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Censorship of Tanja Ostojić’s Art project at the Q21 Exhibition Space in MQ (Vienna, Austria)

June 9, 2016

The main issues targeted by Tanja Ostojić’s art project, affected by the censorship, just to list some, are: politics of language, no access to high culture for minorities and working class, no access to museum collections for former Yugoslavian and former Eastern European artists, de-politicization of topical political issues via the exhibition program, neoliberal exhibition production.

In regard to the exhibition GAST/ARBEITER (Working title?)

that is supposed to be opened around July 5, 2016 in the

freiraum Q21 exhibition space in MQ Vienna, Austria

exhibition curator Bogomir Doringer

Artists withdrawing from participation in the exhibition: Tanja Ostojić (Berlin/Belgrade) and Alexander Nikolić with his Verein BOEM Vienna.

Statement by Tanja Ostojić

As of May 25, 2016, and regarding the censorship of my art work, the non-transparent exhibition concept, the non-transparent exhibition budget, the neoliberal exhibition production, the non professional treatment and constant demands for reframing and changes to my art work, I have resigned from my participation in the exhibition GAST/ARBEITER (Working title?) that is supposed to open around July 5, 2016 in the freiraum Q21 exhibition space in MQ Vienna, Austria. Strangely, I can´t precisely name either the name of the exhibition or the venue, as they seem to be in the process of being renamed. 

This is not the first censorship of my artworks in Vienna. Many might remember the removal of my art work Untitled / After Courbet (L´origine du monde, 46 x 55 cm), 2004 (Colour photo, 46 x 55 cm , Photo: David Rych, Copyright: Ostojić/ Rych) from the rotating billboards in the public spaces in Vienna as of December 29, 2005. Back then, the yellow press created a scandal and politicians made pressures on exhibition curators to take my work out of the exhibition in public space. So the curators followed the instructions of the politicians…

This time, I am not sure what kind of mechanisms have been applied in the background of the attempts to censor my art work. The curator seemed to be optimistic and sympathetic with my concept proposal at first, but after while he would always come up (after consultation with those responsible in the gallery which is a extremely representative space politically) with demands to reframe my work and insisted on limiting it to the gallery space solely. No publicity! Even though I was promised space for the work that has a form of the exhibition posters on the outside door of the gallery and in newspapers as an ad at first, it was forbidden some weeks later.

I think it is important to mention that the curator never sent the written concept of the exhibition, nor the conditions of my participation, nor the budget frame. All the communication happened through Facebook chats and Skype talks. Once I sent my written project proposal to the curator, the head of the gallery and the Initiative Minderheiten (my proposal of a partner institution), the curator got angry. He said I should have sent it only to him, and only after he found out if he could finance it, he would communicate it with others. Everything was based on secrecy and non-transparency. 

I even learned by chance that the minister of interior affairs, Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian politician who advocates strongly for closed borders and harsher immigration laws, is a speaker at the opening. The whole event seems to be more like a bad PR Campaign idea than something critical. I believe that as participating artist I should have the right to know what are political goals of the show that I was invited to be part of, right?

And so this censorship in Q21 is partly the result of political issues and partly of neoliberal exhibition production where they don´t offer anything to the artist anymore, but they still want to have the glamour.. a SHOW…

The topic I have dealt with is one of the major problems in Austrian culture that includes segregation, especially regarding the former Yugoslavian and Turkish populations.. 

Main issues, just to list some, are: no access to high culture for minorities and working class, no access to museum collections for former Yugoslavian and former Eastern European artists, politics of language, de-politicization of burning political issues via the exhibition program, neoliberal exhibition production..

