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Immediate release of artist, poet and curator Ashraf Fayadh

November 28, 2015


We, the undersigned, denounce the death penalty verdict that the Saudi Arabian courts have sentenced to artist, poet and curator Ashraf Fayadh, based on the charge of apostasy on November 17th. Not only does the death penalty violate the fundamental principle of human rights, but it contravenes the Saudi Kingdom’s proclaimed policy of openness, moderation, and engagement through dialogue and understanding with the precepts of contemporary societies it comes into contact with everyday. Furthermore, to our great sorrow and outrage, this verdict does not seem very different from those issued and implemented by the extremist fundamentalist movements, on a daily basis, to all those who don’t abide to their convictions. In fact, this verdict issued by a state court extends argument and empowerment to the impunity of the sinister practices of these extremists.

We, the undersigned –writers, artists, curators, poets, intellectuals and academics–, demand the immediate release of Ashraf Fayadh in the defense of justice, freedom and dignity. He incarnates our conscience and our unwavering belief that only freedom, justice and dignity can blunt extremism and terror.



Nous, soussignés, condamnons fermement le jugement rendu le 17 novembre 2015 par les tribunaux saoudiens prononçant la peine de mort à l’encontre de l’artiste, poète et commissaire d’expositions, Ashraf Fayadh, accusé d’apostasie.

Non seulement la peine de mort constitue une violation du principe fondamental des droits de l’homme, mais elle va à l’encontre de la politique proclamée par les autorités saoudiennes, d’ouverture, de modération, et de dialogue avec les sociétés contemporaines. De plus, force est de constater avec douleur et amertume, que ce verdict ne semble pas très différent de ceux rendus et exécutés quotidiennement par les mouvements extrémistes fondamentaux à l’encontre de tous ceux qui n’obéissent pas à leurs convictions.  Cette peine prononcée par un tribunal étatique vient renforcer et consolider l’impunité des pratiques sinistres perpétrées par ces extrémistes.

Nous soussignés, écrivains, artistes, commissaires d’expositions, poètes, intellectuels et académiciens, demandons la mise en liberté immédiate de Ashraf Fayadh au nom des principes de justice, de liberté et de dignité, et ce, partant de notre profonde conviction que seuls ces principes sont susceptibles de combattre l’extrémisme et la terreur.


Sign the petition here.


Ashraf Fayadh was arrested in August 2013 in his home city of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia, after a man he had argued with while watching a soccer game in a cafe reported him to the religious police, his father, Abdul-Satar Fayadh, said in an interview with France 24 Arabic.

The elder Mr. Fayadh said that the charges against his son were based on a personal vendetta and “have no basis in truth.”

Mr. Fayadh was released without charge, but rearrested in January 2014 and accused of blasphemy and of having illicit relationships with women, according to Mr. Coogle of Human Rights Watch.

The first charge was based on the testimony of the man who reported him and of two officers from the religious police who arrested him, and on the contents of a poetry book called “Instructions Within” that Mr. Fayadh had published in 2008, Mr. Coogle said, citing court documents. The second charge was based on photographs found on Mr. Fayadh’s cellphone of him with women.

A court in Abha found him guilty on both charges and sentenced him to four years in prison and 800 blows, Mr. Coogle said.

But that sentence was thrown out on appeal, and Mr. Fayadh was retried in a process that ended last week. He was found guilty on five charges that included spreading atheism, threatening the morals of Saudi society and having illicit relations with women, according to court documents. He was sentenced to death for apostasy.

“This is just another example of the egregious cases that we have seen so many of this year,” said Mr. Coogle, who closely tracks the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Read more in the NYTimes.


Media Impact Activist Art Festival Disrupted by Police Intervention (Moscow, Russia)

November 10, 2015

On Saturday, November 7th, after a political intervention and a police investigation, the festival for activist art Media Impact was kicked out of their venue, the Red Center in Moscow.

At about one o’clock on that day, about 15 activists from the Antidealer movement (an all-Russian public movement to combat drug addiction and alcoholism), together with crews of the TV channels Russia and REN-TV burst into the exhibition space. The activist art festival Media Impact had been taking place in this venue for a week; the weekend in question was dedicated to contemporary art for children.


The Antidealer members had already called a police squad, which arrived after some time. Tatiana Volkova spent several hours testifying in the police department Yakimanka. According to the lawyer Dmitry Dinze, representatives of the organization Antidealer wrote that the event included propaganda for drugs (as well as drug addicts), LGBT and anarchism, in a statement to the police about Media Impact.

A few days before the police intervention, member of this organization had visited the festival. They were interested in the section Narcophobia: several men placed themselves in different corners of the exhibition hall, and started asking provocative questions, accusing the festival organizers of engaging in propaganda and violating drug laws. The Media Impact organizers emphasized that no promotion of drug abuse was taking place, and that talking about drug problems is not the promotion thereof. Narcophobia is an initiative of the Foundation Andrew Rylkov in Moscow, the activist art project Zhir, the group Babushka posle pohoron (Grandma after the funeral) from Novosibirsk, and the group Panda-Theater from Berlin.  The first presentation of Narcophobia took place in October 2011 also during the Media Impact festival in Moscow. The main goal then was to draw public attention to the issue of spreading drugs and to promote public debate on this issue. Since then, Narcophobia organized several activities related to relevant topics. The slogans of the project are: “No to the war on drug addicts!”; “For the right to life and health!”; “For humane drug policy!”. You can read more about the project here (in Russian):


The official statement of the “Media Impact” Festival working group regarding the provocation of the “Antidealer” organization

Since its beginning in 2011, Media Impact, International Festival of Activist Art, has been an open space for the exchange of ideas and practices in the field of art and activism. Media Impact hosts lectures, discussions and workshops by a broad range of internationally acknowledged and less known artists, activists and philosophers, as well as cinema clubs, rock’n’roll concerts and children’s program.

