Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sermon addresses anti-Semitism at Documenta

Collective Thoughts: Das House of One auf der Gedankenwand der "documenta 15" m Museum Fridericianum in Kassel.
Die "documenta 15" in Kassel ist überschattet von der Debatte über antisemitische Darstellungen auf einem zentralen, inzwischen entfernten Kunstwerk.

A serious discussion about the latest example of an anti-Semitic provocation in Germany is called for by Gregor Hohberg. The Protestant clergyman and co-founder of the House of One spoke as part of Kassel's "God in the City" series of services on Sunday (Juli 3, 2022) at St. Martin's Church there. The focus of the series "God in the City" is the search for traces of God in the city. Currently, however, the anti-Semitism debate surrounding the "Documenta fifteen" in Kassel is dominating the perception of the art show and was therefore also  subject of Hohberg's sermon.

Hohberg linked his plea for more dialogue and more exchange with the wish to ultimately be able to overcome such dehumanizing perspectives.

In Hohberg's view, the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi did not accidentally sprinkle two sinisterly depicted Jewish figures into their monumental object painting. "That's easy to determine." Rather, in their now-deleted work, the artists have assigned Jews a central role in their sinister ideology. This one is: Jews are to blame for the misery of this world.

"Sinister anti-Semitic worldview"

"In doing so, they reveal a sinister anti-Semitic worldview," Hohberg said. However, removing the image alone would do just as little to change this worldview as superficial apologies. "What is needed is an honest open conversation, a conversation that in the best case leads to insight and a change of attitude." The sermon in the Kassel church can certainly be part of such a conversation. It is at least an offer and call to the Indonesian artists to participate in it. Because it is already surprising, according to Hohberg, that a personal debate with the artists has not yet taken place. After all, this work has been around for about 20 years.

What do the artists really think about Jews? How did they arrive at their stance? Do they understand why and how they hurt Jews in Germany and around the world? These are questions that not only the artists, curators and those responsible for Documenta would have to ask themselves. Rather, each and every individual is also called upon to ask: Do I recognize my own blind spots when I am outraged by the image?  Hadn't the incomplete clarification of the NSU murder series in Germany or the murder of the German politician Walther Lübcke, also in Kassel, revealed anti-Semitic conspiracy ideologies?  According to a recent survey, do not one in five adults and one in three young people cling to anti-Semitic thoughts?

Pastor Hohberg: "We should seek honest conversation. It can, if I take my dark sides just as seriously as the good ones of the others, change me and the others, can bring us forward together, can push back anti-Semitism."