First, my artwork concept proposed a cultural project on a large scale dealing with the politics of language, access to culture, access to cultural institutions, access to museum collections, and the  initiation of language pluralism in Austria, etc.. —  involving ministries and museums. However,  the  Austrian minister of culture himself told me already in January (over an informal conversation at the MQ New Year Party) that there was NO WAY. All “immigrants have to learn German and integrate”, there will be no museum signs and no guided tours in our languages. For the campaign that I wanted to initiate on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the agreement for recruiting and placement of guest workers between Yugoslavia and Austria, the curator told me (in the name of hosting institution Q21) — they cannot finance and cannot support in any way, not even with infrastructure. And so this campaign I had to reframe into my own performance work that would be in the same time training for local museum guiding tours in Serbian and familiar languages to run all along the summer.

Several weeks after this strategy was defined and decided for, the curator informed me that it´s out of the budget limits. They can´t pay for my trip, they can´t cover fees for the people involved (as I insisted that students giving the guiding tours should not be volunteers, etc.)  Those critical guided tours would for example explain what positions from the so called ex-Yugoslav art are missing in Viennese Museum collections.

So the only thing that has left after the “plan A” and “plan B” was to go for a strategy of political scandal. Create 3 posters in 3 languages —

As the one I have attached that are using some of my well known works just as an illustration. If you carefully read the text you can understand hopefully that it is a poster with a new work that is not a part of MUMOK‘s feminist collection. There is NO art from ex-Yugoslavia that is a part of MUMOK‘s feminist collection by the way… And there is NO guided tours unfortunately provided by any instance in Vienna in Serbian, Romani, Bosnian, Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and Montenegrin languages (Sundays in Viennese museums). And not to mention that the ministries and institutions I listed are not marking in a proper way, but are rather ignoring this anniversary and the fact that over 30% of the Viennese population speaks Serbian and only signage on public toilets can be found in this language!!!.)

The curator, claimed  all the time that there is no budget for anything. No artist fees, no production, no travel costs, nothing. I presume, but I can not confirm, that most of the exhibition budget, that is too small anyway, has been spent on the curator‘s own travel costs. He travels a lot, you know. And a lot has been maybe spent on his own art production?

It became a problem as well that my posters were supposed to hang in front of the gallery and to be published in magazines, not even as a sponsored ad.. I was not allowed to use logos of venues mentioned in my ad and media that would fit the concept. The organizers and curator did not even contact any of institutions nor media that I asked that we need as project partners. And they said posters can´t hang outside. They said they don´t have money for newspaper and magazine ads. They prohibited I use the logos of institutions as part of my concept. Imagine, the curator also refused to print posters inside the gallery in the size the graphic designer and I proposed. The curator said the size of my posers will depend on the exhibition design and the budget(!), which I thought was disrespectful to my artistic concept. In my opinion the art work comes before the exhibition design and before politicians who censor exhibitions and give problematic opening speeches.

My concept was too critical and that´s why it didn’t fit in the exhibition. I got the impression the curator was very scared of it and the venue itself.

All in all, for all the critical projects that were proposed (including the seminar that has been canceled as well!!!) they claimed there was no budget. Even though people already invested time in planing, preparing, etc.. Very strange, as we were planning and preparing projects for a long time, myself for instance for 5 months..always reframing it for less budget, and less.. of course no artist fees were available, etc..

Statement by Alexander Nikolić:

Boem was also asked to exhibit, and the curator visited us in our gallery. He explained a little bit of the exhibition, that he is interested only in new works, and that he would love our participation, but during that talk – he explained to us that he has no production money;  all the production money would be reserved for the visiting artists, as he aimed to open up and re-interpret the term “gastarbeiter.”(migrant workers) We rejected this idea, because it blurred the history of migrant workers, covered up the two class society and presented Austria as an open, cosmopolite society – conscious of its past, an image which totally contradicts the actual political reality.

