“Clearly Antisemitic Visual Codes”: Final report submitted to documenta fifteen
On Monday, the documenta supervisory board presented the final report of the scientific monitoring of the anti-Semitism scandal at documenta fifteen last year.
According to this, the committee, chaired by the Frankfurt peace and conflict researcher Nicole Deitelhoff, agreed that four works refer to “anti-Semitic visual codes or convey statements that can or must be interpreted as anti-Semitic”. The world art exhibition documenta fifteen took place in Kassel from June 18 to September 25, 2022.
“Clear visual anti-Semitic codes” can be found, according to the report in “People s Justice” by Taring Padi and a drawing by Naji al-Ali documented in the “Archives des luttes des femmes en Algérie”. The works “Tokyo Reels”, “Guernica Gaza” and other drawings and maps in the “Archives des luttes des femmes en Algérie” could also “be interpreted as anti-Semitic in the sense of anti-Semitism related to Israel”.
On the other hand, the assessments of Burhan Karkutli’s drawings in the “Archives” and “Guernica Gaza” are not entirely congruent. However, an interpretation as anti-Semitic appears to all members in these cases to be justifiable.
According to the report, “the long-heralded conflict over anti-Semitism met with insufficient internal preparations.” Clear responsibility structures were just as lacking as conflict management procedures.
Management’s response was not appropriate
The team of scientists went on to criticize the reactions of the artistic direction and the management were not appropriate to the seriousness of the situation. Public cultural institutions have a duty to deal with anti-Semitic incidents. “The freedom of art does not conflict with this obligation.” The hesitant reaction of those responsible for documenta to the anti-Semitism incidents was disturbing for the Jewish community.
As a consequence, the committee proposes, among other things, an agreement on definitions and standards for dealing with anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, as well as strengthening the substantive competencies of the management.
The supervisory board of the Weltkunstschau would also have to be expanded to include members from the art and culture sector and a complaints management system would have to be installed.
The Mayor of Kassel and Chairman of the Supervisory Board Christian Geselle (SPD) and his deputy, the Hessian Minister of Art Angela Dorn (Greens), called the scientists’ final report a “well-founded and in-depth analysis of the events”.
Above all, the supervisory board welcomed the “clear classification of the criticized works of art and the information on the tension between constitutionally protected artistic freedom and at the same time responsible handling of anti-Semitic depictions in this context”.
The suggestions and recommendations of the seven members of the advisory board are “valuable and further-reaching” and should be included in the organizational investigation undertaken by the two shareholders of documenta gGmbH, the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse. (epd)
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