Narcophobia was one of the projects presented at the 2015 edition of the festival. It is dedicated to the humanization of narco-politics and eliminating the stigma associated with drug-users in the society. It supports the availability of the treatment of drug-addiction, harm reduction, helping the addicts instead of punishing them.

Antidealer is a public organization dedicated to the reduction of the number of the citizens of Russia using drugs. On the 4th of November its activists took part in the Narcophobia section where they behaved aggressively, but left the discussion very soon. Next time, on the 7th November, the activists of the movement joined the children’s workshops weekend of the festival. This time they were accompanied by the reporters of the two state TV channels – Russia1 and REN-TV, which had previously been invited by the organizers of the festival but preferred to come in the company of the Antidealer group. Led by a member of Parliament, Dmitry Nossov, the representatives of this public organization raided Maria Kalinina’s lecture on contemporary art for children. They accused the organizers of presenting children with illegal information and called the police. On the state channels the organizers were accused of propaganda of LGBT, drugs, extremism and feminism. The statement to the police that they made afterwards listed propaganda of drugs, drugs dealing, anarchism and LBGT.

The next day the owner of the gallery received a call from the police with a warning of checks during the day, so he asked the organizers to leave the room. The program for the whole day was cancelled.

During the visit of the Antidealer members the participating children got suffered moral abuse. They were filmed together with their parents without their permission, and even in spite of their open protests. The next event after the children’s lecture was a conference on democratic psychiatry, among the participants of which were some people with psychiatrical conditions, who were also severely traumatized by the rude behavior of the non-invited participants.

Propaganda of any kind is not the subject of our festival. It is about meeting people, discussing things with them, creating connections and working out problems.

More photos here.

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“MediaImpact: International Festival of Activist Art” took place for the 4th time in Moscow, Russia, October  30 – November 7, 2015, at Red Centre, Moscow (Red October). MediaImpact is an open international community seeking to explore, articulate, document, support and develop activist art. The key aspect of its activity is the inclusion of art projects into the actual socio-political practices of today, which includes, among other things, campaigning for the rights of minority groups, release of political prisoners, environmental protection and development of alternatives to existing healthcare systems, as well as standing up against censorship and defamation of cultural figures. 

Exciting Opportunities or the Ever Present Potential of Exploitation? Academia Unveiled

November 9, 2015

In the spring of 2015, the Department of Philosophy and Art History at a well known University in the East of England, UK, recruited a graduate teacher on a zero-hour contract. The position required the successful candidate to research, design, write, and deliver an entire spring term course for 2016. This was advertised as an exciting opportunity for a graduate teacher to prove their worth and ability to deliver a course that they had the freedom of designing.

The job advertisement required a CV, a Cover Letter, and a detailed outline of the proposed module. This was required before candidates were even selected for interviews. To research, design, and outline a detailed plan in draft takes at least two weeks of intensive reading and working out a week by week plan. The time invested in designing the module, and finalizing the application already began to outweigh any potential for paid work. Moreover, candidates handed over their ideas and intellectual property through the carefully chosen reading list and module description.

During the interview, candidates were told that the department made a mistake and that the course advertised was already being taught in the autumn on 2015.

Candidates were asked to come up with an entirely new idea for a module during the interview. With no time to prepare, and under pressure to think quick, the results were drafted rather than thought through.

Further, the interview panel of three lecturers consisted of two that did not teach the relevant discipline. The lecturers who were in charge of the module were not present, leading to a lack in representation of the discipline and a potential one sided approach in the selection process.

Throughout the interview, no mention was made about any paid work that designing this module would involve and questions to the effect were answered vaguely. Upon mentioning that the responsibilities of the post seem to outweigh the job title, it was repeated that this was an exciting opportunity.

The feedback received for unsuccessful candidates included that the ideas for a new module, that they had to conceive during the course of the interview, were not thought through or conceptualized. Queries about the composition of the interview panel and selection process received vague answers. These included that this mirrored the reality in the Academia of candidates being interviewed by non-experts in their field.

The question about payment for preparation time was answered equally evasive referring to a ‘formula’ used by the university to work out payment for time spent researching and designing the module. No further details were disclosed.

The salary offered was more than for a Graduate Teacher Assistant position, however, the vague and evasive way in which queries were dealt with left a lot to be desired. The process seemed to be ensuring that Equal Opportunities were respected, while the interview panel already had a candidate in mind for the position all along. This was reflected in the fact that potential candidates were approached and encouraged to apply, however, the result was mired in ambiguity and half hearted justifications for the selection of candidates.

This manner of recruiting graduates for positions that are in fact jobs for Lecturers, was a less than transparent process. Suspicions arose with the demand to research and design a detailed module, before an interview was even offered. No provisions were made to offer inexperienced graduates support to make an application. Further, the mistake made by the department in regards to the wrong module being advertised led to unnecessary, and unproductive outcomes.

The academia, much like the art world, exploits its workers and demands more than it pays for. Zero hour contracts, of which this position is an example, are a standard way for graduates and academics to seek out a living under precarious working conditions. The workload resulting from a position such as the one outlined here, far outweigh the prestige, experience, and remuneration they promise. GTA’s are continuously overworked and underpaid, and the prospects of a permanent position in the academia, after successfully completing studies, are precious few.

Zero hour contracts are a short term solution. Together with the promise of experience and “an exciting opportunity” to prove one’s ability and worth, these modes of exploitation have become a way to drive the academia forward based on cheap labour and the good will of inexperienced graduates.

If you have witnessed similar cases or have been directly affected by these or similar conditions, speak up and insist on equal pay and equal working conditions!

