A Kassel diary


"We come here as equals. We come here in power, and we come here to put
ourselves in the public domain, with nothing to hide or be ashamed of. We
come here as nothing less than equals, who can humbly learn from each other,
who can help each other, who care about each other, because we know that our
interdependency is the only path toward a more just planetary future."



This statement on the 10th of September '22, signed by 100 collective
artists that acted as   <> lumbung
artists in  <> Documenta Fifteen, terminated
Documenta Fifteen a week earlier than planned. Lumbung represents an
artistic and economic model focused on sustaining a continued collective
practice rather than producing collectible art objects.

I had the privilige to visit this Docementa in what turned out to be the
last weekend of this episode. I have seen and felt the power, the beauty and
the dynamics as I  moved around in the environment called Kassel, in "a
constellation of public spheres"  (Okwui Enwezor, 2011) . And I felt
tension, a certain suspense, or rather an absence. 


We are angry, we are sad, we are tired, we are united: Letter from lumbung

The title of the last lumbung statement in context of Documenta, was a
response to the final opinion of a would-be scientific board (scientific
advisory panel, appointed by the Supervisory Board of Documenta gGmbH in
August 2022) that took the liberty of judging the moral value of the whole
thing, including the lumbing way of working and organizing. This opinion was
called for in the light of the fierce attacks for being anti-semitic,
ant-Israel and therefore propagating the Palestinian strand of


It was the absence of the lumbung artists in the venues that struck me,
together with the lack of interaction between and among the visitors. No
doubt the artists were brooding on their manifesto. And we the visitors were
drifting along, in wonders. What I was looking for, having read about the
attacks on the artists and the dumbness of the Documenta directors, was how
the collective reacted to the German concerns which had effectively
dominated the media reports on Documenta. I missed it in the weekend, but
then it came to me on Monday. 


"We know what it means to be discriminated against due to color, ethnicity,
religion, gender, sexuality, origin, caste, and/or disability. We understand
the ways that our different anti-colonial struggles intersect. And that
these struggles are faced in everyday life in society at large. We are
committed to art's role in resisting these broader societal injustices. And
in the context of documenta fifteen and the specificities of the German
context we see that the targeting of Palestinian artists is the point at
which our anti-colonial struggles meet, and have become a focal point for
attack. Anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian racism, anti-queer, transphobia,
anti-Roma, abelism, casteism, anti-black, xenophobia and other forms of
racisms are racisms that the German society must deal with in addition to


Rather than letting yourself be stifled by this show of German soul
searching.  you strike back by reaffirming your fundamental values and
working principles,  thereby denouncing your German host's for censoring
your art, if not your existence.

This institute, Documenta along with its directors, boards, scientists, and
sponsors has demonstrated no more that their impotence of transcending their
own identity complex, missing the chance to decolonize itself. Germany is
still its history. Memory is still guilt. Kassel is still Auschwitz.


Having said that, the substance of Documenta Fifteen is much more than an
exposure of contemporary colonialism or the struggles against it. It is also
more than just taking over a Western institution, be it an old church or
Documenata itself. To me, in essence, the lumbung way has resulted in an
attempt to introduce the mostly white western visitors  to other value
systems, other forms of social life  and other ways of expression.  It
offered visitors a chance to be seduced,  convinced and  embraced by  this
gathering of communities and collectives.  


"Documenta fifteen is not a static, curated exhibition that remains the same
throughout the 100 days. Instead, the venues are constantly changing: they
are places in which to meet, discuss, and learn. Exhibition buildings become
living rooms, and together the artists decide how to use each venue. Through
this process, the rooting of artistic practice in daily life is made
tangible. documenta fifteen seeks to test alternative approaches to economy,
collectivity, and sustainability through the practice of lumbung. Even if
this approach is not visible at first glance, it may be noticeable at the
venues and in the programs."


Harmony and balance are valued  higher than conflict and contrast. In a
sense, the lumbung collective exposes itself as such: in harmony, open and
embracing.  Not so much searching for confrontation but for meeting and
exchange. Baking mud cakes according to a Haitian tradition recipe from
Kassel earth. Bringing rituals together in niches of the St. Kunigundis (
<> Atis
Rezistans). Feeling your creative compost in the
<> Holobiente
in Karlsaue Park. So many ways to look around, and to look at yourself.


I did have some intercourse with the works, I was absorbed and overwhelmed
and warmed and all that. But it did not move, not shake, not any more. No
wonder, when the protagonists had left the space already (I only read the
tekst of their statement the day after).


Just as we can blame Documenta for being colonial, we could call lumbung
naive. How could they expect the West/Europe to accept without a whisper all
collective powers invading the cultural heart of Europe? Lumbung did not
come to topple the institute or invade the Volksraum, but confronted with a
wall of shame, the lumbung saw itself orced to manifest its resilience and
orbital interdependency, by leaving Documenta behind like a fossil. Naive?
Or just a new beginning?


We are outraged, we are exhausted, but our struggle will continue.

"Lumbung Gallery is planned to extend beyond the duration of documenta
fifteen as a registered entity of its own. Collectors, public institutions
and communities are invited to form their own Lumbungs and participate in
the sharing of artworks."


Cheers! See you soon!


Jo van der Spek (1956)

Kassel-Amsterdam sept. 2022



http://letterver <> public work 23rd of september

make it happen:

NL53TRIO0338573607 t.n.v. Stichting Migrant 2 Migrant o.v.v. LetterVerZ


Jo van der Spek M2M


Stichting Migrant 2 Migrant <> 


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