‘A Castle in Kassel’, Trampoline House, documenta fifteen

Clientdocumenta fifteen
DateDecember 2020 - September 2022
Tags, , ,

From 2020 to 2022, I worked as a curator for Artistic Team of the Danish organisation Trampoline House, which was a Lumbung member (participating collective) at Documenta 15, Kassel, 2022.

For nearly ten years, Trampoline House has been a space where people who have escaped war, poverty, or human rights abuse can find ways to participate in their host country and feel a sense of belonging again. Every week, hundreds of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers, as well as Danish citizens and residents of Denmark visit the House to become part of its unique community, participate in its activities, contribute to its running, and campaign for refugee rights. The House offers legal counseling, language classes, cooking and cleaning internships, job counseling, programs for women and children, workshops, debate events, art exhibitions, and weekly House meetings, where members and staff share news and discuss urgent issues related to the House and refugee conditions. Trampoline House was formed in 2010 by a group of artists, refugee rights advocates, and asylum seekers as an antidote to Denmark’s asylum and immigration policies.

About Castle in Kassel

documenta fifiteen: Trampoline House, 2022, Installationsansicht, Hübner Areal, Kassel, 15. Juni 2022, Foto: Frank Sperling

Located in the Hübner building, Trampoline House’s Castle in Kassel consisted of a cosy, Scandinavian-style living room set up inside a chalk circle – a weak, imaginary construction that demarcated the house as a protected space, decidedly yet precariously shielding people from the hostility facing migrants in Denmark.

documenta fifiteen: Trampoline House, 2022, Installationsansicht, Hübner Areal, Kassel, 15. Juni 2022, Foto: Frank Sperling

On the outside: a wall, reading – THIS IS WHAT YOU FACE WHEN SEEKING ASYLUM IN DENMARK – listed an endless trail of dehumanising protocols by the Danish government, while the combination of space and artworks – film and sound pieces, animation, a visit book where visitors could write and share their thoughts and feelings, zines, a fashion collection, masks, protest signs – invited the viewer to walk around, sit down, read and watch TV and come into contact and direct empathy with the reality of Danish – and by extension European – migration policies and their impact on people’s dignity. Making visible the fact that our wider community could not be physically present in Kassel because of their legal status, our Artistic Team, made up of 14 people with mixed refugee and non-refugee backgrounds, put together a programme for the 100 days. We chose to focus on very different site activations: a fashion show, public talks, poetry readings, public drawing sessions and performances on the migrant question and its political and ethical underpinnings, always placing migrant and refugee knowledge, embodiment and experience at the centre, referring back to the House for feedback and inviting what we call ‘deprogramming’ – a collective questioning of one’s own assumptions, privileges and positions through shared vulnerability and affect in the space of the House, whose spirit we had aimed to translate into our living room at Hübner.

documenta fifiteen: Trampoline House, 2022, Installationsansicht, Hübner Areal, Kassel, 15. Juni 2022, Foto: Frank Sperling

The term lumbung, which is central to the curatorial approach to Documenta fifteen as envisioned by Indonesian artistic collective Ruangrupa, is an Indonesian term which is directly translatable as “rice barn.”A lumbung  is a collective pot or accumulation system used in rural areas of Indonesia, where crops produced by a community are stored as a future shared common resource and distributed according to jointly determind criteria. Using lumbung as a core approach, Ruangrupa’s strategy is based on building an international network of local, community-based organizations from the art and other cultural contexts across the world that can sustain itself beyond the exhibition event.