Something extraordinary in the heart of Europe

Documenta 15 has at its core the concept of ‘Lumbung’, which, translated from Indonesian, is a granary where excess rice is placed and then redistributed to the community. The ‘Lumbung Orationes’ are conceived as a kind of ‘barn prayers’. A group prayer is performed by hundreds of Africans in the heart of Europe, integrating voodoo with elements of other religions; a big collective prayer that something significant will happen for Europe and the World during the opening period of Documenta 15. What will happen as a result of this prayer will be documented on this website.

But what is “true”? What is ‘true’ in a world where the truth increasingly coincides with the way the truth is communicated?

After the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of the Second World War, the allied forces organised “tours” for the German civilians inside the concentration camps to show them what the “truth” was. In turn, these ‘special tours’ were filmed by a camera to demonstrate a second truth: to show the world what had happened and that the German population had learned the truth.

In 2022 it is as if each of us can organise their own ‘special tour’ for all kinds of small and big truths. Our smartphones can produce information, consume information and share information. Each one of us is a TV network. This information overload risks suffocating and anaesthetising us. To continue our metaphor: on the one hand, we can no longer understand what happened in the ‘concentration camp’ and, on the other hand, we are addicted to a thousand truths that happened in the concentration camp. Suffocated and anaesthetised. Victims and perpetrators of an information overload.

In the last 10-15 years, the progressive digitalisation of our lives has deluded us into believing that we live in an interconnected community. In reality, the internet and social networks lock each of us into individualistic cages. Each one of us in this cage has to optimise their performance and is led to exalt his narcissism. We have eliminated rituals from our lives. The ritual, like the “feast day”, allows us to live the “time of the gods”, the solemn time. The ritual becomes an interstice where we can recover the relationship with our roots (the earth) and the mystery of transcendence (the sky).

When I was a child, I learned a Catholic prayer from St Bernard that allows one to see any request made to God granted. I remember that this prayer has always worked, and I am convinced that it will work again this time, integrated in the Voodoo ritual organised in Kassel. Not only will this “collective prayer” have consequences, but these consequences will be evident and can be documented on this website. Art allows us to take this luxury, this space of possibility. This “Lumbung of Prayers”.

a ritual that breaks the cage of colonialism

Colonialism implies the domination and corruption-buying of the Other and the Different. The Other and the Different are domesticated and sterilised to become acceptable.

Contemporary art often presents works related to cultures that tend to be marginalised, we can think of indigenous cultures, Afro-American culture, but also women’s rights and the LGBTQ world. But these artworks tend to sterilise these cultures and make them acceptable and digestible. In all these cases, we can indeed speak of a ‘return colonialism’ for works that are domesticated and to be hung in some luxury flat.

On the contrary, this ritual represents an authentic, shameless and wild force that posits prayer as the supreme good: an immaterial good that is put outside the logic of money, purchase and utilitarian exchange. The nature of the project and its gratuitousness shatter the cages of any old colonialist scheme. Sarcastically and ironically, this ritual seems to satiate the West’s desire for the exotic and politically correct: so many people from a different culture purifying themselves in order to be accepted. In reality, the Voodoo ritual, which also incorporates elements of other religions, represents a purification ritual necessary for prayer. This ritual in the heart of Europe wants to be a ‘premonition’ of a possible future and wants to celebrate an authentic and equal cultural exchange. 

In the Mediterranean region there is a “demographic transition” that in just one century will cause the inhabitants of Africa to grow by 530%, going from 43.5 million to 274 million people. The tensions unleashed by the Russian-Ukrainian war further challenge the values of Europe and the Western world. The inability to export grain from Ukraine may cause a severe famine in Africa itself. Moreover, climate changes have rendered some areas of Africa uninhabitable (the UN expects about fifty million climate refugees only from Africa by 2050); strong political instabilities have resulted in civil wars and genocides in Sudan, Eritrea, Central Africa, Congo, Libya and Chad; finally, 30 million people are suffering from starvation in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, northern Kenya, and around Lake Chad.

Every kind of instability implies a sudden and traumatic relationship with the Other and the Different. “Lumbung Orationes” arrive in Kassel as a “positive attack” aimed at reconstructing sense and meaning. Can we see the great migratory flows and the relationship with other cultures as a source of strength? Is it possible to eliminate all underhand colonialist relations in this encounter? On this site, we will see if the striking and manifest effects of this prayer can answer these questions.