Artists point Kassel’s bloody history

Artists point Kassel’s bloody history

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Artists point Kassel’s bloody history

Artists have criticized the organizers, saying they have ignored Kassel’s history.

As Documenta wraps up in Kassel this week, a group of artists have criticized the organizers of the quinquennial exhibition, saying they have ignored the city’s history as a German weapons-manufacturing center, The Art Newspaper reported.

“Kassel was heavily bombed during World War II because of its arms production. Today the company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), which has its roots and some production in Kassel, plans to export tanks to Saudi Arabia. We cannot tolerate that,” Philipp Ruch, an artist from the group Zentrum für Politische Schönheit (Center for Political Beauty) told The Art Newspaper.

Two weeks before the opening of Documenta, the group launched a website and circulated posters informing people about KMW, although the posters did not mention any specific crimes committed.
“We see ourselves in the tradition of Christoph Schlingensief,” Ruch says, referring to the late artist who represented Germany at last year’s Venice Biennale and was known for addressing the most difficult points of Germany’s history in his films.

KMW’s lawyers sent the artist group a declaration to cease and desist, and since then the group has not offered money in return for information. “We are not pacifists who think no tanks should be produced, but exports to dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia are unacceptable,” Ruch said.

Germany only recently started selling arms to Saudi Arabia, after Chancellor Angela Merkel signed an agreement with its government in July 2011. The deal met with some criticism, as it reversed a long-standing principle set by previous governments that Germany would not export arms to “crisis regions.”

Other countries have been selling arms to Saudi Arabia for decades, including the U.K., which in May signed a 1.9 billion-pound ($3 billion) deal to supply 22 Hawk trainer jets, and the U.S., which in December 2011 signed a $30 billion deal to export 84 F-15 fighter jets and other weapons to the country.