ruangrupa was appointed as curator of the world art exhibition documenta in Kassel, Germany. The grand exhibition will take place from 18 June to 25 September 2019.  Never before has an Indonesian – or, in fact, Asian – art curator reached as high an achievement as ruangrupa.  Documenta is considered as one of the most prestigious high-quality global art events by citizens of the art world. Documenta holds a special position compared to other world class  biennales, such as the Venice Biennale or the São Paulo Art Biennial, let alone more commercial art fairs.

Selection Process

All members of the Finding Committee, a committee consisting of renowned art experts tasked with candidate selection, agreed to choose ruangrupa over other nominees. Nominated unanimously by the International Finding Committee, ruangrupa was appointed as the artistic direction of documenta 15 by the Supervisory Board. This was announced by the general director of documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH, Dr. Sabine Schormann on 22 February 2019.

The selection process lasted from September 2018 to February 2019. The nominees were first asked to submit their concept notes. Next, they had to refine their concepts and were interviewed by the eight members of the Finding Committee. The process was closed to the public and quite competitive. For the eight-member Finding Committee, Elvira Dyangani Ose (director of The Showroom, London) and Philippe Pirotte (director of the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule, and director of Portikus, Frankfurt am Main) gave the following reasons for the appointment of ruangrupa: At a time when innovative strength particularly stems from independent organizations active on the community level, it seems only logical to offer this collective approach a platform with documenta. Angela Dorm, minister of higher education, research and the arts for Kessel’s Hesse state, explained that “documenta is consciously giving room to the non-European view. Therefore, she thought that the selection of ruangrupa, which often uses art in its home country to address public issues and problems, was an appropriate choice.

The Finding Committee for documenta 15 comprises: Ute Meta Bauer, founding director, Centre for Contemporary Art (Singapore); Charles Esche, director, Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, the Netherlands); Amar Kanwar, artist and documentary filmmaker (New Delhi, India); Frances Morris, director, Tate Modern (London, Great Britain); Gabi Ngcobo, curator, Berlin Biennale 2018 in Germany (South Africa); Elvira Dyangani Ose, director, The Showroom London, (England); Philippe Pirotte, director, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule Frankfurt/M., Germany (Belgium); Jochen Volz, director, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil.

The concept ruangrupa has prepared for documenta 15 is “Lumbung”. A lumbung – or rice barn – is a place to store communally-produced rice as a common resource for future use. If documenta was launched with the noble intention to heal European war wounds, this concept will expand that motive in order to heal today’s injuries, especially ones rooted in colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchal structures.

Learning from the accumulation of previous experiences in directly practicing institution building as an artistic form, ruangrupa has proposed collaboration to document the imagining, tinkering, experimenting and executing models of koperasi (closely but not exactly translatable to cooperative), a model of economy based on democratic principles of rapat (assembly), mufakat (agreement), gotong royong (commons), hak mengadakan protes bersama (right to stage collective protest) and hak menyingkirkan diri dari kekuasaan absolut (right to abolish absolute power). Lumbung as a model of resources management will serve as the centre point of this practice.

There is also the concept “From and For Kassel”. From Kassel, ruangrupa considers documenta as a pool of resources, located in the city but functioning on a global scale through a contemporary art ecosystem.  We deem documenta to be the perfect partner for ruangrupa to implement a different model, and therefore understanding, of sustainability in supporting socially impactful contemporary art practice. For Kassel, ruangrupa envisions an edition of documenta that is based on the city and the systems existing within and realizes it with several strategies that focus on current interests, such as alternative education, regenerative economy models and the importance of art in social practice. These strategies include, but are not limited to, a sizeable art exhibition in regular documenta venues, a series of 1:1 real practices in Kassel’s public services (such as schools, universities, banks, hospitals,) and public programs. This “From and For” scheme that puts Kassel in the middle of the process is conversational, intended to give birth to unforeseen hybrid art practices and forms.

Work Plan

ruangrupa plans to work closely and collectively with curators, technologists and economists, as well as with other initiatives and collectives in different corners of the world. These collaborators are then expected to employ their respective strategies in reality by grafting their existing practices, to then be staged in Kassel in 2022.