The art space of documenta fifteen

© documenta fifteen 2022

The art space of documenta fifteen

By Christiane Wagner

The current edition of one of the most renowned contemporary art exhibitions, documenta fifteen, opened its doors to the public, questioning: “In light of the alarming consequences of climate change worldwide, how can a globally oriented art exhibition that attracts visitors from all over the world and lasts 100 days minimize harm to the environment and, at the same time, be economically and socially fair?” In this sense, it is essential to put into practice the principles of sustainability, which involves social, political, and economic aspects in search of a balanced and fair development that can be sustained. Also, the ethical notions that should be considered as core values regarding interculturality and its moral and political impacts on individuals and society. documenta fifteen highlights the non-Eurocentric view. For this purpose, documenta fifteen is curated by Ruangrupa, a non-profit organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia, to promote artistic ideas in urban and cultural contexts by involving artists and other disciplines such as social sciences, politics, technology, and media, to open critical reflections and perspectives on contemporary urban problems. The Indonesian word “ruangrupa” means “art space” or “spatial form.”

Ruangrupa was unanimously selected by the documenta fifteen international commission in 2019. This decision was justified, among other important issues, in the essence of the collective work: “At a time when innovative power emanates in particular from independent, collaborative organizations, it seems logical to offer this collective approach a platform in the form of documenta.” The international committee of documenta fifteen is represented by Frances Morris, Amar Kanwar, Philippe Pirotte, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Ute Meta Bauer, Jochen Volz, Charles Esche, and Gabi Ngcobo.

In this sense, documenta presents its fifteenth edition of contemporary art with the proposal of Ruangrupa: “We want to create a globally oriented, collaborative and interdisciplinary art and culture platform that will remain effective beyond the 100 days of documenta fifteen. Our curatorial approach strives for a collaborative model of resource use — in economic terms but also concerning ideas, knowledge, programs, and innovations.” Therefore, documenta fifteen highlights the principles of collectivity, resource building, and equitable distribution as fundamental to the curatorial work highlighting the entire process. Collectivity follows an alternative, community-oriented model for sustainability in ecological, social, and economic terms, where resources, ideas, knowledge, and social participation are shared.

The focus on postcolonial art discusses the challenges of art in overcoming the pervasive notions of modern European thought with artists and artworks from non-Western nations seeking a break with hegemonic Western forms of globalization. Among the selected artists and groups, the presence of the Global South stands out, including Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA), a Colombian non-profit organization founded in 2011 by artist Fernando Arias and entrepreneur Jonathan Collin.  Representing Brazil is the artist Graziela Kunsch, along with Britto Arts Trust from Dhaka, and The Nest Collective, a multidisciplinary arts collective living and working in Nairobi. Founded in 2012, the group has created film, music, fashion, visual arts, and literary work. Also included is  Wajukuu Art Project, a community-based organization situated in the Lunga-Lunga neighborhood of the Mukuru slum in Nairobi.

Furthermore, documenta fifteen presents The Black Archives, a historical archive documenting the history of black emancipation movements and individuals in the Netherlands. Generally, “14 lumbung members and 53 lumbung artists participate in documenta fifteen. They were invited by ruangrupa and the Artistic Team to practice lumbung together and collectively take part in creating documenta fifteen. The lumbung members and lumbung artists were asked to involve their ecosystem of artists, activists, and community members in such a way that documenta fifteen and the common resources benefit the sustainability of that shared local practice on the long term. Thus, not only ruangrupa but a constantly expanding network shapes documenta fifteen.”

documenta fifteen’s postcolonial approach involves all knowledge (including aesthetic) presenting cultural diversity and recognizing otherness in various artistic forms. These postcolonial cultural practices consider a structured set of concepts, assumptions, and discursive approaches to produce, interpret, and evaluate knowledge about non-European people. Differences are present in all situations of public space construction and seek the meaning of interculturality through the arts and aesthetics of everyday life, representing all its subtleties related to the decolonial movement. That is the possible meaning of postcolonial aesthetics when considering overcoming differences in alternative forms of coexistence with new perspectives concerning cultural diversity in urban spaces of the Global South.

© documenta fifteen 2022

Duration of the exhibition: June 18–September 25, 2022

Artistic Direction by ruangrupa

Artistic Team

Andrea Linnenkohl, Ayşe Güleç, Frederikke Hansen, Gertrude Flentge, and Lara Khaldi

Finding Committee

Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore

Charles Esche, Director Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven
Amar Kanwar, artist, filmmaker, New Delhi
Frances Morris, Director Tate Modern London

Gabi Ngcobo, Curatorial Director Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria
Elvira Dyangani Ose, Director MACBA Contemporary Art Museum in Barcelona
Philippe Pirotte, Professor at Städelschule, Frankfurt a. M., Associate Curator Gropius Bau Berlin, Associate Curator Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Jochen Volz, Director Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Organized by documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH

Shareholders: State of Hessen, City of Kassel

Director General documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH

Dr. Sabine Schormann

documenta fifteen is organized under the auspices of documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH with the City of Kassel and the State of Hessen in their capacity as shareholders.

Funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). Funded by the Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media).

The lumbung network is supported by Goethe-Institut.

Main partner of documenta fifteen: Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe (Savings Banks Finance Group), Volkswagen AG