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July 26, 2022

Field Notes: Kim Córdova on INLAND at Documenta 15

Art & Education

INLAND, Cheese Pavilion. Installation view, Museum of Natural History Ottoneum, Kassel, June 28, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

INLAND, Cheese Pavilion. Installation view, Museum of Natural History Ottoneum, Kassel, June 28, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

INLAND, crafts and workshops materials. Installation view, Museum of Natural History Ottoneum, Kassel, June 15, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

INLAND, Cheese Pavilion. Installation view, Museum of Natural History Ottoneum, Kassel, June 28, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

INLAND, crafts and workshops materials. Installation view, Museum of Natural History Ottoneum, Kassel, June 15, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

Field Notes: INLAND, Documenta 15
by Kim Córdova

Whether as praise or complaint, you’ve probably heard of Indonesian art collective ruangrupa’s sprawling, radically decentered approach to curating Documenta 15. They have pushed back on the most basic tenets of art-industry professionalism including artist lists, commitment to announced public programming, installations being completed before the opening, and apparently knowing what works were going to be included. In a way, that was the point. Their collective-of-collectives lumbung framework dispensed with hierarchical organizational structures as an ideological stance. But curating by delegated committee, or what artist and curator Mohammad Salemy has likened to a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, created a Jesus-take-the-wheel rookie mistake of participatory action, proving that, as on the internet, Godwin’s law applies to the world’s foremost exhibitions of contemporary art. With estimates of around 1,500 artists credited as participating in Documenta 15, the scale and the distribution of responsibility and accountability made it all but guaranteed an offensive work would slip through the cracks. For many, the resulting central display of a work bearing anti-Semitic imagery ultimately made the strongest case for what ruangrupa’s lumbung was meant to be an alternative to—centralized curatorial authority.

If you are reading this, you are likely aware of the institutional crisis sparked by the Taring Padi piece that was removed. The story has taken on a media life of its own, invoking calls to shut down the exhibition and for the German cultural minister to resign, and provoked the resignation of Documenta’s director general Sabine Schormann. Among the voices and opinions chiming in on the nuances of the scandal was German artist Hito Steyerl, who contended in an op-ed that the whole affair suggests that the clock has run out on the “arrogant paradigm of the world art show” and perhaps even globalization as a project of Pax-Americana liberal hegemony. Steyerl’s opinion in the fray is notable given that she is, or was, also one of Documenta 15’s participating artists and by far the most high-profile in a roster that the art-industry establishment largely snubbed for operating outside its purview. Yet convoluted pre-opening media communications meant that for most viewers on day zero of the “Museum of 100 Days” her participation in the INLAND exhibition came as a surprise.

Founded by artist Fernando García-Dory in 2009, Campo Adentro, anglicized to INLAND, links artistic and agrarian labor in a freewheeling and difficult-to-define practice that merges community organizing and leadership development with ecological and pastoral aesthetic inquiry. Among INLAND’s many initiatives: study groups, a choir and canteen, an art academy, a global delegation of nomadic people, a twenty-two-village culture-based development program, a UN consultancy, a shepherd school, a school for peasant leaders, and a school of crafts. In Kassel, INLAND’s offerings are no less bountiful: an exhibition claiming to be an “un-folk museum” at the Museum of Natural History Ottoneum, a summer art academy, a “cave” for curing cheese and a pavilion for selling it. And finally, Cheesecoin, a conceptual collaboration with Steyerl on a cheese-based crypto-critical currency work of five hundred “coins” allegedly circulating in real life and tracked digitally.

Read more of Kim Córdova’s Field Notes review on Art & Education.

Field Notes is a new series of reviews from the next generation of art writers. Featuring texts on the 59th Venice Biennale and Documenta 15 contributed by students and recent graduates, Field Notes makes original connections between the work and the world and takes a closer look at what other observers might have missed.

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