Scurrying Towards Kassel

In Germany, a grotesque coalition across the political spectrum has managed to effectively outlaw any substantial criticism of Israeli settler-colonialism, equating such critique categorically with antisemitism. This coalition ranges from the far right and the liberal-conservative center to the ex/quasi-leftists of the so-called “Anti-German” movement, which might as well be called “Utra-German” in its tendency to lecture intellectuals and artists of colour, and critical Israelis, on ze korrekt Dscherman way to deal with the Holocaust. Intellectually dishonest and politically deluded, the Antideutschen have certainly perfected the German art of transmuting feelings of guilt about grandpa’s Third Reich shenanigans into a wonderful sense of righteousness and superiority. Am deutschen Wesen wird die Welt genesen—one more time! Who cares if some vague group of barely human beings is made to suffer, allegedly? Surely they only have themselves to blame for they abysmal failure to be white. Why, many of them are even Muslims!

If the Anti-Germans are something of a fringe movement, they represent an extreme version of what is a suffocating dogma. The Bundestag’s BDS resolution has created a climate of fear. Hosting Achille Mbembe or Walid Raad in your institution might lead to your funding being cut. At its core, we’re talking about an extremely well-orchestrated campaign by a few key players and many, many useful idiots in politics and the media—from general weeklies such as Die Zeit and monomaniacal Antideutsche periodicals such as the loonie haven that is Jungle World to art magazines that ones prided themselves on their critical thinking. For some time now, the campaign has targeted ruangrupa, the Documenta’s artistic/curatorial collective. In the German McCarthyite imaginary, ruangrupa is antisemitic because they’re from Indonesia, which is a Muslim-majority country, geddit?

As a result, the forum We need to Talk! Art — Freedom — Solidarity, which was supposed to provide a platform for discussing these matters, has been cancelled by the Documenta organization, because a “free and productive discussion” seemed “impossible.” A strong contender for the 2022 German Irony Award! Oh, and there’s a whole history of acts of vandalism and intimidation occurring at Documenta-related sites in Kassel, including the ruruHaus and the premises of the Palestinian collective The Question of Funding. Candice Breitz shared a statement by Documenta insiders on a certain platform:

There is, by now, also some good reporting on this in the German press, but on the whole what passes for the deutsche Öffentlichkeit seems utterly incapable of self-criticism and self-correction in the matter. There have been statements by cultural institutions protesting against the BDS resolution, and warning of the consequences; there has been the petition Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced. I don’t see much of an echo. In the short term, at least, critical interventions such as A. Dirk Moses’ “Katechismus der Deutschen” only seem to have provided more fodder for the dominant discourse; Moses’ decolonial diagnosis of a ritualistic German Erinnerungskultur does not so much fall on deaf ears as its prose is parsed for snippets that can be de- and recontexualized for yet another article that affirms said “catechism.” And another one. And another one.

What is to be done? I wish I knew, beyond something must be done.

Top image: Stickers pasted onto the ruruHaus, Kassel.

Tip for further listening: Recently (before the attack on their premises), Errant Journal did a podcast with The Question of Funding, which can be found on Soundcloud and Spotify.