What does Documenta 2022 have to do with the financial crisis of 2008? “Nothing,” most people would say. Since the opening of the art show in Kassel, I have had constant déjà vu memories of the global financial crisis, so today I am trying to assert that the two events have something in common: the financial crisis and Documenta are two illustrative examples of the “principle of irresponsibility”.
The Documenta is considered a show of the artistic avant-garde. This year, however, it sees itself as a display of an alternative economy, so that even the art critics are asking whether it is still about art or rather a “political-economic manifestation”.
The protagonists in Kassel are by no means denying the political and economic claim. I summarize the ideas: Instead of individual artists, there are only collectives at the current Documenta. They propagate an economic alternative of the “Global South” against the individualism, elitism and unbridled capitalism of the “Global North”. They regard individualism and capitalism as the causes of everything evil in the world: greed, patriarchy, colonialism. The victims of this oppression not only rebel, they also present an alternative concept of how we can live and do business better in the future.
Radical but not irrational
The core of this alternative Documenta economy is called “Lumbung”. In Indonesia, the term refers to the surplus of the harvest brought into a rice barn, which is distributed among each other and passed on to those in need. The fruits of the earth should be available to everyone according to their needs and distributed fairly. And not subject to the scarcity principle of supply and demand and subject to the price dictates of money. Consequently, this collectivism also negates private property and the idea of individual ownership. Instead of capitalism, Documenta 2022 propagates the idea of a sustainable cycle of goods and values (called Ekosistem), which opposes the murderous exploitation of resources by capitalism.
This alternative idea of doing business is actually radical. I think it’s even thought of reasonably consistently, i.e. not irrationally. What’s more, the Documenta not only propagates an idea, but also presents it at the same time. It works like this: The Indonesian collective Ruangrupa, which was entrusted with the artistic direction of the documenta, selected further collectives, which in turn authorized further collectives to represent their art in Kassel. We know some who know some and whom we trust – and who we might also want to do something good for. Nobody has to give an account of the selection. There is no external quality assurance or control; that would be a hindrance to the freedom of art. As a result of this snowball system, to this day nobody can say exactly how many artists are actually exhibiting at the Documenta.