Artists, writers and critics’ Open Letter: No Real Estate Summit at the Brooklyn Museum! (NY)

November 7, 2015


Dear Anne Pasternak and Trustees of the Brooklyn Museum;

As working artists, critics, and writers in New York City, many of us participants in past and upcoming shows at the Brooklyn Museum, we are profoundly upset to see that the museum has rented its space again to a major Real Estate Summit to be held on Tuesday, November 17th. We feel that this event is using the very culture we create and support to endorse profit-driven investment.

The mission of the Brooklyn Museum is to “act as a bridge between the rich artistic heritage of world cultures … to serve its diverse public as a dynamic, innovative, and welcoming center for learning through the visual arts.” Yet the Real Estate Summit states it will teach attendees “how to create value in places like Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Downtown Brooklyn, where it seems values are already maxed out.” As artists, critics, and writers, we cannot let this happen without speaking up and joining all the residents of Brooklyn who oppose the Summit.

The African-American community of Crown Heights, which is the Museum’s home, is in crisis, suffering daily displacements and tenant harassment. A mile or two away from the Museum, in Gowanus, over 300 artists just lost their studios in one building alone. Both of these examples are direct results of the tactics of the very people who are being welcomed by the Museum at this upcoming Summit. In September 2015, there were 59,305 homeless people, including 14,280 homeless families with 23,923 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system.

The organizers of the Real Estate Summit, upon learning of our intent to protest, proposed that a single artist be invited to speak to attendees. However, the Summit’s goals are in direct opposition to the needs of the majority of people who are struggling to pay rent in Brooklyn. Rents have increased 75% from 2000-2012, while the median household income for a family of four in Brooklyn is just $44,850. The conference’s stated goal to derive higher profits from Brooklyn real estate will exacerbate the ongoing displacement of thousands of New Yorkers, and therefore we decline the offer to participate.

Instead, we are asking the Brooklyn Museum to work with us as we pursue meaningful change in the following ways:

1) Convene an affordable housing and affordable workspace Summit that serves the communities that surround the Brooklyn Museum.

2) Change its rental policies so that they are not in opposition to the mission of the Museum.

3) Require that attendees at the Real Estate Summit on November 17th make real commitments to truly affordable space, starting by engaging directly with community members and members of organizations such as Picture the Homeless (PTH), the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN), Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD-NY), the Crown Heights Tenants Union (CHTU), The Artist Studio Affordability Project (ASAP), the NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative (NYC REIC), Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), and the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI), to name just a few groups that should be involved.

4) Place at least one representative from an organization dedicated to preserving and creating truly affordable space (see #3 above) on the Museum’s Board.

5) Seriously consider BAN’s petition: Do NOT Host the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit!

If real estate development and concern for local community truly go together, this Real Estate Summit would focus on preserving affordable housing and affordable workspace. We ask that the Brooklyn Museum lead the path toward cultural equity in this city by making affordable space a priority in any conversation about real estate at the museum. As our city develops its first Cultural Plan, we ask that you demonstrate your support for our livelihoods and the livelihoods of all New Yorkers by making a commitment to truly affordable space for all residents of this City — not just artists.

We look forward to joining you in this conversation,

With deep concern,

ASAP and NYC artists

Please sign this petition here.


Brooklyn Museum: Do NOT Host the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit!

As residents of  New York City and patrons of the Brooklyn Museum,  we are appalled that the Brooklyn Museum is planning to host the 6th Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015.

The 600+ top real estate owners, developers, and investors who will gather at the Brooklyn Museum are key players in the scourge of gentrification that is destroying working class communities and communities of color across the globe and most acutely here in Brooklyn.  As housing prices soar, families are displaced, communities ripped apart and record numbers of New Yorkers—60,000 or more—are now homeless.

The Brooklyn Museum has long enjoyed a reputation as both a pillar in its community and  as a forward-thinking cultural institution. On your website, you take pride in being part of and serving one of the “most diverse…urban centers in the world,” yet you are hosting a conference whose very aim is to eradicate that diversity from Brooklyn.

We, the undersigned demand the Brooklyn Museum to do right by its borough, by its patrons and by its own mission and cancel the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit.

Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network
Please sign this petition here.

An Open Letter to the Brooklyn Museum Regarding their Hosting of the Sixth Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit

Greetings to the Brooklyn Museum,

My name is Sarah Quinter. I am an artist, activist, and born-and-raised New Yorker. I would like to start by saying that I have always been a fan of your programming. El Anatsui’s Gravity and Grace, Swoon’s Submerged Motherlands, and Wangechi Mutu’s A Fantastic Journey are some of the best shows I have ever seen. However, I have some serious concerns about an event you plan to host.

It has been brought to my attention that your museum will be hosting the 6th Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit on November 17th. I find this to be a problem. The Brooklyn Museum has long presented itself as a forward-thinking cultural institution, showcasing many artists of color, feminist, and queer artists, and hosting free community events like Target First Saturdays. However, hosting this real estate summit is counter to the Brooklyn Museum’s mission of serving the diverse communities of Brooklyn. The 600+ top real estate owners, developers, and investors gathering at the Brooklyn Museum to scheme about how to wring more profit from our neighborhoods are not serving us as Brooklynites. They are in fact contributing to the epidemic of gentrification that is decimating working class communities and communities of color in cities across the globe. When gentrification is discussed in popular media, everyone likes to take shots at silly kale-munching hipsters, but rarely do we examine the powerful players who are really driving mass displacement. Who are they? The very developers, investors, and politicians you plan to host.

According to the summit agenda, after paying their registration fees of over $500, attendees can learn how to squeeze more profit from “seemingly picked-over areas”. Apparently, gentrified neighborhoods like mine where some of us still manage to hang on are not yet sufficiently exploited. And sounding like hounds, workshop presenters ask, “Where is the bleeding edge of neighborhood transformation?” This language hints at the very real violence that gentrification incurs, sometimes actually resulting in blood being spilled. Notice the deliberate uptick in police enforcing racist “Broken Windows” policies in neighborhoods slated for “revitalization”. Consider the case of Alex Nieto, 28 year-old San Francisco native shot dead by police when a gentrifier called the cops on him for sitting on a park bench and “looking suspicious”. And of course, let us not forget that there are now 60,000 homeless New Yorkers, a number we have not seen since the Great Depression, and clearly correspondent with skyrocketing rents.  Bleeding edges, indeed.

