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  • Jul 05, 2021

Documenta Fifteen to Proceed in 2022

Members of documenta fifteen’s artistic team in front of ruruHaus, Kassel, 2021. From left to right: LARA KHALDI, ISWANTO HARTONO, GERTRUDE FLENTGE, MIRWAN ANDAN, FREDERIKKE HANSEN, JULIA SARISETIATI, REZA AFISINA, AJENG NURUL AINI, ADE DARMAWAN, and INDRA AMENG. Photo by Nicolas Wefers. Courtesy Documenta, Kassel.

Documenta fifteen will go ahead as planned, from June 18 to September 25, 2022, despite the ongoing pandemic. The decision to proceed was announced on July 2 by the festival’s shareholders—the city of Kassel and the German state of Hesse—and supervisory board, after careful deliberations about safety as well as the feasibility of realizing the curatorial concept amid logistical restrictions, a major issue that sparked postponement considerations back in January.

Envisioned by Indonesian artist collective ruangrupa, and inspired by lumbungs—rice barns where communities store and share crops—the quinquennial’s 15th edition probes ideas of collectivity, sustainability, and resource sharing. Adjustments have been made to facilitate the show, such as the choice of large indoor and outdoor venues, and the relocation of planning discussions and public programs online. “A postponement seemed to be the wrong signal,” said Angela Dorn, the Hessian minister of higher education, research, and the arts. “Like every Documenta, this one will also be a reflection of its time.” Ade Darmawan, a member of ruangrupa, added: “The idea of postponing means that we are envisioning a time when things can go back to normal, but this likely won’t happen. We need to live with these new normalities.”

Other possible adaptations include scaling down exhibits and visitor numbers to comply with social distancing measures. Both the state and the city have also agreed to bear the extra costs of testing sites, social distancing facilities, and lower revenues from decreased ticket sales. “More important than aiming for new attendance records, the goal is to send a signal of hope emanating from culture,” according to Christian Geselle, chairman of the documenta supervisory board and lord mayor of Kassel.

Ruangrupa has already selected 53 artists from 14 collectives for the show and will announce the complete list of participants this September. On April 3, the group launched documenta fifteen’s public programming with a series of online conversations called “lumbung calling.” At ruruHaus, the group’s base in Kassel, they will continue to run programs, including Fussballaballa, a series of screenings and discussions on the European Football Championship.

Judy Chiu is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.