Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced

Since it never rains but it pours, 2020 was also the year when Texte zur Kunst—already plagued by structural issues—committed an act of intellectual and political self-immolation with a badly misguided issue that played into the anti-BDS campaign by the German political and journalistic establishment. The debacle has been documented here.

Irrespective of one’s position on BDS, in Germany it has become impossible to even debate the merits and problems of this strategy, and to work with people who do support BDS, or are even suspected of harbouring some sympathies, since “BDS = Antisemitism.” There has now finally been a reaction by a number of German cultural institutions, the Initiative G.G. 5.3 Weltoffenheit, and a supporting letter by artists, academics and curators, Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced. This, at least, is a hopeful sign. (I co-signed the letter, and signature can still be added.)

The McCarthyite climate is probably difficult to imagine if you’re not based in or closely connected to Germany. Earlier this year I wrote an essay for an exhibition catalogue addressing some of the limitations (and ideological instrumentalizations) of German Erinnerungskultur and Vergangenheitsbewältigung. In an all too predictable performative confirmation of my point, my text was censored. It could only be published if I removed some crucial passages, which I did, since the curator was working within impossible institutional constraints. I’ll try to publish the integral version elsewhere, somewhere in the non-German parts of this decaying planet.

As we limp toward the end of this frequently dispiriting year, I hope that the holidays—even in lockdown—will be a restorative and joyful period for all who read this.

Image: Eran Schaerf, Schnappschuss, performance at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, May 17, 2019.