Workshop presenters also ask, “What is the next Atlantic Yards?”, invoking a notorious mega-development project most native to Brooklyn shudder to think of, rife as it was with lying and manipulation by developer Forest City Ratner and featuring ludicrous “affordable” units going to households earning more than $100,000 a year. With such a dearth of truly affordable housing, the last thing we need is another Atlantic Yards.

In light of all this, I must ask: by hosting this summit, who is the Brooklyn Museum really serving? it’s not serving me, despite my being a “young creative” Brooklyn resident. Growing up in the working class immigrant neighborhood of Jackson Heights and now residing in the similar neighborhood of Bushwick, I am watching the city that made me who I am disappear by the day. It’s no surprise that heavy-hitting politicians like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams are stars at the summit you plan to host. These are the same politicians who push policies that make displacement frighteningly easy for the developers they hobnob with, even as they pay lip service to siding with tenants.

I take this personally. Since my building is not rent stabilized, we were slapped with a thirty percent rent increase last year and now my landlord is denying lease renewals and threatening evictions, all with the law on his side. I have deep ties in my neighborhood and there are many reasons why being displaced would be an awful experience for me, but the most heartbreaking one would be possibly never seeing the little kids who live upstairs from me again. I’m really close with the children of the Ecuadorian immigrants who live in my building, but their father has already told me that if they keep getting squeezed, they’ll probably give in and move to Connecticut. New Yorkers are being scattered across the country, suffering the traumatic effects of “root shock” as Dr. Mindy Fulilove describes in her book by that name.

Again: who are you serving by hosting this summit? Not my best friend, a young Latina native to Bushwick who, along with her mom, has faced vicious harassment at the hands of a slumlord desperate to cash in on gentrification. Not the tearful grandmother I met as she was selling off her daughter’s and granddaughter’s things at a yard sale because they couldn’t keep up with the mortgage and had to move all the way to Florida. And not the “creatives” either, who, as luminaries like Patti Smith and David Byrne have pointed out, require affordable rents in order to create work that is genuinely challenging, groundbreaking, and meaningful. I wonder if the Brooklyn Museum will actually be able to find any new artists in Brooklyn to show in a few decades. This borough will be a creative graveyard soon enough if things don’t change. I urge you to “serve your diverse public” as you state in your mission and be a part of this change. Cancel the summit and let these vultures scheme elsewhere. Brooklyn will thank you.


Sarah Quinter


Brooklyn Real Estate Summit: Response and Actions

Dear Friends,
The Brooklyn Museum cares deeply about issues that affect our communities. As you may have heard, on November 17th, an organization called Green Pearl is renting space in the Brooklyn Museum for their annual conference, the “Brooklyn Real Estate Summit.” On Tuesday we learned that artists, community organizers and our neighbors were upset that the conference is happening at our museum and had banded together to express their concerns about affordable housing and work spaces and protest the event. Of course we wanted to be responsive, and I want to let you know what we have done:

  • We immediately reached out to the conference organizers and suggested they invite artists and organizers to speak at the conference on affordable housing and work spaces, which they did.
  • We offered to host a separate forum on affordable housing and workspaces at the Museum so our community can discuss these important issues and share exciting models for change.
  • We reached out to Sarah Quinter and other community organizers and invited them to meet to discuss their concerns.
  • We will take a close look at our policies for hosting third-party events for the future.

We want you to know that we value all of the members of our community and we appreciate your care and support. We also value the discussions that are taking place and we look forward to being a part of the dialogue.

Talk soon,

Anne Pasternak
Shelby White and Leon Levy Director

Brooklyn Museum

BDZ Group // Boycott the Zabludowicz Foundation

November 1, 2015

Over the last three decades, as Israel’s economy has ‘opened up’ to global capitalist investment, and its status in the community of nations has been normalised, the Israeli state has done everything it can to close down on the possibility of Palestinian liberation. The two processes appear to be contradictory but are in fact mutually supportive. As Israeli capitalist investment in the domestic arms industry has declined, and Israeli capitalist integration into global markets for communications, real estate, and art has increased, the ability of Israel to demand international support for its colonial aggression has increased also. Likewise, as Israeli oppression of Palestinian resistance to colonial rule becomes more sophisticated, Israel-based investment opportunities tend to grow in allure.

The Zabludowicz Art Trust (which funds Zabludowicz Art Projects and the Zabludowicz Collection) is a perfect example of the above-described two-sided process: what appears, in the form of ‘philanthropic’ investment in art, to be a retreat from colonial brutality only serves to disguise its violent intensification. The collection and funding of contemporary art by Zabludowicz Art Trust is a monument to the contribution that art can make in creating a supportive environment for colonial murder, oppression, and despoliation.

The Zabludowicz Art Trust and Zabludowicz Art Projects derive their name from Chaim (Poju) Zabludowicz, the co-founder, with Anita Zabludowicz, of the Zabludowicz Collection. Poju Zabludowicz is the Chairman and CEO of Tamares, a private investment group with direct links to the Israeli state. Tamares focuses on real estate (e.g. Tamares Real Estate Investments UK), technology (e.g. Knafaim), leisure and media (e.g. Tamares Telecom). Tamares was founded as the corporate arm of The Zabludowicz Trust. Poju Zabludowicz is, additionally, a director of the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM), a company dedicated to creating ‘a supportive environment for Israel in Britain.’

The Call:

We, BDZ group, call for a boycott of the Zabludowicz Art Trust as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the call by Palestinian artists for a cultural boycott of Israel.

