Hito Steyerl has ‘no faith’ in Documenta tackling antisemitism

Hito Steyerl. Photo: Leon Kahane

Hito Steyerl has demanded that her work be removed from Documenta, saying she has ‘no faith’ in the organisers’ attempts to address antisemitism.

Just days after the exhibition opened in Kassel, Germany, Documenta’s curators were forced to respond to a work by the Indonesian collective Taring Padi that contained anti-Semitic imagery. First the curators merely covered the painted banner, but then later agreed to its removal. Ruangrupa later apologised, admitting they ‘collectively failed’.

In the email, seen by Artnet, Steyerl says however, ‘I have no faith in the organization’s ability to mediate and translate complexity. This refers to the repeated refusal to facilitate a sustained and structurally anchored inclusive debate around the show as well as the de facto refusal to accept mediation.’

Also resigning from the show is Meron Mendel, the head of the Anne Frank Educational Institute, who was serving as an advisor. Last week Mendel took part in a seminar discussing the controversy, at which he also questioned the number of Jewish artists given space by the curators. Ruangupa responded to his departure in a statement saying ‘We respect Prof. Mendel’s – albeit surprising – decision not to become further involved’.

As well as exhibiting a new video installation at the festival (titled Animal Spirits, set in the metaverse), Steyerl was one of the speakers in a talk series planned for before the show opened to address claims of antisemitism raised by various German Jewish organisations.

Those claims centred on the support of the the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement by various Documenta contributors, including Steyerl, and other criticisms made of the Israeli state by exhibiting artists.

The talks programme itself however was labelled antisemitic, with critics noting little space was given over to opposing pro-Israel viewpoints.

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