Documenta fifteen participants and ruangrupa art directors, collectively known as the lumbung community, announcement on September 10 that they “categorically refused” to accept the preliminary conclusions of the Documenta shareholder-appointed advisory committee which called for the immediate closure of the Tokyo Reels presentation of the film by the Subversive Film collective at the documenta fortnight. The Lumbung community said the advisory committee’s report “marks a racist drift into a pernicious structure of censorship” and denounced the committee’s recommendation as a “vicious attempt at censorship”.
The statement from the lumbung community, titled “we are angry, we are sad, we are tired, we are united”, was published on a dedicated site website and also via E-flow. It was released shortly after the advisory committee released its very abridged first report. recommendations September 10 (only in German and not in English, which is not the organisation’s usual practice of bilingualism for press releases). The advisory board wrote that it believed the “most urgent task” was “to stop the showing of the compilation of pro-Palestinian propaganda films from the 1960s-1980s by the collective subversive movie shown as Tokyo Reels Film Festival” and said the commentary provided between the films “legitimate[s] the hatred of Israel and the glorification of terrorism in the source material through their uncritical discussion. The advisory board also remarked that it believed that these films, entrusted by the Japanese filmmaker Massao Adachia former member of the Japanese Red Army with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – “pose a greater danger in their potentially inciting effect than the work People’s justice [by Taring Padi]which has already been deleted.
The advisory panel took particular issue with a remark in the films that Israel has a “fascist” trait and was committing “genocide” against the Palestinians, which led the panel to conclude that “Israeli policy” was “associated to National Socialists,” which the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has called an anti-Semitic trope. The committee notes that the Japanese Red Army was recruited by the PFLP to carry out terrorist attacks, notably at Lod airport in 1972. The committee wrote that the “resumption of film screenings would only be conceivable if they contextualized in ways that clearly indicated their propaganda character, clearly identified their anti-Semitic elements and corrected historical misrepresentations”.
The Lumbung community’s statement referred to a more detailed preliminary report it had seen and cited the committee’s broader findings that criticize “the curatorial and organizational structural environment that has enabled an anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli climate.” to prevail”. The Lumbung community in turn rejected the advisory committee’s use of the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism, ‘which allows criticism of the State of Israel and criticism of Zionism to be confused with anti-Semitism and to “bypass the rigorous task of defining its terms.” . . effectively erasing their vast differences in metonymic blurring. The pessimistic letter characterized “the committee’s oppressive and pseudo-scientific approach. . . a way of projecting and transposing German guilt and history into Palestinian struggles and other anti-colonial struggles.
The presentation of the Subversive Film collective at the Hübner areal is still visible. Documenta fifteen will end its 100-day run on September 25.
HG Masters is ArtAsiaPacific‘s Associate Editor and Associate Publisher.