27 Oct 2020
Five days later, the assembly continued. “Good morning all! Thank you! We are delighted, we would like to share our story” Bright smiles were on screens. They were Festival Le Sur Niger from Mali, West Africa. On the short video played, people enjoyed exhibitions, talks, and various kind of music. Men and women danced cheerfully. This yearly festival has been one of the drivers of cultural economy in their city, Segou. It was about 30 countries came and celebrate art there. “The Festival Le Niger has been important for local partners and public. This festival has been dealing with human values, respect values, and respecting one another. We have maya concept dealing with community,” said Attaher Maiga, representing the collective.
With the festival, they managed to generate a model that is based on art and culture while considering aspect of economy in the town. They create the basis or a space for sharing by incorporating maya concept. “We also collaborate with African music, the contemporary art, and other cultural initiatives.”
Since 2012, Mali has been enduring security issue, safety issue, under political economy issue, “This pushes us to organize this event.” Several times it was about to be postponed but people put expectation for this to happen. It is in within this festival knowledge, smartness met people including children of the villages through various activities through which they help one another in community.
“What is more important is the caravan for peace in Africa” It is where collaboration played important role. “We work on sharing values of Maya which is about human, sharing resources, creating solidarity. As each has activity, all the members come to share knowledge in a way that our activities could contribute to them. We have carried this event despite security issue. This is a mini Africa we had. This is our strength.”
For the near future, regarding Documenta 15, Festival le Sur Niger proposed maya building which is a human philosophy in Mali where a concept of sharing, artists ecosystem, storytellers could come together. “We are going to organize space and knowledge like mixture between maya and lumbung. We have theaters, music, the arts, musical instrument, even in storytelling. Why not we propose such festival where in this partnership of maya and lumbung we could expand and develop dialogue together, what we have in common.” Festival le Sur Niger have developed a great model of activities with this value of Maya. “That’s what help us to push leader to change” In terms of economy, it could be such reliance activity. “The benefit of this is supporting us. This is an economic model with supplies from local communities. We offer activities. We have things to share. This is a great platform for young artists and at the end of the day, we have a lot of visitors. The festival is like a driver … we make friends coming from all Africa. The sharing system should be constant, it should be ongoing”
It was a mesmerizing conversation as Festival Le Sur Niger also prepared a performance where a group of musician played music, but unfortunately the sound could not fit in the Zoom system so that it was not running as expected. Overall, it is inspiring with a lot of fresh ideas and knowledge. Festival le Sur Niger was the last lumbung member that told us the remarkable story on the last day. Yet it is not the end of the assembly as we are going to listen more stories from Kassel where Documenta 15 is going to take place. Andrea Linnenkohl would tell us about the history of documenta since the beginning.
“I will tell you a story of individual, from personal perspective because other than this you can read in the internet.” Andrea smiled. “So, this is the 15th Documenta.” First Documenta exhibition was in 1955. Ever since almost every five years one exhibition took place. The first four editions artistic director was Arnold Bode and his team. For Documenta 4 there were 24 people helped. He’s also the one who’s considered as founder of Documenta. He’s very active to make documenta possible. For everyone interested in more details, I’d be happy to share for you, please simply get in touch. Looking back to from the first four edition, there was a major change in documenta 5 in 1972. For the first time it was someone else outside Kassel to take over artistic directorship. But it was still someone who speak German. It was a milestone because it caused a big change who brought absolutely new perspective and new vision on art. But it was still single white male German speaking artistic director. It was still going in documenta 6 and 7, but one who is non-German speaking person. In 1997, for the first time the woman got in the position as artistic director. Then, 2002, for the first time Okwui Enwezor who put new context which was different from previous documenta that is too European in context in format and invented five platforms. In the run up to documenta 11, small gatherings and assembly took place in different parts of the world before the actually exhibition took place in Kassel. Documenta 12 was like going back to Kassel with … as artistic director who together as partner in artistic directorship … They share position as artistic director and curator. In documenta 13, again, the women took over the artistic director. But what was super important was that she moved part of exhibition to Kabul, to have an exhibition outside Kassel. This really also move the eyes to Kabul, Afganistan which was another milestone in history of documenta exhibition. For documenta fourteen was like a step back, again a white male single artistic director was chosen. On the other hand, there’s a change when the exhibition is divided in two parts, one in Kassel in another is Athen. Another major turn is right now, right here… a collective takes care of documenta 15, this is a super milestone in the history of documenta with the lumbung networks spreading over the world … it is like another milestone than just a section … I think so far so good.” As Andrea cheerfully ended her perspective on documenta history, Ayse, representing the artistic team, took over and told us a bit more on history and most importantly several findings and venues for the next documenta 15.
