Cover image of the review
Installation view of Taring Padi. A family looks up at The People's Justice (2002) (since removed).

documenta fifteen

16 Jul 2022
documenta 18 Jun - 25 Sep 2022

Between the majestic Kassel Kongress Palais Stadthalle and two charming little classical-style buildings that once housed Joseph Beuys’s University of the Trees, there is an inconspicuous tram-stop advertisement for documenta fifteen. Under a photograph of ruruHouse (the “living room” of the exhibition) is written “Kunst gehört nicht nur an die Wand. Sondern in die Mitte der Gesellschaft” (Art doesn’t only belong on the wall. But in the middle of society). As advertised, the latest instalment of the most important international exhibition of contemporary art has flung an artistic community of communities into the middle of contemporary German society. How do they fare?

documenta fifteen advertisement at Kongress Palais tram stop, Kassel.

The original motivations seem noble enough. For sixty years, documenta has appointed a European (with the exception of Okwui Enwezor in 2002) superstar curator to showcase to the world the cutting edge of contemporary art and discourse. This year, documenta gGmbh (a limited liability non-profit organisation owned by the City of Kassel and the State of Hesse, and whose director is Sabine Schormann) has commissioned ruangrupa as artistic director, a ten-member Jakarta-based artists’ collective founded in 2000. “Make friends, not art” is their motto. It has resulted in a documenta that, at least when I was there, was one of the most uplifting, energising and hopeful exhibitions I have seen in a long time (once I got used to the absence of the “curated art” one usually expects from a biennale).

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.