The chancellor refuses to visit an art exhibition – so what. After all, he has better things to do. Stop all the peaks. The war. But Scholz’s cancellation of the Documenta is of fundamental importance. It is an announcement about the German reason of state. At the same time, Scholz rigorously clears up some left-wing myths.
Scholz finds this undoubtedly anti-Semitic hodgepodge “disgusting”, which was first covered in black after protests and then dismantled. After the Documenta directors had maliciously put it in the central place at the last moment before the opening of the exhibition. The FAZ editor Jürgen Kaube therefore spoke of a “Documenta of deviousness”.
The work called “People’s Justice” by the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi caused a wave of outrage far beyond the Jewish community, the central council of Jews. The controversial installation shows, among other things, a soldier with a pig face. He wears a scarf with a Star of David and a helmet with the inscription “Mossad” – the name of the Israeli foreign intelligence service.
The culture spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Helge Lindh, is reminded of the picture of the Nazi “striker”. Michel Friedman has filed a complaint. The chancellor demands, via a government spokeswoman in the “Jüdische Allgemeine”, “consequences” of the “Documenta line”. That’s certainly breaking a taboo, but one with an announcement, we’ll come back to that later. The breaking of the taboo consists in the fact that the very highest politicians for the first time offensively deny that art is allowed to do everything.
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At the beginning of this documenta, the Indonesian artist collective was commissioned to curate this exhibition. Even this was anything but a purely artistic act. It was political. This artist collective did not accept the commission as such, but because it was supposed to represent the “Global South”. The “global south” are – in the leftist understanding – those who are subjugated by the “global north” and exploited by capitalism – to this day. To whom justice was now allowed to be done at this Documenta. So far, so naive the approach of those responsible for Documenta.
Naïve because the “global south” is not only nice, but also susceptible to ideology – precisely because anti-Semitism is part of the anti-capitalist narrative here, more cautiously: can be. In any case, there is a recent example: the newly elected Colombian President Gustavo Petro, a left-wing ex-guerrilla, compared Israel to the Nazis (the Nazis’ oppression of the Jews is the same as the Israelis’ oppression of the Palestinians…).
And, further down the text: “But as long as the Jews, the Holocaust and the State of Israel are a problem for postcolonialism, postcolonialism must remain a problem for the West.” Postcolonialism as a problem, as a burden for the West, that’s the new thing. Bad news for the left, regardless of whether they are green or social democratic or left-wing. It’s about her self-image.
Why the Scholz rejection was an announcement has to do with the Federal President. And in this case, it is significant that it is a social democrat (although heads of state commonly put their party membership on hold during tenure). Steinmeier had opened the Documenta – and was the first Federal President to declare that he had struggled with whether he should come to Kassel at all for this purpose.
Steinmeier’s hesitation and finally coming is related to the relationship between two ideal state goods, the freedom of art and the freedom from anti-Semitism. And Steinmeier made two things unmistakably clear: freedom of art cannot mean “that all those who use art for their political messages remain outside of criticism. Especially not when they turn political activism into an art form.” And, basically:
“Nobody who wants to be taken seriously as a debater in Germany can speak to Israel, but remain silent about six million murdered Jews.” Steinmeier’s reaction to the fact that one looks in vain for Israeli artists at the Documenta. But again, that’s no wonder. Because: For months, the accusation has been made that the organizers of the event are close to the anti-Israel BDS movement, which the Bundestag recently condemned. Steinmeier was also crystal clear on this: “A boycott of Israel is tantamount to a refusal to exist.”
The social-democratic course correction made, if you will, by the Federal President and Federal Chancellor now consists of clearly prioritizing the anti-totalitarian over the post-colonial and anti-capitalist. More than that: putting these left-wing icons under suspicion. That will still cause debates within the (cultural) left. They are necessary. It’s not the only left course correction that Scholz (and the Greens) are making. More on that later on FOCUS Online.