By Pick Keobandith
This year Documenta 15, a huge art exhibition that takes place in Kassel, Germany, every four years, is an event of exceptional importance. For the first time ever, it has been curated not by a single person but by an Indonesian art collective – Ruangrupa – that has brought a strong presence from the southern hemisphere to the event, connecting cultures from the east and west. In turn they invited other collectives to participate. A visible emphasis on social inclusivity shows the desire to leave no one out.
It’s impossible to write about this year’s Documenta 15 without mentioning the major controversy caused by a huge piece of artwork“People’s Justice” (2002) by the Indonesian collective Taring Padi, that contained antisemitic imagery. In his opening speech the German federal president addressed this issue with honesty and clarity. He expressed his views about the importance of art and the freedom of expression but also stressed the need for artists to respect those principles essential to the cohesion of democratic society.
For Aldo Castillo, an American Nicaraguan Gallerist from Miami, Florida, who was visiting Documenta, most of the non-western art felt raw in style. It depicts how western populations have affected their own societies – which feels much like a reproach.
“This exhibition clearly wanted to be different by having a curator that was a collective from Asia” says Hannah Heinz, a contributor for Target Global magazine. “The focus is on the process rather than on the works of art themselves. However, it sometimes fails to get the message across, and it can be difficult to understand the ideas behind the pieces.
Although Documenta 15 has had a lot of controversy, it also has some fascinating aspects such as the installations by Saodat Ismailova and an installation by the Wajuuku Art Project.”
Baan Noorg, an art collective from Thailand, is an artist run initiative from the Nongpho district. For Documenta they created a project based on the social foundations of the community, aiming to connect the local community with Nongpho. The project called “Churning Milk : the Rituals of Things” uses a range of different media such as performance, video, graffiti, music or light and sound, and encourages audiences to participate in the work. One of their projects is a roller skating area, free for children and adults, that creates a playful atmosphere of fun and reflects the inclusive ethos of Documenta 15.