Muslim artists want their work removed from Israeli exhibition (text)

20 December 2017

























Muslim artists want their work removed from Israeli exhibition
Opening in Sakhnin Valley this week, the 3rd Mediterranean Biennale features 60 artists from 25 countries; BDS pressure causes 5 of the artists to cancel participation as show of solidarity with Palestinians.
Five Muslim artists from different countries asked to have their work removed over the weekend from the 3rd Mediterranean Biennale, which is scheduled to open in the Sakhnin Valley this week, following pressure from the BDS movement. The artists said they decided to cancel their participation in the Israeli exhibition as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The Mediterranean Biennale will be held in the Jewish-majority community of Misgav and the Arab-majority cities of Sakhnin, Arraba and Deir Hanna. It will feature the work of 60 artists from 25 countries, including many artists from Arab-majority countries that have no diplomatic relations with the State of Israel, such as Kuwait, Morocco and Algeria.

In an unusual move, the French museums director then asked the Mediterranean Biennale to remove the Arab artists work, saying they did not want their work to be displayed in Israel. The artists have declared on social media that they support the Palestinian struggle against Israel and wont cooperate with Israel by displaying their work in the biennale.

The screens for the removed video pieces, which have already been put up in different places ahead of the event, will remain shut. The works include a map of refugees route from Africa to Europe, videos from a trip through Algeria, images of bombed houses in the first Lebanon War and a car bomb explosion in Beirut.

There have been BDS-tagged calls on social media to boycott the event and to refuse to take part in it. Art has a power of rising above disputes and political conflicts between communities and serving as a tool for free expression, bridging between people and communities in conflict and dispute. The goal of art is to unite rather than to separate, increase hatred and animosity and violence, through boycotts that have created situations of war, refugees seeking shelter in Europe, acts of terror around the world, etc.

I believe, Fainaru added, that art is above politics, and its real power is in creating love and solidarity between people. It should be noted that these artists works are actually being displayed to a Palestinian population which lives in northern Israel, in the cities of Sakhnin, Arraba and Deir Hanna. As an artistic event, the Mediterranean Biennale aims to create a stage for a discourse and coexistence through art, while opposing the enhancement of hatred and animosity through the boycott.

Akram Zaatari wrote on facebook: "I'm still in a state of shock - hearing that FRAC Provence Alpes Cotes d'Azur sent my video work -Saida June 6, 1982- to be shown in a biennial in Israel. What shock me first is that a French public institution does not yet know that most Arab artists refuse to show their work in Israeli institutions. What shocks me second, is that FRAC, withholding in its collections many works by Arab artists, did not inform any of them of this loan to Israel. What shock me third and is in my opinion seriously worrying, is that more and more art products are used as diplomatic currency to serve this or that agenda. What shocks me last is that it is clear that FRAC conservators do not understand my work that they withhold, which is a reconstitution of an Israeli air raid based on photographs I took at the age of 16, the first day of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. After that date I lived for three years under Israeli occupation.
Some would see this as a bureaucratic mistake. For me it is symptomatic of changes in the art world, and in the institution. I can't but have less and less faith in the institution.
Anyway the work has been withdrawn. More on this soon.
#Frac - Fond regional d'art contemporain