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Accusation of an Antisemitic Work of Art Puts Documenta on Critical Investigation

By: Kathy Wu

From the very first step in the distinguished art exhibit of Documenta in Kassel, Germany, it feels like the world is an entirely new atmosphere with every inch covered in art. The Documenta art exhibit isn’t your typical 20-minute glance-around stroll type of art installation.

The exhibit features over 1,000 people sharing their creative side, showing everything from stage performances to garden tending to sharing food and communing and creating. Because this exhibit only takes place every five years, this place has no choice but put effort in the maximum effort. What will be their reaction to the accusation that is putting them on investigation? Is the festive tradition about to permanently retreat from its future of beautiful artwork?

Because of the public display of these majestic artworks, Documenta has been specifically targeted in many ways. Even before the museum was even built, critics have decided on accusations in advance. In addition, a Palestinian artists’ group, the Question of Funding, was targeted by vandals who broke into the space and graffitied spray paint over the works of art.

What is the reason for the newest criticism? Inquiry shows that the Taring Tadi banner, a piece of Documenta art, represents antisemitism. Built in Germany, this counts as a very offensive censure. “An exhibition can only succeed if the works are known to a curator who places them in a meaningful, functioning relationship with one another,” wrote Jorg Hantzschel and Catrin Lorsch in the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. They concluded that this Documenta has “made real dialogue between cultures and extremely difficult for the foreseeable future.” This shows the close relationship between artwork and culture. Culture can be shown through art in a harmful way that can lead to deleterious messages.

The producers of Documenta explain that the gallery is chaotic in the friendliest way, inviting people to enjoy art the simple and plain way it is. They show no sign of effect from this error. The production of Documenta was hard work, especially because of the pandemic. Yet the endless Zoom meetings and the occasional mixed-up collaboration have been worth the result. The creators announce, “We are fortunate to witness so much imagination, so much flourishing,” and are happy to improve whenever they can.


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