Statement by Julia Zaharijević who was supposed to be employed for this exhibition and in the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s project

“I would like to share my case related to the same exhibition. Namely, the curator invited me to participate in the show, to do something with guided tours. He mentioned a couple of times that I would work with Tanja Ostojić on free exhibition guided tours in the Serbian language, as far as I know. However, this was never confirmed, but I would like to add that I know the curator personally, so the fact that the tone sounded more informal was OK to me. The first time we met he said that there was not enough money for the collaboration with Tanja Ostojić. Then, I was invited to work as an exhibition guard and be payed 8 Euro per hour, (max 400 Euro per month), and during my job to also somehow perform. After the talk with Q21, I was turned down, because I am a Serbian citizen and they were not going to issue me a working permit, as they don’t do that, I quote: “für Serbien und so…” (“for Serbia and so…”)”

TO_Srpski_AD_Gastarbeiter.jpg

English translation of the poster

The City of Vienna, The Arts and Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria, frei_raum Q21, MQ, MUMOK, Museum of Natural History and the ERSTE Foundation

Are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the agreement for recruiting and placement of guest workers between Yugoslavia and Austria

with the exclusive purchase of several major feminist artworks by Serbian renowned artist Tanja Ostojić, that have had a deep influence on Austrian contemporary art histories. Works have been purchased for the MUMOK feminist collection.

Please join artist talks and free guided tours in Serbian, Romani, Bosnian, Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and Montenegrin languages every Sunday at all of the above listed museums and galleries!

Media partners: Kosmo, an-schläge, springerin, Camera Austria

Tanja Ostojić:

Untitled / After Courbet (L´origine du monde, 46 x 55 cm), 2004

Colour photo, 46 x 55 cm

Photo: David Rych

The End – Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition (Istanbul, Turkey)

June 4, 2016

For more background on this case please read “Post-Peace” exhibition cancelled in Istanbul

For the past five years I have had a great pleasure to witness the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition evolve into a strong international curatorial platform. Over the years I have developed the structure of the competition and coordinate the jury and the reviewers of the applications during the lengthy review process. During my tenure as a coordinator I have been appointed on a project-based and have not been employed as a staff member of Akbank Sanat (I need to state this due to some speculation as to my position within the organizational structure of the hosting institution).

Following the cancellation of the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015, I invested a great deal of my time to help in assisting the situation. I offered my time to discuss the situation with representatives from the institution and with the 2015 laureate Katia Krupennikova, curator of the exhibition Post-Peace and the jury. I tried my best to find constructive solutions by (1) discussing the cancelation and what lead to it with the curator and the institution; (2) following the failure to reinstate the exhibition, and subsequent consultations with the curator, to help find other alternative solutions to showing the exhibition in its entirety or separate presentations of individual works in various other venues and contacting some of them; and (3) proposing to discuss issues and responsibilities of exhibition making, curatorship, and art production with other media.

Unfortunately and despite my best efforts, I did not succeed. The destructive tone in the reactions of all involved along with the accusations and the lack of clarity persistent throughout. Under the present circumstances, both my efforts and the goal of the competition have become pointless. Therefore, I decided to relinquish my involvement with the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition and I have informed the organization of my decision. With this statement, I would also like to inform the public as well that I am deeply sorry to witness the loss of all the accumulative effort that was built collectively over the years.

I am very grateful to Jack Persekian, Francis McKee, Anne Barlow, Christine Tohme, Branko Franceschi, Susanne Pfeffer, Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Sam Bardaouil, Till Fellrath, Bassam El Baroni, Paul O’Neill, Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ for having served as jury members and given their incredible input and knowledge in making this award a respected international opportunity for emerging curators. I also would like to thank Duygu Demir, H.G. Masters, Leonardo Bigazzi, Yane Calovski, Tina Sherwell, Ece Pazarbasi, Annie Belz, Stephanie Bailey and .vül Ö. Durmuşoğlu for their invaluable involvement and participation in the early stages as reviewers of the applications. Last but not least, I am very honored to have had the opportunity to experience the exciting proposals of the selected winners Alejandra Labastida (2012), Franz Thalmair (2013), Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk (2014), and Katia Krupennikova (2015) and the large number of artists involved in their remarkable projects. I am also thankful to Akbank Sanat for supporting and hosting this project all through these years.