The boycott includes the following measures:

We ask artists, cultural workers and producers to refuse to sell their labour to the Zabludowicz Collection, and/or to withdraw the ‘conceptual content’ of any work already owned. The boycott extends to collaborations and performances with the Zabludowicz Art Trust, Zabludowicz Art Projects and the associated digital platform Daata Editions.

We ask the viewing public to respect the boycott by refusing to enter the London project space located at 176 Prince of Wales Road, the New York space at 1500 Broadway, and the residency sites available to visit on the island of Sarvisalo, Finland.

We (BDZ Group) work to highlight the complicity of the Zabludowicz Art Trust in the affairs of the Israeli state and demand divestment, of any form of Zabludowicz Art Trust support, by universities and art institutions including the following:

Artangel, Artreview, Bard College (New York), Bedford Creative Arts, British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel (BFAMI), Contemporary Art Society (London), Camden Arts Centre (London), Christie’s Education, Goldsmiths College (University of London), East London Fawcett Group, Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), Kiasma (Helsinki), London Borough of Camden Council, Norwich University of the Arts, Performa (New York), Royal College of Art (London), Spike Island (Bristol),  Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University, SUNDAY Art Fair, University of the Arts London (including Central St Martins and Chelsea College of Art), Tate Britain, Liverpool, Modern and St Ives, Tel Aviv University Trust, Tel Aviv Museum, Whitechapel Gallery (London). 

This statement demands that the boycott be upheld until such a time as the directors of the Zabludowicz Collection publicly recognise the rights of Palestinians, and desist from all activities and investments supporting the Israeli state in maintaining an oppressive and colonial system of apartheid.

We are in solidarity with Artists for Palestine who are advocating a cultural boycott of Israeli companies and institutions in receipt of funds from the Israeli state, and non-cooperation with attempts to silence and suppress critique of Israeli policy in the UK and abroad. The boycott is formulated in line with BDS and PACBI guidelines, and does not include activist, educational and peace-building initiatives in Israel, Palestine or abroad not supported by Israeli state agencies.

BDZ group, October 2015

To support this call please email :

For more information please read:

[Headnote: the following text was written in July 2014 at the time of the Israeli assault on Gaza. It was first published on Tumblr, and then re-published the following October at It is published here, with minor changes.]

Boycott the Zabludowicz Collection! No more selfies with the patrons of war!

  1. Art and Art Patronage

Who are the Zabludowiczs and why do they need to be boycotted immediately? Answer #1: Guns + Real Estate → Israeli State = London Art World. Answer #2: The Zabludowicz Collection has played a central role in supporting emerging artists in London over the past few years, but their cultural ‘patronage’ isn’t as selfless as it seems. It involves the washing of some very dirty money through the labour pool of young London-based artists. As the effective public-relations front end for what was historically a large supplier of arms to the Israeli state, as well as for the UK-based Pro-Israeli Lobby group BICOM, the Zabludowicz Collection represents a direct link between the opportunities for careers in art for young people here in London and the current bombing and ongoing genocidal oppression of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

  1. How did Zabludowicz get so rich?

Short answer: through arms dealing and, subsequently, property development. Zabludowicz’s fortune derives from the Tamares Group, which has large real estate interests (including, until recently, in the occupied territories) and casinos. Earlier his activities were coordinated through Soltam, the Israeli arms manufacturer set up by his father Shlomo Zabludowicz, who sold arms to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Via his past chairmanship, investment and interest in the pro-Israel lobby group, BICOM, Zabludowicz has played a sophisticated and possibly pivotal role in shaping opinion about Israel in both the UK media and parliamentary spheres. This has helped him to influence UK-Israeli relations. Apart from his activity with BICOM, Zabludowicz has also been involved in making large donations to the Conservative Party.

  1. What can you do? Boycott!

We call upon artists to uphold the BDS / PACBI guidelines and to boycott the Zabludowicz Collection. We ask artists, cultural workers and producers not to sell or show their work with the Zabludowicz Collection in the future and/or to withdraw the ‘conceptual content’ of their work from the Collection. We ask artists to respond to BDS / PACBI and refuse to sell their labour to the Zabludowiczs or to those institutions with which they collaborate.

We cite the PACBI guidelines and reiterate that these campaigns have called for a ‘picket line’ to be formed around Israeli-affiliated cultural institutions internationally. We support this demand in recognition of the fact that these institutions are ‘complicit in the Israeli system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law, or has hampered their exercise of these rights, including freedom of movement and freedom of expression’. ‘Cultural institutions’, the guideline states, ‘are part and parcel of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people’. [1]

We call on artists not to scab and to act in solidarity.

This is direct solidarity with the communities under assault in Gaza, victims of state terror on both sides, and with resistance movements in both Israel and Palestine.

  1. Rise of private funding in London

The decline of public funding, along with the ongoing capture of public funding by the neoliberal dogma of ‘philanthropy’, has the same toxic effect today that it has always had: glorifying the rich, whether directly or ‘autonomously’, becomes the task of art, while government cutbacks structurally and ideologically legitimate the social inequality and exploitation which makes people rich enough to ‘donate’ money to the arts.  While neither private capital nor the state can offer autonomy to artists or anyone else, it is still possible to distinguish between sources of support.

For anyone involved in the field of contemporary art, boycotting Zabludowicz is not a piece of moralizing theatre. It is a withdrawal of labour. The Zabludowiczs’ have enough friends in high places; you don’t need to do their PR for them. And that’s all participating in Zabludowicz-funded projects is – PR and the desperate bleaching of some very nasty money.

  1. Patronage vs Autonomy

Some people may want to shrug their shoulders and say that, in the end, it doesn’t matter where the money comes from, so long as something good can come of it: art. But what kind of art? Artists need to recognise that the places where their work is exhibited, the money that makes it possible, and the interests it can be made to serve all make up a part of its aesthetic content. Even the most ‘autonomous’ or ‘critical’ artwork exhibited in the Zabludowicz gallery instantly transforms itself into the merest piece of tinsel trailing off the back of the freight ships that even now are transporting the weapons that will be used to murder more Palestinian civilians.

