The registered association ICOM Germany, which represents the German museum landscape in the International Council of Museums, has published a statement by its President Beate Reifenscheid on the Documenta scandal, which reveals considerable difficulties in the correct use of the German language.

The offensiveness of the image "People's Justice" by Taring Padi and the justification attempts of those responsible, the text tries to summarize as follows: "The gravity and the disturbing of this work of art lie in the obvious contradiction that the artists themselves deliver when they publicly announced on Monday that the work 'contains no content intended to portray any population group in a negative way'.

The work of art itself shows it differently, as it equates Jews and Nazi henchmen.

This is also known in the Global South, which will certainly develop other narratives.”

A chain of reference errors

How the weight of a work of art could be measured in anything other than kilograms is beyond our knowledge;

obviously, the work of art is not to be classified as difficult here, although it appears so, but rather the finding of anti-Semitic emblematics as grave.

The "shows otherwise" is an awkward synonym for "proves otherwise";

at best, “shows something else” would have been correct.

And is it true what the third sentence quoted above claims, is it actually known in the global South that "People's Justice" lumps Jews and Nazi henchmen together?

The work from 2002 is said to have been passed around widely in the post-colonial exhibition cycle, but what is meant here is: Everywhere in the world people know that Jews and Nazis should not be equated.

The chain of reference errors would not be worth mentioning if it weren't for the recipe that Reifenscheid, director of the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz, followed up on with her ill-formulated diagnosis: "That's why discussions and discourse were so urgently needed."

The fifteenth documenta was intended to be a documenta of unlimited discourse, and wanted to replace the concept of the work with discussion processes.

That went terribly wrong, but the chief lobbyist of the museum world, the profession whose business is the artful maintenance of things, demands more of the same.

But what is to come out of the discourse, which is now even more forced, if those who order it do not write a straight sentence?

The controversy over the museum definition

There are also heated arguments about postcolonial issues in the World Association of Museums.

The definition of the museum is up for debate.

ICOM Germany is at the forefront of the sections, which stick to the traditional definition of tasks: museums should preserve, organize, show and explain objects, not curate discourses.

The German ICOM boss is now playing out the clichés about the mission of the museums against those responsible for the Documenta, which she is fighting within the world association: “The museums see themselves as centers of cultural discourse and open dialogue.”

Such opportunism may be the routine of officials.

But tactical use of language has costs.

Using the Kassel case of evident incitement to hatred, Reifenscheid develops ad hoc definitions of art and artistic freedom without need, so that her intervention proves how incorrect grammar and imprecise thinking go together.

Art should be directed against any form of “discrimination” and its freedom should stop “where it harms others”.

Reifenscheid even tries to refer to Schiller's letters "On the Aesthetic Education of Man" (footnote included) and the French Declaration of Human and Civil Rights of August 26, 1789, in order to conceptually define a "rightly high good of our Western, democratic understanding of art". which the Indonesian guest artists and guest curators in Kassel allegedly wrongly invoke.

But the "famous sentence" of the fourth article of the Declaration of Human Rights "Freedom consists in being able to do everything that does not harm someone else" would have to mislead any discussion of fundamental rights beyond artistic freedom today If the claiming of human rights does not harm anyone, the use of automobiles should be banned immediately.

Is art, as Reifenscheid suggests, inherently anti-discriminatory?

Or is it, on the contrary, inevitably discriminatory because it assumes and implements differences in taste and value judgments?

ICOM Germany had rejected the subordination of art to a global standard of justice in the deliberations on the museum definition.

Criminal law and civilized decency apply to the production and exhibition of art.

But that doesn't mean that art has to be harmless.

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