An art collective and the documenta

An art collective and the documenta

They like kassel, because it is already quiet like this. So different from her hometown of jakarta, which has a population of 30 million people in its metropolitan area. This is what iswanto hartono, who belongs to the indonesian art collective ruangrupa, tells the german press agency in an interview.

The group, with a core team of ten people, will organize the documenta in kassel in two years (18. June to 25. September 2022) design. It is also intended to appeal to people who are not interested in art in their everyday lives.

It’s not an easy legacy. Documenta 2017 was curated by adam szymczyk. His greece experiment flopped: with two locations in kassel and athens, the exhibition left a deficit of 7.6 million euros. The state of hesse and the city of kassel stepped in with a bursary. Managing director annette kulenkampff had to go, sabine schormann became the new general manager. Szymczyk’s artistic concept did not receive good marks either.

Now ruangrupa, which means "space of art" in indonesian. They had known that the documenta was a rough institution. But they had never been there. "What we knew about documenta? Nothing," says member reza afisina in an office in jakarta piled high with books. "We knew it existed, but we never thought much about it."They are aware of the high expectations, but are optimistic that their documenta will be a success.

For the history of germany’s most important art exhibition there are two premieres: the first curators from asia are. And it is the first time since the beginning in 1955 that a collective will design the documenta. Both reflect current trends: the view is moving away from europe. The team idea is often found in the cultural sector. The berlinale has a double head, in the theater collectives are already long prasent.

Ruangrupa is no stranger to the art world. Her works have already been shown at the biennials in sao paulo and istanbul or at the centre pompidou in paris. In jakarta, they participate in the "gudskul", an oko-study center.

In pictures, they look like a troupe of art hipsters cavorting in galleries around the world. What they do exactly? Hard to say. Actually, everything: exhibitions, festivals, workshops, research, books, etc. They deal with the history of sugar as well as with indonesian underground music of the 70s, you can read on their homepage.

In an exhibition on the history of documenta in kassel in the fall, they showed a taste: a living room in the style of the 50s/60s. Visitors could mark on a map the places in the hessian city that are important to them. Ruangrupa had a free hand. "They then did what they are known for: chill out, relax, communicate," said exhibition organizer harald klimpel.

But they are also concerned with serious issues. They want to focus on healing "injuries" caused by economic and colonial exploitation. "We want our approach to address various issues of the present, including fascism, racism and economic inequality," says iswanto hartono.

When it comes to indonesia, many people in germany probably first have to look at the map to see where it is located: northwest of australia. It used to be a dutch colony and today has 260 million inhabitants. It is the most populous muslim-majority country in the world. However, many people are more familiar with indonesia because of the orang-utans or the vacation island of bali.

Now art from southeast asia: the ruangrupa team doesn’t want to just churn out rough projects, but leave something more lasting in kassel. They want to look for the exchange with the artists and collectives, to take part in the happenings. Iswanto says: "we don’t want to end up there like aliens."

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