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10/11/2022 | Campus-Meldung

d15 - Research project analyzes anti-Semitism controversy

Under the title "Anti-Semitism and postcolonial debates using the example of documenta fifteen", research into the controversy surrounding documenta fifteen is being launched in Kassel and Frankfurt. The research project is a cooperation of the documenta Institut with the Bildungsstätte Anne Frank and the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences under the direction of Prof. Dr. Meron Mendel and Prof. Dr. Heinz Bude. The project, which will run from September 1, 2022 to December 31, 2023, is financed by the Innovation Fund of the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts.

Image: Sonja Rode.

The anti-Semitism controversy surrounding documenta fifteen is already one of the central cultural-political events of our time. Far from the question of how concrete anti-Semitism could occur at the documenta, it is precisely the controversy itself that reveals itself to be in need of interpretation. For in addition to the vehement discussions in the media with hardening positions, documenta fifteen also includes diverse experiences of a seemingly carefree festival atmosphere on site in Kassel.

 "In recent months, we have experienced how deadlocked the debate has become. With this study, we want to analyze what this polarization is due to, what basic conflicts come to light in it, and how organizers of international art and culture festivals can respond to such conflicts in the future," says Prof. Dr. Meron Mendel, director of the Anne Frank Educational Institution and professor of transnational social work at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.

Prof. Dr. Heinz Bude, sociologist and founding director of the documenta Institute in Kassel, emphasizes: "The epistemological backdrop of the documenta has become confused. This affects the system of contemporary art, the reputation of the Federal Republic, the identity of the city and the competence of the organization in equal measure. The whole thing has suffered a crack. The research project has the task of making the cracks recognizable, the repairs comprehensible and the consequences assessable."

The research project led by Prof. Dr. Meron Mendel and Prof. Dr. Heinz Bude will explore the question of how the various aspects of documenta fifteen come together in the specific case of the discussion about anti-Semitism. Based on interviews and observations of visitors and participants, the analysis of public discourse as well as group discussions with observers from the field of art, the controversy surrounding documenta fifteen will be elaborated. The aim is to make clear the affects in the arguments, the perspectives in the positions and the stakes in the attitudes.

The project is financed by the Innovation Fund of the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art. The Hessian Minister for Science and the Arts, Angela Dorn, says: "At documenta fifteen, anti-Semitic works were shown that should not have been shown. The debate about these works has once again proven how deeply anti-Semitism remains anchored in our society. With the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, the Bildungsstätte Anne Frank, and the documenta Institut, three top-class institutions are now working with their respective different know-how to draw lessons from this experience. We are making this unique and methodologically innovative collaboration possible in order to provide important scientific impulses for cultural policy and the cultural sector. Because anti-Semitism threatens the foundations of our peaceful coexistence and is diametrically opposed to free and open cultural exchange."

The Anne Frank Educational Center is accompanying the research project with workshops for sensitizing institutions in the arts and cultural sector to the topics of anti-Semitism and racism.