Just days before the launch of a panel series aimed at addressing issues related to anti-Semitism, racism, and Islamophobia, the organizers of the prestigious quinquennial Documenta canceled the event amid a row with a German Jewish group.
The talks were scheduled to take place over the course of three weeks beginning on May 7. They had been planned as a response to allegations of anti-Semitism brought against the organizers of the 2022 edition.
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Titled “We need to talk!,” the event series was to include speakers such as artist Hito Steyerl, curator Anselm Franke, and Eyal Weizman, an architect and the founder of the group Forensic Architecture. Documenta said it made the decision to “suspend” the event “in consultation with various participants.”
A local German Jewish organization had accused select participating artists with Palestinian roots of being “anti-Israeli activists.” Documenta denied that the inclusion of those artists was anti-Semitic and called the claims “racist” and “destructive.”
In February, the Alliance Against Anti-Semitism Kassel said it had found links between those artists and the BDS movement, a Palestinian-run initiative known that calls for a boycott of Israel.
“Documenta will open the exhibition and first let it speak for itself, as a basis for continuing the discussion in a productive manner,” the organizers said in a statement on Wednesday. A new date for the discussions has not been announced.
The news follows criticism of “We need to talk!” from the leader of a Jewish advocacy group.
In a letter penned this week, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, accused Documenta of exhibiting “a clear bias against anti-Semitism” in its plans to hold the talks series meant to to address the topic. Roth responded a day later in an interview with the press agency dpa by siding with Documenta, saying, “Artistic freedom is a key point.”