ISSUE 8 Reformatting Documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen
Harvesting and a Single Story of Lumbung
In a public session at the kickstart of the day, with harvesters at the ruruhaus in Kassel, Germany, in September 2022, I received an identical question about the experience of being a harvester in documenta fifteen. What constitutes harvesting? From the pattern of questions, I realized the need for people to summarize our experience into a concept. I personally prefer to leave this as an experimental practice that needs to grow. Additionally, I thought of inviting the audience to define themselves, or even contribute their thoughts to the definition of the story, based on the practices we had gone through, instead of locking in a concept of what constitutes harvesting (which might lead to the exclusion of what is not harvesting).
In several conversations, the term harvest has often referred to artistic recordings of discussions and meetings in several contexts. Harvesters listen to, reflect on, and depict this process from their own perspectives, through various forms, and artistic practices. Harvesting can be seen as a way of collective writing that enables continuous collective learning, derived from different sensory experiences.1 Yet, over time, especially by trying to digest what happened in Kassel related to the polemic in documenta fifteen, I began to realize that harvesting is not just a form of summarizing knowledge gained from the process, but also presents a variety of perspectives in looking at art practices and the narratives informing them. It can also be another stepping point for reflecting on art practices, in order to invite further discussion or tell a ‘different’ story.
Open Discussion with Harvesters at Kickstart of the Day in ruruhaus, Kassel, September 2022. Taken by Lotte
As harvesters, my colleague Abdul Dube and I practiced remotely through Zoom for two years during the pandemic (2020-2022). I was based in Banda Aceh and Abdul was an artist based in Copenhagen. We participated in Lumbung assembly meetings with various art collectives. We observed how stories and ideas travel across continents. Over a hundred participants met virtually in the so-called Majelis Akbar. It was a regular gathering wherein all artists, collectives, working groups, and artistic teams gathered for conversations, debate, and exchanging ideas. Each collective also presented their backgrounds, practices, and challenges, as well as their plans for engaging with documenta fifteen, respectively.
The earlier invited collective was named Lumbung inter-lokal. This concept of inter-lokal, rather than international, creates a trajectory beyond the binary of global north and global south, which, arguably, might lead to a new exclusion towards common experiences globally. When examined, some of the same patterns and dynamics occurred in either, or in both areas.
Among these tendencies is that collectives emerge as ethical and aesthetic responses to the social contexts in which they have grown. Some collectives are coincidentally seen to be related to each other, such as the Campo Adentro Inland collective in Spain, which is engaged in the issue of land that is identical to the concerns of the Jatiwangi Art Factory in West Java and also Mas Arte Mas Accion in Columbia. In addition, some of what I can reflect on is the tendency to see such alternative forms of education as the main step toward a response to institutionalized education that is top-down, whereby there are a powerful few who decide what to learn, which is not necessarily in line with the needs of the community. This could be seen between the related issues concerning Off Biennale in Budapest, Wajukuu in Kenya, and the same issue with Gudskul in Jakarta.
“We have many people with many realities,” Abdul once said. The Majelis has been important in terms of knowledge production. It’s for sharing, exchanging, and finding some common ground, thus enabling those involved to work collectively. Also, it was a bridge that led me to learn and understand what was hidden and happening in different parts of the world, with discourses that escaped the mainstream narrative.
Most are reflections of the collectives on their practices, as well as on ideas for experimentation. For example, when Kabila, one of the participants in the Majelis Akbar, mentioned the issue of knowledge as a response to conventional models:
How people can discuss, can find different ways of producing knowledge. In the library, we have knowledge but all come from outside. How can we find knowledge from our practices? Also, it is not only to translate but also to transcreate.
In the end, it is not about dividing, but finding a conversation. How they deal with the ecosystem and locality. What they can bring back that is meaningful for the locals. We try to learn and see this as different species that work differently.
Also, at this juncture, I experienced how the meanings and roles of art are revisited and questioned. For instance, how art that is oriented toward the final output as an object is challenged to become a process-based form that is not solely object-based. It can be a form of collaboration and thus represent other intangibles that are locally anchored. For instance, as reflected by the collective, Campo Adentro Inland, in Spain:
We talk about a new role for the arts that’s different from globalized contemporary art. For inland, it tries to contribute to the local context in Kassel. To create a balance of what we are doing in our context. To have meaningful relationships. to create companionship. We’re also trying to learn from indigenous to be reconnected with the land.
These conversations in the Majelis Akbars showed how the roles of art, knowledge, and community are intertwined. Abdul and I, as well as several other harvesters, tried to capture those realities and ideas that intersect between aesthetics, ethics, and socio-political issues that are so complex and remain relevant to further study. It is at this juncture that harvesting plays a role as a different approach toward experiments and process-based knowledge.
Polemics
“The world is bigger than Europe. It is very important we hear from other parts of the world about the world,” said Ute Meta Bauer, one of the members of the selection committee for documenta fifteen, at Goethe Institute Jakarta, in 2019. This idea has shown some associations with what was later presented in the Lumbung process, through different Majelises. Yet, this effort is not without challenges. Long before the opening started, an accusation began from a WordPress blog proclaiming itself as the “Alliance against Anti-Semitism Kassel,” with the tagline, “There Is No Anti-Zionism Without Anti-Semitism.” Some artists and artistic teams were therefore being accused of anti-Semitism.2 The main culmination of this polemical critique was during the opening, when Taring Padi’s work, entitled People’s Justice, contained images of the Mossad and the CIA, which were considered to have been involved in the historical processes where the artwork had originated, especially in relation to the context of violence and the dictatorship in Indonesia (1965-1998).
A different meaning in the artwork, however, emerged when it was located in the context of Germany, with its dark history of the Holocaust. The atrocities conducted by Adolf Hitler against the Jews decades ago were driven by the idea of German superiority, and this antisemitic ideology has left a deep guilt within the German people. It later left a moral imperative prescribing that the state of Israel should not be criticized. The polemic continued and was welcomed by politicians and even debated in Parliament. This then made the artists feel that documenta fifteen had been instrumentalized as a political playground. The tensions continued, with the framing by the Germany mainstream media that documenta fifteen carried the same ideology that had prevailed during Hitler’s time, by purveying antisemitic overtones.
What is missing from the narrative is, however, the complexity of the Lumbung practices and also the issues faced by the world communities, which have become narrowed down to just the Israel and Palestine conflict being fraught with anti-Semitism. Seeing this simplification, I am reminded of Stuart Hall’s proposition that there is always a reduction in every representation. In this case, it is important to examine whose voices are heard, whose voices are excluded, and who may be empowered or disempowered by a certain story. For a moment, my mind was reminded too of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, when she eloquently explained the dangers of a single story:
the consequence of the single story is that it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult and it emphasizes that we are different rather than how similar we are.
The single story creates a stereotype and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story.
Roles of harvesting
Reflecting on the polemic, I went back through the story notes from the assemblies and saw the discrepancy between what was told in single stories and what had happened during the public reception process. At this point, I also realized the role of harvesting. Besides helping to see the history of progress, it also bears witness to what is being talked about, what knowledge exists. Harvesting is not only preventing knowledge from disappearing, but becomes a way to listen to multiple voices and views other than mainstream and authoritative institutional voices.
Documenta fifteen Harvesters and the Artistic Team in Conversation, Sandershaus, Kassel, September 2022. Taken by Marilia
As is common, there is a contestation of power that is sometimes uneven in the presence of certain narratives in the public sphere. Institutions and/or mainstream media with the power they have can determine what sort angles concerning what kind of story may be presented to the public. In other words, there is control over the narrative, which also could institutionally later be recorded in the form of an archive. In this case, harvesting, with its various mediums and forms, becomes alternatively useful for creating balance in the story.
Many stories and knowledge are abstracted from the experiences of collectives from different parts of the globe. There is then developed a space for reflecting back on ethical and aesthetic meanings in today’s world. I think it’s worth opening ourselves to broad and different narratives because a single story always reduces reality. In the word of Chimamanda, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispose and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity. When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.” [ ]
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Author

