By John Owoo
(In Kassel – Germany)
Despite Documenta 15’s anti-semitic controversy that largely revolved around a mural by Indonesian Collective Taring Padi, which turned the event into a combative exhibition, the art festival continues to attract visitors from various parts of the world.
Titled “Peoples Justice”, the mural was eventually taken down amidst jeering, shrieking, hooting and clapping from spectators. Originally showcased in Australia in 2002, it features a soldier-like figure depicted as a pig wearing a scarf with a Star of David and a helmet bearing the word “Mossad” – the designation of Israel’s intelligence agency.
Nevertheless, works on display at the two main venues – Fridericianum Museum and Documenta Halle – reveal a dominance of works that could be termed as collective sculpture, interactive aesthetics or an archival hub.
Undeniably, the exhibition is gigantic – indeed, so huge one cannot easily experience all artworks on display. Curated by Indonesia based collective Ruangrupa, dozens of collectives and solo artists were invited resulting in a brain-busting program that featured thousands of names in diverse venues.
Indeed, works by the Roma artist Selma Selman, which comprise paintings on car parts, that reminiscent her father’s dealings with scrap metals, coolly stand out alongside other highly visible and compelling collaborative determinations.
An artist’s initiative dubbed Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture from Thailand, showcased projects that include an installation of documentary videos dedicated to the dairy industry in Germany and Thailand, a shadow-puppet theater and a skateboard ramp.
The Britto Arts Trust Collective from Bangladesh focused on nutritional policies and communities suffering the effects of industrialization. They took on issues related to environmental changes as well as foods that are fast disappearing from communities that had them as staples.
Through a large-scale installation titled “Rasad”, the collective recreated a small-town bazaar that was fully stocked with food items realized through crochets, ceramics, metals and embroidery, which lighted the exhibition hall with originality.
An installation by the Nest Collective powerfully conveyed a message on trash from the fashion industry in Kenya while Centre d’art Waza from Congo touched on the effects of mining and extraction of both natural and human resources from the Congolese Copperbelt.
Titled “lumbung” (a collective name for a rice barn), the effect on visitors to Documenta 15 through direct engagement with artworks by diverse collectives, surprisingly renders the experiences of individuals personal. It’s sheer size simply ensures views to unfold over time.
Documenta 15 ends on Sunday September 25, 2022.