After months of controversy, the fifteenth edition of the quinquennial contemporary art festival, Documenta, has opened in Kassel, Germany, amid controversy, including allegations that one of the artworks contains inflammatory representations of Jewish people.
The artwork, entitled People’s Justice (2002), was produced by the Indonesian collective, Taring Padi, and appears to show the violence committed by Indonesia’s Suharto dictatorship. However, the work also includes images of soldiers who have pigs’ heads for faces and are labelled with the word Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, and what appears to be a caricature of a visibly Jewish person with sidelocks, smoking a cigar, and with symbols of the SS, the Nazi paramilitary unit, on his hat.
Jewish groups in Germany and throughout the world had expressed their concerns about Documenta 15, which has been curated by the Indonesian art collective, ruangrupa, because they included another foreign collective, the Question of Funding, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, in the exhibition. Taring Padi were, however, not included in those initial complaints.
The organisers of Documenta initially placed a black drape over People’s Justice, but it has now been reported that the work will now be dismantled entirely.
Germany’s Minister of Culture, Claudia Roth, said that “human dignity, protection against antisemitism, racism, and misanthropy are the foundations of our coexistence and this is where artistic freedom finds its limits.” The President of Germany also urged the organisers to do more to address the allegations of antisemitism.
Antisemitic incidents in Germany have increased considerably. Campaign Against Antisemitism is reports on antisemitic incidents in Germany.