Pro-Palestine Exhibition Cancelled in NYC
On Thursday night, Whitebox Art Center in the Bowery opened "No Exit," a solo show featuring work by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar. The display, which takes on special import given the flood of headlines out of the Middle East, was particularly timely in that the artist himself, scheduled to speak at the New Museum in the opening days of its current "Here and Elsewhere" show, was prevented by Israel from leaving the West Bank.
For the opening of "No Exit," Jarrar was intended to Skype in to Whitebox. However, as the largest demonstrations in recent history shook the West Bank, Jarrar was unable to attend, even virtually. Instead, a live feed showed images of the protests in Ramallah.
Still, the show has gone on. It includes a new piece, which features a voice reading out the names of Palestinians killed in during Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, as well as a film, Bus Stop, depicting Palestinian children in the West Bank waiting for a school bus that never arrives.
The latter work drew particularly positive notice from art critic Deborah Solomon, who reviewed the show and interviewed Jarrar for a report on WNYC. "He wants to let us know he is not hateful, he is not shrill, he is not didactic, he is not a terrorist," Solomon said. "He is a man trying to capture the reality of his life on the West Bank."
Responding to the current crisis in Gaza and the political nature of Jarrar's work, "No Exit" was meant to have a second, allied component, "10 Days, 10 Ideas: An Incubator for Palestine" at the small Undercurrent Projects on East 5th Street. For 10 days, the space was meant to play host to an ongoing series of workshops on pro-Palestine activism, each day focusing on a different idea.
The Thursday opening, however, was marred by complex, unclear disputes between the organizers and the space over the presentation of the show. Instead of hosting a discussion, Jarrar's film Infiltrators (also on view at the New Museum) was screened. The scheduled conversation about pro-Palestinian activism, with "No Exit" curator Myriam Vanneschi, artist Amin Husain, and others, was relocated to a nearby bar.
Now, the entire "10 Days, Day Ideas" show has been cancelled. "We're canceling not moving the event primarily because of the danger of creating any unnecessary confusion for activists or those who want to help," artist Rhett Jones wrote this morning. "As it is, the Whitebox show goes on, and the Undercurrent episode remains illustrative of how difficult this dialogue is to have, anywhere in the world. Even the art world."
The complete press release from the organizers announcing the cancellation of "10 Days, 10 Ideas: An Incubator for Palestine" is below:
—10 Days/10 Ideas, an Incubator for Palestine at Undercurrent Projects is cancelled.
The satellite event to Khaled Jarrar's current art show at Whitebox Art Center, called 10 Days/10 Ideas, at Undercurrent Projects has been cancelled. "No Exit" at Whitebox remains open with a work by Khaled that continues to address the situation in Palestine and we are very proud of it and are proud of our collaboration with Whitebox.
Whitebox supported a satellite show taking place at Undercurrent, but has no affiliation with the events or organizations taking part in that show.
On opening day it transpired that the owners of Undercurrent did not wish to go ahead with the event, 10 Days/10 Ideas, in the way it had developed.
In collaboration with Jarrar, as part of his art practice, it was conceived as a space for video work and for activist-, theorists- and tech-meetings. Undercurrent decided that they could not endorse the artistic strategies of the activist workshops.
Khaled and the curators were and are supportive of Direct Action Front for Palestine and NYC Solidarity with Palestine, among others, and decided the space and workshops was also available to them, should the need arise.
After the owners of Undercurrent expressed their objections, we decided to cancel as we think that furthering division and confusion of activist and art participants would negatively impact our very reasons for setting up these workshops in the first place. We do not wish to further engage in discussion about the continuation of it in a different form or a different place as we feel it will only divert attention from issues that matter in Palestine, but also from the fantastic show at Whitebox.
Khaled's practice has always addressed his situation, as a person living under violent occupation, as well as the broader issue that Palestine finds itself in, and as an artist he responds consistently and urgently to changes that take place and we support him wholeheartedly and admire his work greatly. The changes that took place in Gaza and the Palestinian Occupied Territories over the course of time while we were planning the satellite event at Undercurrent inevitably changed the design of the space.
Perhaps lines are blurred when art- becomes Social Practice- becomes action, but we believe this is where Social Practice becomes truly relevant and we support the art space as a space of unrestricted speech.
In the case of activists needing a space who were expecting to use Undercurrent, you may contact Myriam at [email protected] and we will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
The artist, production and curatorial team: Khaled Jarrar, Myriam Vanneschi, Rhett Jones, Joseph Audeh