Shareholders of Documenta Introduce Scientific Advisory Panel

Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Shareholders of Documenta Introduce Scientific Advisory Panel

Seven scholars with outstanding academic expertise in the fields of antisemitism, perspectives from global contexts and post-colonialism, art and constitutional law will advise documenta in the coming months.

Seven scholars with outstanding academic expertise in the fields of antisemitism, perspectives from global contexts and post-colonialism, art and constitutional law will advise documenta in the coming months. The committee will be chaired by Prof. Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff, executive board member of the Leibniz Institute “Peace Research Institute Frankfurt” (HSFK) and executive spokesperson of the “Research Institute for Social Cohesion” (FGZ). This was announced by the shareholders of documenta and Museum Fridericianum gGmbH. In the light of the antisemitic incidents the Supervisory Board has agreed on July 15, 2022 to adopt several measures, including a scientific advisory panel. The aim is to ensure that documenta continues to enjoy its worldwide unique status as an exhibition for contemporary art in Kassel.

The proposal for the appointment of the advisory panel was developed by Angela Dorn, Hessian Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts, and Dr. Susanne Völker, Head of the Cultural Department of the City of Kassel on behalf of the shareholders of documenta and Museum Fridericianum gGmbH. The Supervisory Board approved the proposal and recommended it to the shareholdersʼ meeting, which also confirmed it.

“We would like to thank the scientists who make their scientific expertise available at such short notice. For such top-class researchers, this is by no means natural, as they have numerous other obligations,” explained Kasselʼs Lord Mayor Christian Geselle, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of documenta, his deputy on the Supervisory Board, Angela Dorn, and Head of the Cultural Department Dr. Susanne Völker.

The scientists are responsible for the first review of the processes, structures and receptions around the documenta fifteen. They should make recommendations for the overhaul of documenta structures and discuss which aspects might require a more in-depth scientific analysis. They will also discuss possible further antisemitic imagery and language as well as works already identified as antisemitic. They will present their results to the Supervisory Board and the shareholders. To start a dialogue the results will be made then available to documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH and the curators. The freedom of arts is protected, the curatorial responsibility remains the explicit task of the Artistic Direction ruangrupa. “We have brought together scientists with very different perspectives and from very different disciplines to foster a constructive, multi-perspective dialogue and, through that, advance a process that will give us as shareholders important and independent impulses for the necessary changes in the future. There will probably also be discussions about how to deal with what happened and how to react to some works of art where no uniform assessment within the advisory panel can be reached. It is crucial that the different viewpoints are transparent and enter into a dialogue with one another,” Geselle and Dorn added.

“With the recommendation for scientific support, the supervisory board has clearly positioned itself to effectively combat antisemitism and other group-focused forms of hostility in arts and culture. Taking into account the constitutionally protected freedom of art, we expect that references to possible antisemitic imagery and the promotion of Israel-related antisemitism will be thoroughly looked after,” underlines Christian Geselle, Mayor of Kassel, speaking in his role as Chairman of the Supervisory Board.

"The reoccurring antisemitic motifs seen at documenta fifteen demonstrate the continuous actuality and reproduction of antisemitism. It is therefore essential, that the antisemitic incidences and the related reception and events are reviewed and examined by the scientific advisory panel. The scientific analysis of other works with regard to antisemitic motifs will be of utter importance to us shareholders in the coming weeks. On this basis long lasting lessons for dealing with antisemitic incidences in art and culture can be drawn and thus have an effect beyond documenta. Coming to terms with what has happened and learning for the future might help to regain the trust lost in the past few weeks,” says Angela Dorn.

“The loss of trust around the incidences of antisemitic motifs overshadow this documenta and put it into a different light. Our aim is now to engage in a factful and thorough discourse and mutual dialogue to restore trust. In a variety of artistic projects, documenta fifteen poses the essential questions of our time. A science based and sophisticated review of the antisemitic incidents and their contexts is necessary and at the same time will also make it possible to open up for the artworks at the documenta again,” explains Dr. Susanne Völker.

“Our scientific support has a central aim: To research how the antisemitic incidences could have happened and develop recommendations, on how in the context of the running exhibition and beyond it can be dealt with as well as to prevent that it will not happen again,” so the chair, Prof. Dr. Deitelhoff. The advisory panel will be supported in terms of content and organization by Dr. Cord Schmelzle, coordinator of the Frankfurt branch of the FGZ.

The committee will set a special focus beyond document fifteen, as the committee can initiate in-depth scientific studies. The scientific analysis of those works of art at documenta fifteen, that have been hinted to use antisemitic imagery or language, is to be carried out while the exhibition is still running. “The facsimile of the brochure of “Presence des Femmes” and therein shown drawing of the artist Burhan Karkoutly is another item with antisemitic imagery. This shows how important the review is. We, the shareholders, are aware of the great public interest in the findings and recommendations of the advisory panel. However, scientific work requires a certain amount of thoroughness and concentration, which we want to grant. We ask for your understanding that press work will be targeted and members do not want to and will not express themselves publicly and individually,” conclude Geselle and Dorn.

Members of the advisory committee are:

Prof. Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff (Chair), Professor of International Relations and Theories of Global Order at the Goethe University Frankfurt, Executive Board Member of the Leibniz Institute “Peace Research Institute Frankfurt” (HSFK) and contact person there for Global Governance, Domination and Resistance in global politics, international criminal justice, international humanitarian law. Executive spokesperson for the “Research Institute for Social Cohesion” (FGZ).

Prof. Dr. Marion Ackermann, Director General of the Dresden State Art Collections; Art historian, Germanist and curator. Scientific focus: Art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Prof. Dr. Julia Bernstein, Professor for Discrimination and Inclusion in the Immigration Society at the Department of Social Work and Health at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. The focus of her work is in the field of antisemitism research and aims to transfer it to educational work in particular. In 2017 she led the qualitative part of the study “Jewish perspectives on antisemitism in Germany,” a study which was carried out on behalf of the second independent expert group on antisemitism. In 2021 she participated in the development of recommendations on dealing with antisemitism in schools by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the federal and state-level commission of antisemitism commissioners and the conference of ministers of education.

Marina Chernivsky, Psychologist and behavioral scientist. She is the founder and Managing Director of the OFEK e.V. counseling center for antisemitic violence and Head of the competence center for prevention and empowerment of the ZWST. She researches (among other things) the history of the impact of National Socialism and antisemitism and is co-director of the study series “Anti-Semitism in the context of schools” of the federal states in cooperation with the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. Until 2017 she was a member of the Second Independent Expert Group on antisemitism and co-editor of the German Bundestag’s second antisemitism report. Since 2019 she has been a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight against antisemitism. Prof. Peter Jelavich, PhD, Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University; Cultural and intellectual history of Europe since the Enlightenment, with an emphasis on Germany. Research focus: Censorship of the arts in Germany since 1890; and German-Jewish cultural history, especially popular culture.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Möllers, Professor of Public Law and Legal Philosophy at Humboldt University in Berlin and Permanent Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg for questions of constitutional law.

Prof. Dr. Facil Tesfaye, Junior Professor at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Hong Kong and visiting fellow at the EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) in Paris. He received his doctorate from McGill University (Montréal/Canada) and previously obtained a masterʼs degree in Political Science from the Université du Quebec à Montréal. He completed his basic studies in African Studies and Political Science at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Expert in German colonial medical history and global contexts.

Other scientists can also be consulted, for example as experts. Among them as a consultant for the constitution of the panel: Prof. Dr. Meron Mendel, Professor of Social Work at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and Director of the Anne Frank Educational Center. Publicist, historian, educator.


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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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