Collectivist Documenta

CAMP’s Frederikke Hansen joins the curatorial team behind the next Documenta, while the Trampoline House becomes a ‘lumbung partner’.

ruangrupa, artistic team assembly in Tanakita, 2019. Photo: Jin Panji.

When the next instalment of the international contemporary art exhibition Documenta opens in Kassel in 2022, it will have been created with direct Danish involvement from Frederikke Hansen as part of the curatorial team and the Trampoline House as a partner. This was announced in a press release issued by the artistic directors – the Indonesian curator collective ruangrupa – behind documenta fifteen (this time with the numeral spelled out in letters, not numbers, but retaining the lower-case ‘d’ first appearing with documenta 13).

Hansen and Tone O. Nielsen are founders and curators of the exhibition venue CAMP (Centre for Art on Migration Politics) which since 2015 has been located in the community centre “for refugees, asylum seekers and other citizens” known as the Trampoline House in Copenhagen (founded in 2010 by Nielsen, Morten Goll and Joachim Hamou). Hansen and Nielsen have been working together under the name Kuratorisk Aktion (Curatorial Action) since 2005. Last year, the ruangrupa collective invited both to join the Documenta curatorial team. While Frederikke Hansen accepted the invitation, it was decided that Nielsen would stay on as director of the Trampoline House, which will be one of the nine partners announced so far.

The other announced partners are: Foundation Festival Sur Le Niger from Mali; INLAND from Spain; Gudskul and Jatiwangi Art Factory from Indonesia; Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre from Palestine; Más Arte Más Acción from Colombia; OFF-Biennale from Hungary; and ZK/U-Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik from Germany.

In addition to Hansen and the members of the ruangrupa collective, the curatorial team consists of: Gertrude Flentge, founder of RAIN, a network for artistic initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and manager of the DOEN Foundation in the Netherlands; Lara Khaldi, independent curator and teacher at Al-Quds Bard college in Jerusalem; Ayse Gülec, community liaison at Documenta 14, former head of arts education at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt and part of several activist networks in Germany; and Andrea Linnenkohl, former curator at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel. 

 “It’s a really exciting process where we work as a collective, while of course ruangrupa, being artistic directors, guide and ultimately control the developments,” Hansen said over Skype. “It is a little like a flock of siblings, where ruangrupa is the oldest and has the most extensive experience with this type of collective approach. Where a typical European way of curating is to imagine an end product and then come up with various steps to get there, ruangrupa’s approach consist in staying with the process and seeing what happens exactly where you are right now.”

The starting point of documenta fifteen is the concept of ‘lumbung’, an Indonesian term for collectively organised rice granaries where village communities jointly store that year’s harvest. The nine lumbung partners all work with some of the same core values that apply to the granaries:  collectivity, generosity, solidarity, trust, independence, sustainability, transparency, and connectedness. During the coming years, they will strive to develop alternative ways of organising themselves and sharing material and non-material resources on the basis of these values.

ruangrupa: lumbung drawing. Image: Iswanto Hartono, 2020
Fashion show in Trampoline House during its ninth birthday, Copenhagen 2019. Photo: Lars Vibild.

According to Hansen, “the ‘lumbung’ concept is not a theme we intend to present from various vantage points; rather, it is an integral part of our practice. We very strongly want to not extract resources from the local area, aiming instead to give something back. We must get away from the ways in which curators scan a given scene or setting for the most important artists, take them out of their context and exhibit them, for example in Kassel. That’s why we work with organisations that already have deep local roots and make a difference to their local community. That’s a key value, as is friendship.”

The curatorial teams first met up in August 2019 when they spent three days together at a campsite located a five-hour drive outside Jakarta. From that point on, the plan was to have the curatorial teams and lumbung partners meet physically every three months at an assembly.

 “The process is still in its early stages, and the coronavirus situation has added an extra layer of unpredictability,” Hansen said. “The first platform, ‘ruruHaus’, was supposed to open in March. ruruHaus will be a physical location in Kassel – in classic curator-speak you would call it our first venue. Our working process involves assemblies and working in smaller groups across the organisation, for example with the departments for education or communication. We were supposed to convene at a ten-day assembly in connection with the opening of ruruHaus, but because of the coronavirus pandemic we have had daily Zoom meetings since March instead, thereby engaging in a continuous collective process of discussion.”

Two concepts will be central to the work undertaken at ruruHaus: the idea of ‘nongkrong’ – an Indonesian term for gathering or hanging out – and ‘majelis’, which means grand meeting. At these grand meetings, the curatorial team and lumbung partners will come together to discuss specific issues and get new inputs.

“Majelis also involves some visual components and rituals that can be said to be irrelevant to the specific content of the discussion. Even so, it creates a framework that makes your own mindset shift and move,” Hansen said. “Majelis and nongkrong can be described as mechanisms that are set in motion and then you see what happens. With nongkrong, ruangrupa have perfected the art of hanging out, which may sound unproductive from an outside Western perspective, but you can feel it shifting things, setting things in motion.” 

Hansen’s enrolment in Documenta’s curatorial team also means that CAMP will suspend its exhibition activities in the Trampoline House beginning in September when the space will be taken over by the centre’s children’s club. With the Trampoline House as a lumbung partner, Nielsen will be a curatorial co-ordinator for a group of representatives who, leading up to 2022, will work with the lumbung values ​​in relation to mass displacement and refugee crises.

“That way I still have Tone with me, while at the same time becoming part of this new team that works in a completely different way,” said Hansen. “I come from a typically Western school of thought where you set goals and identify the steps that will get you there, but ruangrupa work in a far more organic manner, so I’ll have to break away from my old paradigms and methods and see what may be useful here. That’s also why the structure we are currently trying to build is not limited to the 2022 exhibition; it’s also an attempt to create an ecosystem that will continue to exist after documenta fifteen.” 

Tone O. Nielsen and Frederikke Hansen in Hong Kong.