Dhe potential of art to shake up society was demonstrated at Documenta 15 like no other exhibition before it. However, it was different from what its initiators had hoped: post-colonial messages, the rejection of Western individualism and the celebration of collective economic and social forms were to form the political center of gravity of the show. Instead, violent allegations soon determined the public discussion. The triggers were depictions whose image elements – fangs, hooked nose, brutal soldier’s visage with Star of David on the helmet – were partly anti-Semitic, partly at least characterized by hatred of Israel.
A panel discussion on Documenta 15 took place at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (HIS). It was intended to illuminate the “encounter situation” created by the exhibition, in which “different historical experiences and contrary ideas of art, politics and society collided almost unchecked”. The keynote speech was held by the President of the Hamburg University of Fine Arts (HfbK), Martin Köttering. Since the beginning of the winter semester, the Indonesian artists Reza Afisina and Iswanto Hartono have shared a guest professorship at his university, which is funded by the DAAD. Both belong to the artist collective Ruangrupa, which curated Documenta 15 and which – together with the other governing bodies – is at the center of Documenta criticism. This criticism is now also directed at the employment of the two artists as guest professors, whose appointment had already taken place before the start of the documenta.