Feb 23 2019

Ruangrupa Named Artistic Directors of Documenta 15

by HG Masters

Members of RUANGRUPA (left to right): Ajeng Nurul Aini, Farid Rakun, Iswanto Hartono, Mirwan Andan, Indra Ameng, Ade Darmawan, Daniella Fitria Praptono, Julia Sarisetiati, Reza Afisina. Photo by Gudskul / Jin Panji. Courtesy Documenta, Kassel.

Jakarta-based collective ruangrupa are the artistic directors of Documenta 15. The 100-day event, held once every five years, will begin on June 18, 2022, in Kassel. Sabine Schorman, general director of Documenta and the Fridericianum Museum, announced ruangrupa’s appointment at a press conference on February 22. It will be the first time the prestigious international festival will be led by an artist collective and the first time by an artistic director from Asia. 

Ruangrupa, whose name in Bahasa Indonesian translates loosely as “space for art” or “a space form,” comprises more than ten members. Their artistic and curatorial practices are based around community engagement. Founded in 2000, the collective runs an art space in South Jakarta and has organized numerous festivals, including the OK. Video – Indonesia Media Arts Festival, whose 2017 edition focused on topics including food and agricultural sustainability. In 2016, ruangrupa curated the Sonsbeek public arts festival in Arnhem, titling their edition “TransACTION,” and in 2018, established GUDSKUL, an educational and networking project for creatives based on cooperative work. As artists, ruangrupa have participated in editions of the Gwangju Biennale (2002, 2018), the Istanbul Biennale (2005), the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (2012), the Singapore Biennale (2011), the São Paulo Biennale (2014) and the Aichi Triennale (2016). 

During the announcement, Philippe Pirotte, director of the Städelschule and Portikus in Frankfurt, noted that the selection committee’s decision was unanimous: “We have appointed ruangrupa because they have demonstrated the ability to appeal to various communities, including groups that go beyond pure art audiences, and to promote local commitment and participation.”

Speaking at the Kassel press conference, ruangrupa members Farid Rakun and Ade Darmawan commented: “Our curatorial approach aims at a different community-oriented model of resource usage – economical, but also taking ideas, knowledge, programs and innovations into account. If Documenta was launched in 1955 to heal war wounds, why shouldn’t we focus Documenta 15 on today’s injuries, especially ones rooted in colonialism, capitalism, or patriarchal structures, and contrast them with partnership-based models that enable people to have a different view of the world.”

The announcement comes after the Documenta organization underwent intensive public scrutiny following the 14th edition in 2017, which was split between Athens and Kassel, and went more than EUR 8 million (USD 9 million) over budget.

The international finding committee that nominated ruangrupa comprised: Ute Meta Bauer, founding director, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore; Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, and curator of the 2015 Jakarta Biennial; Amar Kanwar, artist and documentary filmmaker, whose works have appeared in the last four editions of Documenta; Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern in London; Gabi Ngcobo, curator of the 10th Berlin Biennale; Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of The Showroom London; Philippe Pirotte; and Jochen Volz, director of Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.

The collective have just over three years to do research and initiate programs in and around Kassel before Documenta 15 begins. 

H.G. Masters is deputy editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

Silverlens ACAW Massimo de Carlo Artspace 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Opera Gallery