Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kassel's documenta 14 slogan “Being safe is scary”

The documenta 14 art exhibition, which took place from June 10 through September 17 in 2017 in the German city of  Kassel in northeast Hesse, was more political than ever [1]. The letters above the portal of the Fridericianum, arguably the world's first public museum, read “BEINGSAFEISSCARY.” Insert the missing spaces and you get: “Being safe is scary.”

Indeed, simply living a “feeling safe” life would be ignorant of the current state of our globe. The world around us was and, with growing frequency again, is stirred up by tensions and human rights violations. “When We Were Exhaling Images,” an installation by the Kurdish-Iraqi artist Hiwa K, was reminding us of refugee conditions at a Greek harbor. The Friedrichsplatz, the huge plaza in front of the Fridericianum, was dominated by Marta Minujín's “The Parthenon of Books,”protesting censorship of free speech.

Fridericianum on a documenta-14 day in 2017
The phrase “Being safe is scary” is a tribute by the Turkish artist Banu Cennetoǧlu to the Kurdish journalist Gurbetelli Ersöz, who died during Kurdish guerilla operations in 1977 when a Turkish-operated Leopard Tank blew off both of her legs [2]. Sadly and ironically, this tank may have manufactured in the documenta city Kassel.

When Arnold Bode established the documenta exhibition in Kaseel in 1955—ten years after the end of World War II—he was eager to showcase Nazi-censored art, Degenerate Art [2]: documenta was designed to grind the Nazi interlude with its bashing of modern art into dust. Therefore, the slogan that replaced the museum's name Fridericianum above the six entrance columns links Bode's animosity toward Kassel's Nazi past to Cennetoǧlu's tribute to his fellow citizen.

References and more to explore

[1] Stefan Dege: Documenta art exhibition more politacal than ever. June 9, 2017. Link:
[2] Vijay Prashad: Being safe is scary: At Germany's documenta 14, chilling reminders that history repeats itself., August 17, 2017. Link:

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