A group calling itself Artists4Palestine has hit out at the Board of Deputies for raising objections to work by a Palestinian artist currently showing at the Barbican.
In an open letter posted on Thursday, the artists’ collective challenged the Board’s concerns about a video installation by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour and Danish author Søren Lind, called ‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain.’
Noting that the Board had not seen the video before writing to the Barbican asking that the video be removed, Artists4Palestine asked: “What are we to make of the UK’s main Jewish organisation calling for the Barbican to remove a video artwork from a science-fiction themed exhibition?”
The controversial exhibit includes a film shows the heroine “trying to change the narrative of history by planting various porcelain that carry the DNA of Palestinians for future archaeologists to excavate and find”.
Last week the Barbican defended its exhibition, after the Board’s chief executive Gillian Merron wrote to Barbican director Louise Jeffreys arguing that the film sought to “deny the historical Jewish connection to Israel” and calling it “an exercise in delegitimisation”.
But the artists said it “obliquely questions national mythologies, and its Arabic-speaking protagonist uses archaeology to stake claims on the past and thereby on the future of a vanishing land”.
They add: “Like much art, its narrative is ambiguous, open-ended, more akin to poetry than any kind of polemic. Why would the Board want to protect British Jews from a video that uses science-fiction to explore the relationship of history, myth and national identity?”
In a tweet, the Board noted that Artists4Palestine supported a cultural boycott of Israel, adding that the group was “turning hypocrisy into an art-form”.
Sandeep Dwesar, chief operating officer at the Barbican, agreed with the artists, saying the exhibit “cannot be placed in any distinct or quantifiable time period”.
However Sansour, who was born in Bethlehem, has herself said it is intended to show “how archaeology has been instrumentalised as a political tool, especially in the case of Israel and Palestine”.
Dwesar further said the Barbican was an “apolitical organisation” but the Board pointed to Sansour’s earlier description of her “fictional film that addresses the present day reality of political problems in Palestine and the Israeli occupation”.
Sansour added that the film shows “a real actual performance of intervening archaeologically in Israel and Palestine to change that narrative… it’s an attempt to address what’s going on politically”.
The video is currently showing as part of the ‘Into the Unknown’ exhibition, which is supported by Arts Council England, and has exhibited at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham, the Bluecoat in Liverpool and the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
— Artists4PalestineUK (@Art4PalestineUK) August 31, 2017
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) August 31, 2017