Let’s be clear. The Zabludowiczs’ historical involvement in the arms trade is absolutely relevant to their present role in BICOM and their white-washing through the art market. It doesn’t matter that they’ve ‘divested’; selling up and then switching the values that they ‘earned’ through mass slaughter into ‘culture’ doesn’t mean that it’s somehow unacceptable to accuse them of complicity in mass death.

Likewise: aesthetics and organisation are not comfortably separable. Should private patrons seek to fund the arts, then we welcome them to close their institutions and unconditionally to deliver over all their money, property and resources to artists and everyone else, who can perfectly well distribute, self-administrate and self-organise themselves: We want the money!

[1]Pacbi Guidelines for the International Boycott of Israel
Further Links:……………

Distribute and Act to Save the Life of El Sexto (Cuba) #FreeElSexto

September 30, 2015

via Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Post Revolution Mondays


Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth) is a graffiti artist in Cuba, imprisoned since December 25, 2014 for attempting to perform an artistic action in a public space.

Danilo has spent 9 months in the Valle Grande prison, charged with the crime of Contempt, and is waiting for a judicial process, where he faces a possible sentence of 1 to 3 years imprisonment.

For six years Danilo has suffered police harassment, successive arbitrary arrests, detentions for more than 72 hours, searches of his home and confiscation of his works and his working materials. He suffers from bronchial asthma and has been affected by pneumonia.

  • We remind the Cuban authorities that the right to freedom is indispensable for expression and artistic creation in virtue of Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; protected by Article 15 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory and both of which are considered binding.
  • We insist that the authorities eliminate the restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
  • We express our concern because Danilo Maldonado has been detained solely for exercising his artistic activity, and urge that he be released immediately and without conditions, because he is a prisoner of conscience; he has been confined for his peaceful activism in the rescue of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.
  • We insist that the Cuban authorities drop the case immediately.
  • We ask the Cuban authorities to stop harassing and intimidating all the rest of the citizens who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful association.
  • We insist that the Cuban authorities promote and protect the right to freedom of artistic creation, and the right to participate in the cultural life, to access culture and respect for cultural diversity.

Additional Information

The graffiti artist and activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), was arrested on December 25, 2014, when he took two animals painted with the names of Fidel and Raul and was about to drop them off in Havana’s Central Park, usually crowded, for a street intervention. He is formally charged with “Contempt” [1] and is awaiting trial. He faces a sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison.

The right to participate in public demonstrations is not recognized in the Cuban Constitution nor is it legally developed. The Penal Code, protecting individual rights [2] includes the right to demonstrate and sanctions anyone who, in violation of the law, impedes the holding of a lawful meeting or demonstration, or a person from attending them. If the crime is committed by a public official, it is an abuse of office and the penalty is doubled.

However, the legal body [3] itself considers that a crime is committed against public order by anyone who participates in meetings or demonstrations held in violation of the dispositions that regulate the exercise of this right, dispositions that do not exist. Sanctions are tripled for the organizers.

There is no procedure to notify or solicit authorization to hold a protest, nor legal recourses to appeal the refusal. However, there are frequently marches along central avenues, called and organized by the government itself, with a marked political-ideological character. The restrictions imposed on this right by the state, are not provided in law.

The situation of human rights in Cuba has deteriorated sharply in recent months, with ever more repressive practices entrenched mainly against the Ladies in White dissident movement and the activists who support them, and the government’s contempt has become ever more flagrant toward the recommendations made by the States parties before the Universal Human Rights Council during the periodic review, in which the priorities are the ratification and implementation of the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and their optional protocols.

In Cuba, “The educational and cultural policy is based on the Marxist ideology” and is tied to the “promotion of patriotic education and the communist training of new generations and the preparation of children, young people and adults for social life. The State, in order to raise the culture of the people, concerns itself with promotion and developing artistic education, the vocation for creation and the cultivation of art and the capacity to appreciate it.” [4]

In 1961 Fidel Castro marked a limit for the full enjoyment and realization of the cultural rights of Cubans. In his speech “Words to the Intellectuals” his iconic phrase, “Within the Revolution, everything, outside the Revolution, no rights,” paraphrased the dictator Mussolini.

Our Constitution says, “Artistic creativity is free as long as its content is not contrary to the Revolution,” contradicting itself as it continues: “The forms of expression in art are free.” [5]

We believe that the imprisonment of the artist is an excessive punitive measure in response to the peaceful expression of the politically critical art of Danilo Maldonado and it is an attempt to silence and censor even more the artistic scene within the country.

We believe that society has the right for its public spaces to be spaces for creativity, for artistic expression; because they are also collective spaces of knowledge and debate. The public space belongs to civil society and not to governments, corporations or religious institutions.

We believe that it is the duty of the State to protect artists as key actors in social change and to defend their right to dissent, instead of gagging them, persecuting them and imprisoning them, when they have a critical attitude toward the government, which is also part of their role as artists: to question the reality that surrounds them and to be an active part of its evolutionary transformation.

