A São Paulo–based Jewish art space disputed a report by a prominent German publication that it was disinvited from Documenta, calling the claims “rumors.”
Casa do Povo — a center that says it “revisits and reinvents notions of culture, community and memory,” according to its website — took to the publishing platform e-flux yesterday to hit back at an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine The space positioned the article as one attempt of many to weaponize the allegations of anti-Semitism at the famed art show in Kassel, Germany.
“As a Jewish Brazilian organization, we humbly ask the German press and authorities to look at documenta fifteen as a whole and avoid labeling documenta and the artistic team as antisemitic,” Casa do Povo wrote. “Such generalizations can lead to the banalization of the fight against antisemitism. We cannot tolerate this fight being used to silence other people and issues.”
The statement referred directly to the controversy over a Taring Padi piece that was included in Documenta 15, which was curated by the Indonesian collective ruangrupa. Taring Padi’s towering mural included anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews, and faced a wave of criticism because of it. Although the mural was removed by Documenta within a few days, the controversy has not abated.
Sabine Schormann, the head of Documenta, left by “mutual agreement” this past weekend, and ruangrupa has been called before the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, to answer for how the piece got on view. Taring Padi, Schormann, and ruangrupa have issued extensive apologies for the piece.
A separate though related debate over the inclusion of the Palestinian collective the Question of Funding has fueled controversy as well. Some Jewish groups have claimed that it was anti-Semitic to include the Question of Funding because its members allegedly support the pro-Palestine movement Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. Documenta and ruangrupa have denied that the Question of Funding’s participation is anti-Semitic and called some of these claims “racist.”
The Frankfurter Allgemeine piece, titled “Just keep partying?,” attempted to recap these controversies. It did not name Casa do Povo, referring only to “a Jewish collective from São Paulo” that had been removed from the initial network of collectives helping to organize Documenta 15 amid “protests from participants close to Palestine.”
Casa do Povo said in its e-flux statement that it had led “informal conversations” with ruangrupa, but that it had never been invited to be a part of that network. Documenta’s announcement of the network did not include Casa do Povo, although it appears that ruangrupa has previously had ties to the space. ARTE!Brasilieros, an English-language publication about the Brazilian art scene, reported in 2021 that members of ruangrupa had worked with Casa do Povo to host digital meetings with members of the local scene.
“Why would a supposedly antisemitic curatorial team work with us?” Casa do Povo asked.
The space went on to say that it felt that Documenta had done enough to respond to the Taring Padi controversy, and added, “We hope now that the other questions raised by this major exhibition will be heard and discussed, since they are also vital to us, to the fight against antisemitism, to the struggle against racism, and to the role of art in today’s collapsing world.”