Media Review: Contemporary Art as Collective Organizing (and its Contradictions)

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Documenta fifteen, Kassel, Germany, June 18–September 25, 2022

A pounding rhythm echoes through the large downstairs space of Documenta Halle. While the source of the sound is not readily visible, our eyes are drawn to the massive, billboard-style murals—colorful renditions from old Bengali movies thematizing food conflicts—as well as the amount of different equipment and objects that occupies the floor. The murals are by Britto Arts Trust, an “artists-run non-profit collective” and interdisciplinary “platform” based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To the right is its recreation of a small-town bazaar made up of collaboratively produced ceramic and crochet copies of supermarket food, relating global consumer items and brands to their localized histories of extraction, imperial trade and colonialism. In the middle of the hall is a half-pipe, layered in a cacophony of colors and occupied by a couple of children testing their skateboarding skills. It is a contribution by the Thai-based Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture collective, another non-profit initiative dedicated to community development, among other things focusing on collaboratively developing new business models for communities working with local resources. As it happens, Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture is also responsible for the pounding sound, the hammering of patterns into cow-skin in an open workshop currently taking place. To the left of the half pipe, is a ramshackle tunnel leading into a small cinema, flanked by gaudy movie posters. “Wakaliwood,” the posters announce, referring to a film studio in Kampala, Uganda. Made on a shoestring in a poor neighborhood, Wakaliga Uganda’s no-budget films are mainly directed by Isaac Nabwana and collectively made with local youth untrained in the arts but fully capable of filming, starring in, and editing hilariously anarchic action films.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1551-1554
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 06.06.2023