Başak Şenova, organizer of the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition

As former jury members and reviewers of the International Curators Competition at the Akbank Sanat in Istanbul, we would like to acknowledge and state our support of Basak Senova and her decision to effectively end her tenure as its coordinator. As a colleague of great integrity and an acute sense of fairness, Basak Senova has tried to come up with a productive solution to save the competition she initiated in 2012. We want to underline that solidarity between curators and cultural workers is very important and, in context of this unfortunate outcome of such worthy international project, it becomes even crucial.

Jury and Reviewers of Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition (worked between 2011-2015): Jack Persekian, Francis Mckee, Branko Franceschi, Anne Barlow, Christine Tohme, Susanne Pfeffer, Sam Bardaouil, Till Fellrath, Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Paul O’neill, Bassam El Baroni, Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Duygu Demir, HG Masters, Leonardo Bigazzi, Tina Sherwell, Övül Ö. Durmusoglu, Ece Pazarbaşı, Annie Belz, Stephanie Bailey, and Yane Calovski.

belit sağ // Open Letter

May 10, 2016

Open Letter – 11 May 2016

It was my intention for a long time to publish a statement about the censorship of my video Ayhan and me (2016), part of the group exhibition Post-Peace that was censored by Akbank Sanat. When the exhibition was censored, I wanted to prioritize the group statement of the collaborators and artists of the exhibition. The group statement is out, and it’s now my turn. I would like this statement to be seen as a contribution to the statements made by Katia Krupennikova, the curator of the show (http://bit.ly/21CBqUy); the jury of the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015 (http://bit.ly/23tKRVu); Anonymous Stateless Immigrants Movement (http://bit.ly/24B03Tp); and the artist and contributors of the exhibition Post-Peace (http://bit.ly/1Ygs1zS). With this statement, I aim to share my own experience.

I am the only artist from Turkey that was supposed to take part in the group exhibition Post-Peace. My initial proposal was specifically about Turkey. This proposal went through a censorship process starting months before the originally planned opening date. I’d like to share my experience with the hope that it will shed a little bit of light on the censorship that of the exhibition itself and the problem of censorship in the art field more generally.

The group exhibition Post-Peace was initially planned to take place in Amsterdam. I was invited by the curator at this early stage. Later on, with this exhibition concept Katia Krupennikova applied for and won the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015. The exhibition moved from Amsterdam to Istanbul. In one of the talks Katia had with Akbank Sanat managers in November 2015, she mentioned to them my proposal. They told Katia that the political situation in Turkey is tense, and that they can not commission the proposed work. Katia asked for an official statement from the director of Akbank Sanat, Derya Bigalı. She didn’t receive a reply. I met Katia when she came back to Amsterdam. We wrote together to Zeynep Arınç from Akbank Sanat, with whom Katia has been in contact throughout the process. We asked for a formal rejection letter from the director, explaining the reasons for their decision. Zeynep Arınç replied to our email informally telling Katia that Akbank Sanat can not commission this work.

My initial work proposal, censored by Akbank Sanat, was about Ayhan Çarkın. Ayhan Çarkın was part of JITEM, an unofficial paramilitary wing of the Turkish Security Forces active in mass executions of the Kurdish population in the 1990s. As a part of the deep state and JITEM, Ayhan Çarkın confessed in 2011 that he led operations that killed over 1000 Kurdish people during the 1990s. These confessions were made on television, and videos from those confessions are accessible on Youtube. The work I was planning to make was about Ayhan Çarkın’s personal transformation, how historical reality is constructed, and how to think about the term ‘evil’. This work, which was only a written proposal at that point, was censored by Akbank Sanat, even though it was part of the curator’s exhibition concept from the very beginning, and was chosen by an international jury as part of the exhibition for Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015.