“Kassel has many histories, what should be told to people is really difficult, if you don’t want to be trapped in the city marketing.” Ayse began to share story through images. As the opening we could see a pretty view of the city from above, or as Ayse smilingly called it, from perspective of Hercules. The name of Kassel was firstly found in two documents at the royal court of Kassel in the year 913. An ancient map of Kassel from the year 1468 appeared on the slides. It was small and colorless. There were buildings and a river crossed the city. There about 205, 481 people living in Kassel today with 18,9 % of them are (post) migrants from different countries like Turkey, Yugoslavia, Burgaria and other countries. “For documenta fifteen we agreed to be in the parts of Kassel like center, North, South and the river Fulda,” said Ayse.
There are some main parts of Kassel like Bettenhausen neighborhood in the east that they put into consideration. There were big streets, many old houses, and empty buildings from 19th century there. It used to be a place where first industrialization in Kassel started. There are 8.277 people living in the poor neighborhood with the issue of unemployment especially old people. From the east, we all moved to the south where we could find an art university, Kunsthochschule, with beautiful buildings and are connected to Auepark, not so far from hardly visible river Fulda. Here is also the location of Brothers Grimm museum that is close to a town hall. There are 7.123 people living in this south.
In the north, there’s an image of buildings and a big street with a tram moving. It is characterized by a high concentration of industrial companies that is mainly weapons or tank production industry. There are 14.461 people living there with 34,8% are non-German inhabitants. There’s also a story of NSU, National Socialists Underground. There’re people killed in 2000 to 2007 and several of them were discovered in 2011. People were killed everywhere and the victims were Turkish, Kurdish, etc. One of the tragic stories was the killing of a 21 years old student named Halit Yozgat in his internet-café in the Hollandische street in Kassel. In the next slides there was a picture of people protesting. The family of the victims organized a demonstration with more than 4000 people joined. The struggle was going on in Kassel.
There’s also a constant struggle on the issue of weapon industry and tank production. August this year there was also a demonstration blocking the street because the companies sold these weapons to Turkey be used against the people in Kurdi and to many different countries in the world like in Africa and elsewhere.
Other significant spots we scrutinized further were the river Fulda, Buga Sea and the Auepark. Despite it is not so visible in the city, yet people have started to spend time here since 2016 to picnic, to enjoy. “I think it is related very much to the situation in 2015 and 2016 where refugees came to Kassel, to Germany when the border was opened for a short time and they could come to Germany.” There’s also Karlsaue State Park which is originally baroque and inner-city park in Kasel and part the European Garden Heritage Network since 2009. Other significant spot is Buga-Sea where regeneration of young people and families gathered. By the river Fulda, we could see how young people were having leisure time by lying on the earth facing the sky. In the next slide we all saw a picture which reminded us of Campo Adantro in Spain, “This especially for my friend Fernando,” said Ayse laughingly, “because there’s also one shepherd in Kassel. These are sheep from Auepark”
From Ayse, we listen to a short presentation by Martin Fokken who is in charge of production matters and he explained further about the venue. Martin has been working with Iswanto and Reza. On the screen a picture of big building that’s now been transformed into ruruhaus. It’s been rented early this year and was built after the war in early 1950s. The building has four levels upper ground and one level underground. There was a place used for storage and now has been use for works by ruruhaus team. There’s also an empty basement with several uses such as rurushop, ticket shop, bookstore, place for meeting, eating and bar. The second floor was going to be the office. The next floor was used for ruru house hostel, but do to Covid 19, it was then used for karaoke. The next building was Museum Fridericianum in which were three levels and was very large in size. It has a place for coffee break. Martin showed several more sketches of empty buildings that could be used for displays. There were also some buildings near the river that could be used for exhibitions. “It’s quite a beautiful place”. There was also additional story of Kassel that Martin mentioned which was mountain park of Hercules at the very west of the city. “Yes, the park is also full of post-colonial history. They try to bring people from China so that they live on this mountain park. It didn’t function, but also took some families from Africa, 38 people more or less, they brought them to this park. The condition of the winter was so hard that they died” Ayse added.
