Anti-Semitism scandal at Documenta

A large banner featuring anti-Semitic imagery that was on display at the Documenta contemporary art exhibition in Kassel, Germany, has been veiled after provoking fierce criticism. The artwork was by the Indonesian artists' collective Taring Padi, which has since apologised. What is allowed in art, and at what point does it become propaganda?

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Die Presse (AT) /

Collective shirking responsibility

Those responsible are hiding behind a collective, fumes Die Presse:

“Freedom, also in art, depends on assuming responsibility. On the fact that the free agent - in this case the artist - seeks to understand the consequences of his actions, and that he understands and behaves as a responsible individual. ... Just how fatal it can be not to do this is demonstrated by the pathetic reaction at Documenta to accusations of antisemitism, and ultimately by the concrete, unquestionably scandalous case of a work that features blatantly antisemitic stereotypes. ... A curatorial collective - called Ruangrupa - invited an artists' collective - called Taring Padi - yet no one is to blame. ... And precisely that is the problem with collective decisions.”

Der Freitag (DE) /

Not a propaganda show

The weekly Freitag criticises that the exhibiton fails to ask a key question:

“The pictures are bad art. They use clumsy, self-evident imagery without making any attempt to prompt the viewer to reflect or even - oh horror, the Western understanding of art! - to stimulate an aesthetic experience. ... In short: they are propaganda. Where and how exactly is the line between art and propaganda drawn? Is an intricately painted banner at a demonstration art? This is an interesting question that a clever curatorial team could have addressed. After all, Documenta is an art show, not a propaganda show.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

Art can go wrong sometimes too

Der Spiegel would like to see all the hot air taken out of the debate:

“Of course it would have been better if the artists in question had not been invited to Kassel. But now they are there. And their art too. The principle of freedom of art also applies to bad art. Because that is what we are dealing with here. Clichéd, bad art. One-dimensional propaganda art that is so pathetic that it is more likely to achieve the opposite of what its creators have in mind. ... Is it great that German taxpayers' money is being spent on this? No. But that's what can happen with art - sometimes it goes wrong.”