Franco “Bifo” Berardi.

Documenta 14 Cancels Franco Berardi’s Auschwitz on the Beach Performance Following Outcry

Documenta 14 organizers have decided to cancel a performance by Italian activist and media theorist Franco Berardi after the work caused public outrage. Critics of the piece, titled Auschwitz on the Beach, argue that the parallel it draws between the plight of refugees and the Holocaust is offensive. The performance was scheduled to take place on Thursday, August 24, at 8:30 PM.

A statement published on Documenta 14’s website reads: “In response to the violence and volume of complaints and disparaging remarks received during the last week, we have decided to cancel Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s performance. We respect those who might feel offended by the title of Berardi’s poem. We don’t want to add pain to their grief. However, we don’t want to simply accept these accusations nor abandon discussion and critical thinking. On the contrary, we need to activate the dispositive of the Parliament of Bodies to host all voices and encourage dialogue.”

The piece will be replaced by a poetry reading and discussion about Europe’s migration crisis. For the new event, “Shame on Us: A Reading and Discussion,” Berardi will read a poem that inspired the original work. In defense of Berardi’s work, Documenta 14’s artistic director Adam Szymczyk, said, “In its magnitude and systemic nature of state-orchestrated destruction of an entire race, the Holocaust remains a singular manifestation within human history. . .The planned discussion and reading of Berardi’s poem within the Parliament of Bodies is a warning against historical amnesia, a call for an awakening of conscience and for collective action—and not an attempt to relativize the Holocaust.”