INLAND is one of the collectives participating in documenta 15
INLAND, 2019. Photo: Courtesy INLAND
ruangrupa, 2019. Photo: Jin Panji

The idea of ​​the isolated artist in his studio has long sounded like an old-fashioned image to describe the field of production of contemporary practices, but finally documenta, considered the most important exhibition of current art, focuses on activist collectives as one of its main axes.

After a daring edition in 2017, which divided the exhibition into two cities, Athens (Greece) and Kassel (Germany), under the direction of the Polish Adam Szymczyk, the show is now has at its head precisely a collective of artists, ruangrupa, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. In 2014, the group participated in the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, How to talk about things that don't exist.

Part of the collective was last March in São Paulo, in People's house, where he held about 10 meetings with 40 people and groups, from JAMAC (Jardim Miriam Arte Clube) to councilor Erica Malunguinho, through the Landless Movement and indigenous leader Jerá Guarani. From the list, there is no doubt that documenta will have a strong activist character.

“Gladness Demo”, reenactment of “Gladness” by Endre Tót, by Kristóf Kovács as part of GAUDIOPOLIS 2017/OFF-Biennale Budapest, 2017. Photo: Zsolt Balázs / OFF-Biennale Budapest Archive

“We want to create a globally oriented, collaborative and interdisciplinary arts and culture platform that will remain effective beyond the 100 days of documenta fifteen. Our curatorial approach seeks a different kind of collaborative model of resource use – in economic terms, but also in terms of ideas, knowledge, programs and innovations.” ruangrupa on the document website.

There, by the way, 14 collectives invited to this edition are already listed, originating from 13 different countries: Germany, Kenya, Denmark, Palestine, England, Hungary, Colombia, Cuba, Indonesia, Spain, Mali, New Zealand and Bangladesh. Among them is the INLAND, a collaborative agency started in 2009 by Spanish Fernando García-Dory, which provides a platform for diverse actors involved in agricultural, social and cultural production. In 2018, Dory participated in the beginning of the creation of a garden on the terrace of Casa do Povo.

INLAND, 2019. Photo: Courtesy INLAND

The themes of these collectives are broad and diversified, such as the Project ArtWorks, a collective of artists and creators based in Hastings, UK. They produce and disseminate art sustained by radical approaches to neurodiversity, rights and representation, and are one of five collectives nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize, now in 2021. That's right, for the first time there are five collectives nominated for the award organized by Tate, which in 2015 had already awarded a collective, the British Assemble.
According to Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain and chairman of the selection committee, in an interview with The Guardian, “the jury selected five notable collectives whose work not only continued during the pandemic, but became even more relevant as a result”. The harmony between Tate's decision and documenta fifteen's decision is still encouraging.

Another coincidence between the two art institutions is the Cuban Tania Bruguera, who in 2019 was responsible for occupying the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, and who will participate in documenta fifteen with her collective INSTAR, based in Havana (Cuba). The Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism (INSTAR) emerged as a civic literacy institution in 2015 from an artistic intervention organized by Bruguera, where people read and discussed Hannah Arendt's book, As Origins of Totalitarianism, for 100 hours.
Since its inception, INSTAR has been thought of as a democratic and horizontal space, where decisions are taken by consensus. “We are interested in claiming social justice and rights that are sometimes foreign to the Cuban context, such as fair wages, a working environment that is favorable to motherhood, supporting independent projects and artists, respect for freedom of expression and building a project with people who think differently, but I want to make a country for everyone”, says the collective about their work, on the documenta XV website.

collective rice granary

One of the concepts that ruangrupa is launching to account for these collective practices is the lumbung, an Indonesian term for community rice granary. It will be used as a guiding principle for the show's core values ​​and ideas.

There is nothing more appropriate, after all the adversity that the planet has been going through during the pandemic, for art to rescue community values ​​and respect for nature. This, at least, is how the idea of ​​the lumbung, “as an artistic and economic model rooted in principles such as collectivity, communal sharing of resources, and equitable distribution, which is embedded in all parts of the collaboration and exhibition,” according to the show’s website description.

Above, fashion show at Trampoline House in Copenhagen (Denmark), 2019. Photo: Lars Vibild

The proposal for sharing and collaboration materializes, during the process of creating the show, in Kassel, in a space called ruruhaus, a few meters from the Fridericianum, the museum that was the first headquarters of documenta, in 1955, and has been occupied by her every five years. ruangrupa has now announced a digital and interactive ruruhaus experience, which can be accessed at In June it was possible to answer the question: “What kind of living room a city needs?”.

In times of social distancing, the question sounds even utopian, but, after all, it's a good thing that art continues to believe in new worlds and, as seems to be the objective of this documenta, pointing out who is leading this movement with solidary practices.

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