documenta Finding Committee on the deinstallation of “People’s Justice” by Taring Padi

“As members of the Finding Committee for the Artistic Direction of documenta fifteen, we stand fully behind our selection of ruangrupa to curate this year’s edition of the historic exhibition in Kassel. We have followed the process of its development at a distance. The exhibition and events we encountered during the preview and opening days surpassed any of our expectations. As a whole, we found the presentations generous, thought-provoking, joyful and welcoming. They offer a picture of a world made of many worlds, without hierarchy or universalism. We would like to congratulate the curators, all the lumbung members and the entire documenta team for their exceptional achievements in offering a different vision of what art in collectivity can be and what a future for the public role of art might look like.

We are therefore more than devasted by the discovery of caricatures that cannot be read as other than antisemitic. While we want to draw a line between criticism of the Israeli state and antisemitism, images that reference Nazi caricatures cannot be allowed and we understand the hurt they have caused. We therefore support the decision of the artists, Dr. Sabine Schormann and her team and the supervisory board, to remove the work People’s Justice by Taring Padi from the Friedrichsplatz.

The legacies of European colonialism and the ongoing matrix of power across the world are subjects that touch almost all the world’s living creatures. The interconnections and shared concerns are only gradually being understood in Western Europe and we are convinced this documenta makes a significant step in giving them form within the cultural field. We therefore want to express our respect for the Indonesian art collective Taring Padi and their long struggle against the oppression and dictatorship of the Suharto years in Indonesia.

If we can make a plea to the public debate, it is to allow all 1500 artists in this rich and powerful exhibition to be heard. We encourage everyone to pay attention to what ruangrupa, the artistic team and partners have put together. You will hear the sound of a world rising up across the time zones of the world—a world that says the current system of power and relationships should not determine the planet’s future; that climate collapse and inequality are unbearable but that there are ways to carry the burden together. That is what documenta fifteen means to us. We hope it can come to mean that to many others too.

Such a polyphonic process of truthfinding and reconciliation will not be easy nor without mistakes. It is a rare and ambitious undertaking on such a scale, and we express our full admiration and respect to the City of Kassel and the Land Hessen for their openness to such a paradigmatic shift in perspective. We equally convey our gratitude to Dr. Sabine Schormann, Director General of documenta gGmbH, and her team for managing this vast endeavour and achieving such outstanding results despite a global pandemic. Finally, we wish to express our unconditional support to ruangrupa, the Artistic Team of documenta fifteen and all the participating collectives and individuals for creating this non-hierarchical pluriverse, to which they invite all of us to see, discuss and take part.”

Amar Kanwar, Charles Esche, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Frances Morris, Gabi Ngcobo, Jochen Volz, Philippe Pirotte, Ute Meta Bauer



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