ruangrupa said, were “bad faith attempts to delegitimize artists and preemptively censor them based on their ethnic heritage and presumed political positions.”
The essay, titled “Anti-Semitism Accusations Against Documenta: A Scandal Over Rumor,” was published Monday, just days after Documenta 15 canceled “We Need to Talk!”, an event aimed at bring together artists and intellectuals in an open discussion on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and forms of racism. The event was so widely debated that German Culture Minister Claudia Roth even reacted to it, defending Documenta after a prominent Jewish group spoke out.
Previously, Documenta has come to the defense of the artists included in this edition, although never before has ruangrupa himself responded publicly and at length.
The collective said in its letter that the debate caused some participants to withdraw from the event, although it did not specify which did.
The allegations against Documenta 15 first surfaced earlier this year, when the Alliance Against Antisemitism in Kassel accused members of the Artist Selection Committee and some participating artists of “promoting hatred of Israel” . Although the allegations contain factual errors, they have been taken up by The weathera leading newspaper in Germany, and sparked heated debate in the country.
The original blog post from the Kassel Alliance Against Antisemitism also included a sentence in which it mocked Documenta 15’s name, “lumbung”, as being similar to a cocktail known as Lumumba. Ruangrupa said it reveals “the dangerous proximity between German historical ignorance and racist slander”.
Some of these allegations made by the Kassel Alliance Against Antisemitism centered on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which seeks to take action against Israel as part of a campaign to grant Palestinians equal rights and of the property. Known as BDS for short, it has been controversial in Germany.
In his letter, ruangrupa announced the cancellation of “We need to talk!” as being the product of a culture in which BDS and anti-Semitism are unfairly equated, making it difficult to have an appropriate discourse. He also said that this culture “mainly affects people from the South and especially from the Middle East and has led to censorship”.
“Those who reject this political debate in advance leave the conversation before it has started,” the collective wrote, referring to the differences between “anti-Semitism” and what it called “anti-Semitism. related to Israel’,” adding, “But those who do not want to allow this conversation to take place at all, but would rather like to determine who and what is considered questionable and silence those they consider objectionable voices , should clearly state this publicly, instead of hiding behind criticisms of organizing and curating details of the planned signs.
The collective continued: “Scholarly practice cannot exist without open debate. An effective fight against anti-Semitism needs this practice as a foundation. If this debate is made impossible, the real anti-Semitic threats of terror and violence will be much more difficult to combat. »
Despite the cancellation of “We need to talk!” last week, Documenta 15 is expected to continue unchanged. The show is set to open June 18 in Kassel and run for 100 days, until September 25.