ruangrupaPhoto: Jin Panji, courtesy of documenta 15, Kassel
Kassel, Germany
June 18-September 25, 2022
At documenta 15, the politics and practices of collectivity are being tested in ways that have produced some of the most heated public debate in recent art history. Intentionally and unintentionally. The curators, members of ruangrupa, an Indonesian artists’ collective based in Jakarta, have set an incredibly high bar with an unfolding, sprawling, large, and contradictory project that changes the terms of biennale histories. By now, ruangrupa’s political positions and the violence levied toward its members, as well as the accusations of anti-Semitism and the media’s responses, have outpaced the politics embedded within the art practices themselves. That’s unfortunate, given the ambition of these years-long projects and the genuinely unprecedented approach to one of the art world’s best-established events — ruangrupa implores us to learn about collective approaches to sustainability and anti-capitalist or small-scale economic models, two areas in which innovation and experimentation are needed urgently.

All of the invited artists are collectives, and that alone makes this documenta unique. In turn, many of those collectives invited their own communities and collaborators to participate through dedicated exhibitions or projects. The guiding principle was “not big, but many” and with more than 1,500 participating artists, this documenta can hardly be considered only an exhibition. It’s more like an experiment in form that turns the city of Kassel and the contemporary-art establishment into sites for gathering, for friendship, for joy, for action.

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This article also appears in the issue 106 - Pain

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