Other government practices that threaten the enjoyment and full exercise of cultural rights and artistic-creative freedom in Cuba are:

  • Institutional censorship with regard to almost all artistic manifestations.
  • The theft of artist identity (in the case of independent festivals) by the State.
  • The right of admission to cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries, theoretical lectures, denying entrance and participation in public spaces to people labeled as dissidents or Human Rights activists.
  • The use of aesthetic criteria as political conditions through official censors charged with justifying censorship.
  • Manipulation of artists and intellectuals committing them to position themselves with exclusively political measures like the execution of three young men who hijacked a boat (2003).
  • The social isolation of the artistic guild from smear campaigns and the intimidation of others.
  • The State monopoly on public spaces and institutions that give authorization to engage in public activities.
  • Discrimination and social cancellation of a person as reprisal for their critical attitude.
  • With all institutions controlled by the State, if there is forced expulsion there is no other institution than can take in the person.
  • Limitations on the freedom of movement: people are blocked from moving to alternative spaces when they suffer from police harassment. Refusal of permission to leave or enter the country, confiscation of passports, arbitrary detentions, etc.
  • Expulsion from schools, workplaces, institutions that protect artists, for political reasons.
  • The application of self-censorship to daily behavior. (People naturally assume it: censorship is ordinary.)
  • Physical violence in arbitrary arrests, home detentions, threats, home searches, confiscation of works and the means of work, police interrogations, prison, aggression against the family.
  • Lack of official response to legal demands and citizen complaints that permit the exhaustion of domestic legal recourses.
  • The right the authorities take for themselves to impose a single interpretation on an artistic work.
  • The lack of legal recourses that permit the public recognition of initiatives independent of or alternative to the Ministry of Culture.
  • Participation in political activities and military training is compulsory in the Cuban educational system.
  • Ideological conditioning in arts education. Forced expulsions.
  • The impact of the Ministry of the Interior in the development and implementation of cultural policies and in the behavior of arts institutions.
  • The use of artist and intellectuals in the spaces of political repression.
  • The promotion and support of the professional careers of artists and intellectuals is conditioned by their demonstrated compliance with official policy (policies related to publication, movie production, exhibition spaces).
  • Independent NGOs are not entitled to receive funding under the “New Law of Cultural Investment,” requiring all financing to pass through the Ministry of Culture.
  • Demonization of financing secured by artists officially discriminated against.
  • Use of art as popular recreation and not as a method of critical questioning and a space for promoting freedom.

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz
President of the Republic of Cuba Havana,
Cuba E-mail .: (c / o Mission of Cuba to the UN)
Fax: +53 33 085 July 83 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Salutation: Your Excellency

General Abelardo Colome Ibarra
Minister of the Interior and Prisons
Ministry of Interior, Plaza de la Revolution, Havana, Cuba
Fax: +537 85 56 621 (pressed “send” when you hear the voice in Spanish)
Email .:
Salutation: Your Excellency

Dr. Dario Delgado Cura
Attorney General of the Republic
Attorney General’s Office, Amistad 552, e/ Monte and Estrella,
Centro Habana,
Havana, Cuba
Fax: + 537 669485 / + 537 333164
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Maria Esther Reus González
Minister of Justice
Salutation: Ms. Minister of Justice

Hon. Mr. Alejandro Gonzalez GALEANO
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Paseo. de la Habana, 194, 28036 – MADRID
Phone: 91 359 25 00 Fax: 91 359 61 45

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva
100 chemin de Valérie, Chambésy 1292
Fax: +41 22 758 9431

Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Cuba in Brussels
77 rue Roberts Jones
1180 Uccle, Belgium
Fax: + 32 2 344 9661

[1] Article 144.1 and 144.2 of the Criminal Code, Section Three:

  1. Anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults or in any way outrages or offends, orally or in writing, the dignity or decorum of a public authority, public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions or on the occasion or by reason of them, shall be punished by imprisonment of three months to one year or a fine of one hundred to three hundred shares, or both.
  2. If the action described in the preceding paragraph is committed against the President of the State Council, the President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, members of the State Council or the Council of Ministers or the Deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the penalty is imprisonment of one to three years.

[2] Article 292 Penal Code

[3] Article 209 Penal Code

[4] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Chapter V. Education and Culture, Article 39

[5] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Chapter V. Education and Culture, Article 39

Read also: 

Amnesty International: Cuba must release graffiti artist jailed for painting Castros’ names on pigs’ back

Acting Politically as a Cultural Worker in Russia

September 17, 2015

In October 2014 I opened an independent gallery in Moscow with a friend. It closed this summer after attempting to show an exhibition about LGBT youth (Be yourself: stories of LGBT teenagers). I say attempted to show because the police turned up before the photos had even been installed, a little reminder of just how ridiculous things are getting over here and how much more ridiculous they will probably get. I learned a lesson from this story, but it wasn’t about queer exhibitions in the Putin era.

The Russian art community has taken part in a string of clashes between cultural institutions and the government in the past decade. One of the most famous cases happened in 2006, when Andrei Erofeev and Yuri Samodurov curated “Forbidden Art” at the Sakharov Center, an exhibition containing images that the Russian Orthodox Church found blasphemous and of the “inciting religious hatred” variety. Erofeev and Samodurov were fined in a highly-publicized trial. The pattern became all too familiar: certain ideas, themes and concepts inevitably drew attention from the patriarchal authoritative figures, religion topping the charts. These run-ins started happening sporadically and gradually leaked into other cultural territories as well, such as contemporary theatre.

The dialogues around such events typically subordinate to several binary positions: the liberal, Western-oriented claim to artistic freedom as the basic right of the cultural worker, and the conservative, right-wing rhetoric of the aggressors. When an exhibition is closed or attacked by radical Orthodox protesters, the Russian artistic community rallies around a set of principles that have become, over the years, somewhat of a manifest of the artists, filmmakers, theorists and activists working in the country today. These principles can be traced through the various letters and petitions that have been signed in collective unison in response to the aforementioned clashes. What I feel is missing from this conversation are bodies.      

When I wanted to open my independent exhibition space, all in the name of “artistic freedom”, I was faced with the fact that it would have to be funded without the help of external financing. This meant that I needed a stable job with at least an average income that would allow me to pay rent for the space, my own rent and living expenses. That was how I found myself working for Digital October,  an educational startup at one of Moscow’s creative hubs in a former chocolate factory. “It’s very bohemian,” my mother remarked when she came there for the first (and last) time. The sealing deal for me was that this was a job from the real world. No longer would I have to be an unemployed artist, instead I could have the best of both worlds: creativity that isn’t alienated or objectified and a regular income and employment benefits. My tasks at my new job consisted of organizing a short educational program about digital producing, which didn’t even seem that bad. The program finished just as my probationary period did. I was told to continue doing this and that; marketing, video production, curating new courses. I was also told by the company’s boss that I would be fired on the spot for failing to produce content that would generate money for the business. A few people were. Life continued as normal.

