Anyone who believed that the 12th Berlin Biennale, unlike the Documenta, would avoid any significant excitement during the scandal-filled summer of art is now in the wrong. For some years, there had been rumblings going on underneath the surface. The conflict was made public by an open letter written by the Iraqi artist Rijin Sahakian and published in the American art magazine “Art Forum” with the support of 15 other signatories.
The Hamburger Bahnhof’s “Soluble Poison. Scenes from the Time of the American Occupation of Baghdad” installation enlarges portions of well-known Abu Ghraib prison torture pictures. This led to controversy, especially from Iraqi artists whose pieces were situated close to the images displayed in the shape of a labyrinth.
the horror maze
However, opposition to Jean-Jacques Lebel’s horrifying labyrinth must have surfaced much earlier. According to reports, the co-curator Ana Texeiro Pinto departed the five-person group working with Biennale organizer Kader Attia for precisely this reason.
Although the Biennale declined to comment, it was noted in a statement that Teixeira was still in charge of the “Whose Universal?” conference that was held in July in conjunction with the House of World Cultures. Although Kader Attia has promised a comment, it has yet to be made public.
Since then, it has been rehung, and Sajjad Abbas’ contribution is no longer located next to the depictions of torture. The entrance to the exhibition halls of the Academy of Arts on Pariser Platz is where his movie “I can see you” with an enlarged eye is currently on display as part of another Biennale venue.
The painting by Iraqi artist Raed Mutar is rumored to still be without a permanent home.
The primary target of the Iraqi artists’ criticism is the fact that the recording was copied without the tortured subjects’ improbable consent. She thought that the curtains separating the exhibition tour from the massively enlarged photographs’ content warnings would not be sufficient.
The affirmative representation is specifically questioned.
There are several images of the catastrophe.
This accusation is implicitly supported by Jean-Jacques Lebel’s statement on his work for the Biennale website and the fact that US soldiers tortured Saddam Hussein’s henchmen in Abu Ghraib prison: “The only new thing about this seemingly eternal tragedy was the mass of photos — testimonies of their criminal misconduct — that the torturing Americans made themselves and proudly posted on the internet,” he writes. With Lebel’s contribution, the Biennale’s slogan “Still Present!” receives a depressing confirmation. Here, Attia’s attempt to end a long-standing injustice backfires.
Otherwise, however, the problems that the documenta is confronted with seem to have less of an impact on the Berlin Biennale, which similarly predominantly focuses on the Global South. However, works that are categorically critical of Israel were identified, such as the study by the British artist collective Forensic Architecture, led by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, which documented Israeli drone flights over the airspace of Lebanon over a 15-year period on a display board.
On the other hand, the Israeli artist Dana Levy examined the Israeli settlement strategy critically. Therefore, the Biennale was not required to hang a work, but it did so today. Naturally, as is stressed.