Leading artists disengage from British room that censored Palestine

Leading artists disengage from British room that censored Palestine

More than 1,000 artists announce refusal to work with Bristol’s Arnolfini after censorship of Palestinian cinema and poetry

  • Bristol’s best artists among those who use Arnolfini for censorship
  • Silencing Palestinian culture is ‘inhumane’ amid Gaza massacres
  • More than 1,100 artists say they refuse to work with Arnolfini until he “repairs the harm he has done”

Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley, Massive Attack’s Robert del Naja, writers Alice Oswald, Nikesh Shukla, Shon Faye, Travis Alabanza and Rachel Holmes are among many Bristol artists who have written a letter accusing the iconic International Center of contemporary art Arnolfini of “censorship of Palestinian culture”.

The letter follows Arnolfini’s cancellation of film and poetry events scheduled by the Bristol Palestine Film Festival.

Hundreds of British and international artists including Brian Eno, writers Raymond Antrobus, Isabel Waidner, Lola Olufemi and Huw Lemmey, performance artist Colin Self and actress Juliet Stevenson joined Bristol artists to sign and pointed out:

“an alarming pattern of censorship and repression within the arts sector”

citing a series of recent cancellations and threats against artists defending Palestinian rights in Britain and beyond.

The state-funded arts center said it canceled film and poetry events because it “could not be sure that the events would not lead to political activity.”

But the center’s statement was widely ridiculed when it appeared on Arnolfini’s Instagram account.

Arnolfini has organized numerous events with overtly political themes. Last year, Arnolfini organized an event against Russian war crimes in Ukraine, with a portion of ticket sales going to the Ukraine Disasters Emergency Committee.

Leading Bristol artists including Lawrence Hoo, Batu, Giant Swan, Tom Marshman and Verity Standen have said that after the killing of more than 17,000 Palestinians in Gaza and the destruction of more than 100 heritage sites in a matter of weeks :

“Silencing Palestinian voices and stories at this time is not only a betrayal of the fundamental principles of pluralism and freedom in the arts, it is also inhumane.”

Visual artists Jasleen Kaur, Ben Rivers, Paul Purgas, Tai Shani, Jumana Manna and Erica Scourti agree that Britain’s hard-won legacy of freedom in the arts:

“We cannot allow it to fall prey to authoritarianism, racism and censorship…. Anyone who cares about the democratic functioning of our cultural institutions should be deeply concerned.”

The artists commit to collective action and urge other artists and audiences to join them, stating:

“we must, reluctantly, refuse cooperation with the art center and will not participate in any of its events”,

to Arnolfini:

“publicly commits to consistently defending freedom of expression, with no exception for Palestine, and genuinely engages with Bristol’s arts community to repair the harm it has caused.”

Bristol artist and composer Nik Rawlings, who was in talks with the gallery to undertake a residency at Arnolfini, has announced he is no longer willing to do so. They added:

“We want to make it clear that we fully support the Arnolfini workers who have had no say in this matter. Our message is addressed to those in management who made this damaging decision; the signatories of this letter expect better integrity, transparency and cultural leadership from Arnolfini.

You will find the list of signatories here.

Source: Artist for Palestine UK

Translation: AJC for Palestine Media Agency