It’s hard to say what exactly was wrong with this relationship, because often the line between work, life, and in this case, art, is blurred. Labor relations weave in and out of friendships, personal growth, the sense of stability, attempts at escaping loneliness, small achievements. Sometimes you stop distinguishing between doing well at the place where you are employed and you doing well. In this case, I curated a couple of exhibitions that were very important to me, using the money I earned at my day-time job, and this was certainly much higher on my list of priorities than my relationship with my employer.

Immaterial labour, the term coined by Maurizio Lazzarato, describes a new kind of labour in the post-Fordist economy, one which slips between alienating and empowering. The experience of artistic labour is characterized by terms such as networking, temporary contracts, irregular paychecks, freelance, and the belief that you are talented enough to one day wind up the recipient of a career-boosting Art Prize or in a good Biennale (or, at least, the Moscow Biennale). Working for the creative industries, there are the perks that come with packaging the wonderful human ability to strike the right nerves in people’s hearts into products and services. When the same type of instability and labour relations bleed into the office, into the normal blue-collar world, there just isn’t as much meaning to hold on to.

When something is not going right at that place where you produce surplus value for your boss, you dream of the power of physicality. I’m probably the only person who savored the moment everyone at the office came to present the boss with a gift for his newborn daughter, jokingly chorusing that they had all decided to simultaneously quit. Of course, organizing a strike or occupying the physical space where capital is produced to demand your rights isn’t something that seems feasible in an office in a trendy downtown red brick-walled factory. It’s strange because other things seem just as unfeasible: when you are repeatedly asked each month by the well-meaning secretary to donate money for your co-worker’s birthdays, but your boss is, of course, missing from the mailing list. The designer is walking home today because he just maxed out his credit card, chipping in on a gift for Anna. You just wish the boss was on the list too.

One day I was told the company wasn’t doing well and I probably should start looking for a new job. This happened a few weeks after the police came to my gallery. Bizarrely, my first reaction was to start questioning my apparent complete failure as an artist. Where, I thought, will I go when I’m depressed and can’t talk to anyone but just need to sit around people? How does not having a stable salary after having one categorize me as a person? Good thing the gallery closed, what would I be doing if I had to pay rent for it now? On a whim, I went to a lawyer specializing in trade law.

Some of my friends found this all to be terribly entertaining. Apparently, I was one of the only people in the cultural industry in Moscow who had never been cheated out of money. Everyone had a collection of stories to tell about the time they were paid 50 dollars whilst assisting on a movie for weeks on end or exhibited their work in a prestigious exhibition where the artist’s fee was spent on champagne for the opening night. The only problem was that I wasn’t even employed in the cultural industry. I had been fucked over in the real world. I had become, without even noticing, an independent contractor.

The scheme my employer working by was simple, and quite common in Russia. Instead of hiring me in accordance with the Russian Labour Code, which guarantees all workers 28 days of paid vacation, a probation period not exceeding 3 months, paid overtime, paid sick leave and protections against dismissal, I was hired as a temporary contractor, with a civil law contract. These type of contracts have special criteria that sets them apart from full-time contracts, and specifically regulate temporary work. Employees get none of the aforementioned benefits, but do not have to comply with a company’s internal policies, do not come into the office, and only work on a certain task within an agreed timeframe.

According to Russian law, companies are not allowed to sign a civil law contract with a worker when the employer/employee relationship is in fact of an employment nature. However, a lot of businesses in Russia don’t follow this rule, as this allows them to save money on worker benefits and, basically, fire people whenever and however they want. With the Russian economy slipping further and further into recession due to the Putin government’s increasingly bizarre foreign and local policymaking, a lot of people are glad to have any sort of job at all. Which, of course, is the reason why companies like Digital October can get away with this sort of treatment. Recent attempts at creating independent trade unions have illustrated just how dangerous it is to be involved in the labour movement in Russia today. The media has all but ignored the story of the Sheremetevo Trade Union of Airline Pilots, who were set to win a case against Aeroflot which would result in over one billion rubles being paid to overworked Aeroflot employees. Three of the key figures in the organization were jailed before the ruling.

The gallery I ran for a whole year, a space that was supposed to foster critical thought and artistic freedom, turned out to be a lesson on the painful relationship between politics and art. Trying to escape the under-funded Russian arts industry, and the consequent state of fear, uncertainty and instability that stems from precarious artistic labour, as well as needing to be independent from sources of funding that would potentially restrict certain artwork from being shown created a very narrow definition of the political; concerned with representation, dialogue, exhibition-making and the materialization of progressive ideological discourses. The political should have first and foremost been concerned with bodies, not ideas, and how these bodies are forced to function in capitalist structures without protection or political awareness.

The trade lawyer I went to told me that although my situation is widespread and the government recently toughened laws that target businesses refusing to properly employ their workers, courts in Moscow generally side with the employee, and taking your boss to court is expensive. This is a struggle outside of the current ideological war tearing Russia up into Pro-Putin and Pro-Freedom camps, where every single person becomes a target for their beliefs. Maybe Russian cultural workers and activists should start looking past ideologies for a new definition of “acting politically”, looking for a way to unite society, rather than divide it further. Beyond political beliefs, we are all actually in the same position. 

Maria Dudko

Photo: Masha Gelman, from the exhibition "Be yourself: stories of LGBT teenagers"

Photo: Masha Gelman, from the exhibition “Be yourself: stories of LGBT teenagers”


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