Putra Hidayatullah was born in Aceh, Indonesia, in 1988. He is a teacher, art curator, and storyteller – and one of the harvesters for documenta fifteen. Both the stories and his curatorial ideas focus on issues of space, violence, and memory.

In 2014 he held an exhibition entitled Debris of War at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) Jakarta, in collaboration with ruangrupa and the Jakarta Arts Council (DKJ). A year later he was one of the curators of the Jakarta Biennial 2015. By the end of 2019, he became the curator for an exhibition entitled The Hallway of Memory organized by KontraS (Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence). Two years later, he was involved as one of the curators for the exhibition Present Continuous at Museum MACAN (Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara), Jakarta.

Putra also writes essays and short stories. One of his latest short stories Kebun Jagal (Butcher’s Garden) was selected by KontraS to be published in an anthology with 15 young Indonesian writers entitled Berita Kehilangan (News of Loss). He completed his study in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Currently he is teaching at the University UIN Ar-Raniry in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, with a focus on art history. In 2022, together with several university students, he established Sajan, a platform for sharing resources related to the issue of space, art, and visual culture.

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How to Build an Exhibition Archive - A Preliminary Proposal from a Generative Studies Perspective Lin Chi-Ming
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Issue 8 Reformatting Documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen
Editorial / Reformatting documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Harvesting and a Single Story of Lumbung Putra Hidayatullah
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Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South
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Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating
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The Three Axes of Curating: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme
Editorial / Curatorial Episteme Hongjohn Lin
Epistemic Encounters Henk Slager
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Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism
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Issue 3 Curating Performativity
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Choreographing Exhibitions: Performative Curatorgraphy in Taiwan I-wen Chang
Living and Working Together in the Now Normal: Visual Arts and Co. at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Pawit Mahasarinand
The Curatorial as A Praxis of Disobedience Miya Yoshida

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms
Editorial / Curators' Living Rooms Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo
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Issue 1 Curatography
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What is Curatography? Hongjohn Lin
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Issue 10 Exhibition Amnesia

Issue 9 Curating Against Forgetting

Issue 8 Reformatting documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen

Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South

Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme

Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism

Issue 3 Curating Performativity

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms

Issue 1 Curatography