June 24, 2022, Kassel, Germany: The Fridericianum in Kassel, a public museum opened in 1779, with its columns wrapped in messages reflecting the urgent conversations between artists that will be held during this year s Documenta art exhibition. Kassel Germany - ZUMAs251 20220624_zin_s251_001 Copyright: xEnidxTsuix

The newly appointed team of researchers to deal with the anti-Semitism incidents at the Documenta has distanced itself from the management of the exhibition. The Documenta management had previously shown itself to be open to specialist advice, but seems to want to define essential questions about how to deal with anti-Semitic art, according to a statement by the scientists distributed on Monday. They are to accompany the Documenta from now on.

The management’s position that neither further works of art need to be removed due to anti-Semitic content nor that the works need to be systematically examined contradicts a professional and open-ended dialogue. The committee reserves the right to formulate its own position.

According to the experts, the Jewish perspective and the effect on the Jewish community are hardly taken into account in the statements made at the documenta. The committee wants to include Jewish perspectives in the processing. The scientists emphasize that the showing of anti-Semitic works not only raises the question of the limits of freedom of art and expression, but also affects many people in a very concrete way. In order to work up the scandal, the show will be accompanied by seven scientists in the coming months.

“The aim is to ensure that the Documenta continues to enjoy its unique position worldwide as an exhibition for contemporary art in Kassel,” said the exhibition’s partners, the City of Kassel and the State of Hesse, on Monday.

“The scientific analysis of the works of art at Documenta fifteen, with references to possible anti-Semitic (image) language, is to be carried out while the exhibition is still running,” announced the shareholders. The main work of the experts will extend beyond the exhibition period of Documenta fifteen, since in-depth scientific studies can also be initiated.

In view of the incidents, the supervisory board around the chairman, Kassel’s mayor Christian Geselle (SPD), and his deputy, Hesse’s art minister Angela Dorn (Greens), decided in mid-July on various measures to deal with the situation, including the appointment of specialist support.

According to the announcement, the committee now includes scientists “with outstanding scientific expertise in the fields of anti-Semitism, perspectives from global contexts and postcolonialism, art and constitutional law”.

They are therefore responsible for the first inventory of the processes, structures and receptions around the documenta and should give recommendations for the processing and discuss which aspects require an in-depth scientific analysis. “In addition, you will be advised on the analysis of possible further anti-Semitic imagery and language as well as works already identified as anti-Semitic,” the statement said.

The consultation results and positions are to be presented to the Supervisory Board and the shareholders. They would make these available to Documenta gGmbH and the curators and enter into a dialogue about them. “Artistic freedom is preserved, curatorial responsibility is and remains the explicit task of Ruangrupa’s artistic management,” the shareholders explained.

“We expect that indications of possible anti-Semitic imagery and the promotion of Israel-related anti-Semitism will be investigated, taking into account the freedom of art, which is protected by fundamental rights,” emphasized Geselle. The reconstruction and processing of the anti-Semitic incidents with the support of a specialist committee are “essential” and should also regain the trust that has been lost in the past few weeks, said Dorn, who proposed the composition of the expert council together with the head of the cultural department of the city of Kassel, Susanne Völker Has.

The committee will be chaired by Nicole Deitelhoff, executive board member of the Leibniz Institute Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research (PRIF) and executive spokeswoman for the Research Institute for Social Cohesion (FGZ).

The team also includes Marion Ackermann, Director General of the Dresden State Art Collections, Julia Bernstein, Professor of Discrimination and Inclusion in the Immigration Society at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, and Marina Chernivsky, a psychologist and behavioral scientist. She is head of the Competence Center for Prevention and Empowerment of the Central Welfare Office of Jews and managing director of the counseling center for anti-Semitic violence OFEK. The history professor Peter Jelavich from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA) and the legal scholar Christoph Möllers will also accompany the documenta academically from the Humboldt University in Berlin and the historian Facil Tesfaye, junior professor at the School of Modern Languages ​​and Cultures at the University of Hong Kong.