BRACHA L. Ettinger

Letter of resignation from the Finding Committee of documenta 16

On Friday, 10 November 2023, Israeli artist, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and theorist BRACHA L. Ettinger resigned from the six-member committee entrusted with selecting the Artistic Direction of the 16th edition (2027) of documenta. 


Letter of Resignation from the Finding Committee of documenta 16  (Friday, November 10, 2023)


"Dear colleagues,

I hereby formally resign from the Finding Committee of documenta 16, and hope and wish that you will choose together the best candidate.

Recently in two emails to all of you, I asked that we slow down the process. The art-world as we imagined it has collapsed and is now fragmented, I wrote, and added: What can art bring to our dark ages? The question of the meaning of being human is tightly related to the meaning of art. Artists are not here to decorate politics. Art's function is not to aestheticise political ideas (W. Benjamin), I wrote, and then quoted Paul Celan, and continued with these lines from the Psalms that express my anguish,

Abyss to abyss call.

And my heart wound-space.

Words and metaphors do not bleed, I wrote, but their effect can cause bleeding.

The situation in the Middle East is tragic from all angles. Innocent civilians suffered and died, and my heart cries for each dead on all sides. Every life is precious. I shared with you my incapacity to be effective on the last series of meetings (12-13 Oct), which took place even though I couldn't arrive in person, in Germany, because you informed me that my flights were cancelled, and in which I had to participate in zoom, paralyzed under rockets, with the details of the massacre committed by the Hamas on Israeli civilians, women and babies, and of the kidnapping of children and babies and civilians were being streamed on my screen during our lunch and coffee breaks, just few days after the massacre by Hamas that began the tragic war took place.

We have time – I wrote – we can change the procedure, change the timetable, allow sorrow and agony unfold. We can take time, I suggested,

Time to lament, Kaddish.

Time to lament, Stabat mater dolorosa O quam tristis et afflícta fuit illa benedícta, mater. Time to pause, think-feel and reorient ourselves towards new visions and think if we can address the dimension of art, I wrote.

The idea to slow down and delay the next meeting was rejected by Andreas for different procedural considerations that I of course fully understand.

The future documenta was on my mind endlessly during the last 7 months. We all worked hard. Unfortunately, today, I feel that I can not continue to contribute to the process anymore."


- BRACHA L. Ettinger




Documenta's press release is available in full on their website

November 15, 2023