Jenny Wustenberg in conversation with Rosanne Kennedy

Jenny Wustenberg (Nottingham Trent) in conversation with Rosanne Kennedy (ANU)

“German Memory Culture and Politics: the Documenta 15 Controversy in Context”German Memory Culture and Politics: the Documenta 15 Controversy in Context”

Thursday 17 November, 4.30-6pm, A. D. Hope G28

When Documenta 15 opened in Kassel, Germany this year, it ignited controversy that plagued it throughout. A massive artwork, ‘People’s Justice’, produced by Indonesian collective Taring Padi and displayed in Kassel’s main square, was immediately criticized as antisemitic. The painting was removed and the Indonesian collective in charge of curating Documenta 15, ruangrupa, issued an apology. The curatorial collective took the premise of lumbung–an Indonesian word associated with community rather than the individual–as a basis for inviting Global South artists and collectives to participate. Even before Documenta 15 opened, controversy swirled around the Palestinian collective, Question of Funding, which had supported the BDS movement against Israel. The Documenta controversy has generated extensive commentary on topics including antisemitism, fascism, Israel/Palestine, decolonialism in the arts and international and national frames of reception. In this seminar, Rosanne Kennedy will be in conversation with Jenny Wustenberg, who will provide an overview of German memory culture and politics to help us better understand the Documenta controversy. Rosanne, who visited Documenta 15 and other exhibitions in Berlin featuring work from the Global South, including by First Nations Australian artists, will summarise some of the critical commentary on the debate and share her reflections as a visitor.

Jenny Wüstenberg is Professor of History & Memory Studies at Nottingham Trent University. She is the author of Civil Society and Memory in Postwar Germany (Cambridge UP 2017) and the co-editor of Agency in Transnational Memory Politics (with Aline Sierp, 2020) and the Routledge Handbook of Memory Activism (with Yifat Gutman, 2022) and De-Commemoration: Making Sense of Contemporary Calls to Remove Statues and Change Place Names (with Sarah Gensburger, forthcoming). Her research interests concern the contentious politics of memory, slow-moving change, and methodology in memory studies.

Rosanne Kennedy is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Culture and Literary Studies at the Australian National University. Her research explores the diversity of cultural forms through which writers, filmmakers and activists mediate and activate the past in the present, and appears in Memory Studies, Signs, Biography, Comparative Literature Studies, Studies in the Novel, Australian Feminist Studies and elsewhere.

Colleagues who are interested in reading about the controversy can find articles by Michael Rothberg, Dirk Moses and others here:

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 861 8419 0389 / Password: 2022

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