The Indonesian collective ruangrupa, the curators of this year’s edition of Documenta, told the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, during a hearing Wednesday that it had not discriminated against Israeli and Jewish artists while organizing the famed recurring German art show.
Some Jewish groups in Germany had pointed to the inclusion of the Palestinian collective the Question of Funding, which they claimed supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, as a sign of an anti-Israeli bias at Documenta 15. It turned out in the end that there was at least one Israeli artist in the show, which is currently running in Kassel.
The controversy over the Question of Funding—and another separate one revolving around a mural by the Indonesian collective Taring Padi that contained anti-Semitic imagery—has become a hot-button issue in Germany. Certain politicians, among them culture minister Claudia Roth, have dangled the possibility that some federal funding could be pulled from future Documenta editions if the show does not initiate reforms.
Ade Darmawan, a member of ruangrupa, appeared in the Bundestag on Wednesday to speak before politicians about the group’s intentions with the show. Addressing the allegations that there were no Israeli and Jewish artists in this year’s edition, Darmawan reportedly said, “There is no boycott.”
He added that there were, in fact, Israeli and Jewish artists in Documenta 15, but he did not name them because they did not want to be identified.
Darmawan also spoke about the Taring Padi mural, which has been removed. “We apologize for the pain and fear that the anti-Semitic elements in the figures and drawings have caused in all those who saw them on the spot or in the media coverage reproductions,” Darmawan said.
Meanwhile, Taring Padi spoke as a group to the German publication Die Zeit and reiterated its apology for the mural. In the interview, the collective called the piece a “mistake” and claimed that it was not fully aware that some of its imagery was anti-Semitic when it produced the work in 2002.
“We had learned something about the Holocaust and the Nazi regime at school, but nothing about anti-Semitism per se,” Taring Padi said. “It’s part of our learning process now, as we speak and reflect on the subject. We shouldn’t have been so careless. We should have been more empathetic, more thoughtful.”