To share more, deep into the storm, as he said it, Reza Afisina who is working on ruruhaus took his turn to tell us another story. Unfortunately, pictures could not be shared on the screen owing to technical issue. “Since ruruhaus was started, we have been trying to activate this particular space. It is July 16 we have been here in Kassel” They tried occupying some spaces like Rhino shop that was formerly a shoe shop and it accommodated around 50-80 people in the condition of Covid back then. They do it with university students in Kassel as Reza and Iswanto also initiated a project called art and urban development together with faculty of architecture and urban landscape. With this initiative, they are working on creating narration on place making. “It is like a compilation of history to see how Kassel is growing since documenta one until fourteen. “So this part our interaction with students via ruruhaus and city of Kassel”
“One of our concerns is ruruhaus as a building is quite huge.” They maximize it as place for gathering as well for working especially the building itself has strong story related to indrustrialization in Kassel after World War II. Gradually it becomes a center as it is told to be part of documenta. They have close conversation with several key actors like collectives and other individuals on how to activate this building further. They are trying to make it to be more than just a hub, but to get community acknowledge that it is funded by documenta and is part of documenta. There is the discussion on policy making, alternative economy and so on. “This is not only collaboration, this is not only bring music or festival to Kassel or any other productions, but this is more like if you want to translate something that has already happen in Kassel, you need to acknowledge more about different kind of practices that has once happened here” said Reza. They are also thinking on method of shared economy, to create cooperative system specially to engage with neighborhood especially relating to the land reform and the use of particular public spaces on organic, on bio agricultural issues. They are working on other issue like refugee, people with special needs, alternative education with unique method such as football, for example. They put them together to have further conversation. “We have around seven majlis/assemblies so far” Said Reza. They are thinking of how this idea of land issue, for example, could also be a collaboration projects with other lumbung members. There are also urban gardening collectives and food activists that could come together for example to have podcast and radio in ruruhaus. In addition, they try to connect with university collectives as another entrance to open more subjects to discuss together with other proposal from other lumbung members. “We working on building trust and friendship, not only creating a project in Kassel but also to think of how to make it sustain.” This kind of collaboration idea is even more relevant in this particular moment of pandemic.
Reza’s session was followed by an important question by Ade Darmawan, “how public in Kassel perceives and interprets the documenta and whether any changes on this? According to Andrea, as Kassel is super small, many people are so excited. They participate in the event. On the other hand, very big part of Kassel citizen has an issue with accessing documenta. Also, they are not participating in the event. But she’s convinced that ruruhaus would bring something different on this issue. There’s also additional thoughts from Ayse as a person who’s been working in documenta since documenta eleven. First and foremost, according to Ayse, “You have not one public in Kassel. You have many different public. There’s of course community who are really interested in art. But also there’s public who think that it is art and it is then not related to them”. For the issue, Ayse thinks that extra invitation is needed, to reach those who are not really into art and documenta, or they have a fear that it is high art and for highly educated, and so on. Also, the issue of language as documenta more into English and/or German while there are people who do not speak both. In this regard, there’s a need to talk and build trust with various communities. “It is good that we have ruruhaus here. It is very important!” said Ayse.
Time flies. All gave applauses. It took nearly five hours yet it was a truly rewarding conversation as it gave introductory ideas and plans of how future documenta fifteen would proceed.
In general the whole idea rest on collective governance.