This was the first time something like this had happened to me. Instead of leaving the exhibition, Katia and I came up with a proposal for a new work. The new work was going to talk about the censorship of my previous proposal, as well as the politics of images of war in Turkey. Akbank Sanat requested to see the script of this new work. Katia didn’t respond to this request, and I told her that I’m not in favor of showing the script, due to Akbank Sanat’s attitude up till that point. Consequently we asked the founder of the Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition, curator Başak Şenova, for her opinion on this issue. At first she supported us, but after she consulted with Akbank Sanat she told us that the refusal by Akbank Sanat is understandable. To be honest these reactions made me feel alone. Turkey is really going through a tough period, and I started questioning why, as an artist, I was putting the whole institution at risk…?

In December before I started producing my second proposal I realized that I did not feel comfortable with accepting the situation as it was. I decided to make the censorship public, by writing a letter and sending it to the press. I met with Katia and we started writing an email explaining the situation to the jury. In mid January, before we finalized the letter, Katia told me that she talked to Akbank Sanat and they agreed to the new proposal and no longer demanded to see the script in advance. I started making the video. I got in contact with Siyah Bant, a group that deals with censorship in the field of art in Turkey. I got a lot of support from them, which helped against the feeling of isolation such censorship cases cause. Also, we started thinking about ways to deal with this specific case. The final video took shape as a result of this process. I believe watching the video complements this statement.

Ayhan and me: vimeo.com/belit/ayhanveben

The video was finalized on the 23rd of February, and Katia Krupennikova presented all the works to Akbank Sanat for technical check on the same day. The exhibition was supposed to open on the 1st of March, and it was cancelled/censored on the 25th of February. There was no exhibition announcement on Akbank Sanat’s website or social media accounts, or there was any exhibition poster at Akbank Sanat’s space at any point. This makes me think that Akbank Sanat has been considering this decision for a long time, but didn’t communicate it to the curator or any other contributor of the show.

I don’t know and will never get definite confirmation whether the cancellation of Post-Peace was related to the content of my work or not. However this does not change what happened. Together with Siyah Bant we prepared a press release explaining the censorship prior to the cancellation of the exhibition. Even if the exhibition had not been cancelled, I was planning to publicize my experience of Akbank Sanat’s censorship.

In the 90s, Akbank Sanat hosted a painting exhibition by Kenan Evren. Kenan Evren is the leader of the 1980 coup d’etat in Turkey. Akbank Sanat has had several censorship cases in its history. Akbank Sanat gave Kenan Evren the possibility to exhibit his work as an ‘artist’, without questioning his leading role in the 1980 coup, from which the country still suffers. Akbank Sanat has never taken responsibility for this exhibition nor the role they took in it and what it means for Turkey. I do not believe that Akbank Sanat has or aims to acquire the ethical and conceptual capacity to host any exhibitions. The Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition that they have sponsored for the past four years is an important award in the international art world, which gives them a prestige they do not deserve.

At this point I have a number of questions to ask:

– Why does Akbank Sanat have the right to bypass the jury of Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015 and the originally accepted plan of the exhibition? As mentioned in Başak Şenova’s statement following the cancellation: “Afterwards, Akbank Sanat unquestioningly implements all aspects of the exhibition” – (http://bit.ly/24ycFhr)

– How does Akbank Sanat position itself in relation to the jury of the Competition, the founding curator, the curator, and the artists of the exhibition?

– Why didn’t Akbank Sanat discuss the possibility of canceling the exhibition together with the curator, the artists and the jury prior to the cancellation? Why does Akbank Sanat take decisions from the top, thereby marginalizing the contributors and blocking their participation in decision-making mechanisms concerning the very exhibition they have been commissioned to make?

Institutions like Akbank Sanat will not admit that they censored the content of any exhibition, and will not take responsibility for the situation. These institutions interfere with cultural content due to their connections to corporations and banks, allied with oppressive government policies. This paves the way for normalizing censorship and abusing the political situation of the country as an excuse, as in the text explaining the cancellation by the director of Akbank Sanat (“Turkey is still reeling from their emotional aftershocks and remains in a period of mourning.”). I believe we need to expose these government-allied mentalities and structures over and over again. Institutions like Akbank Sanat can continue their activities, because every time they censor the cultural arena they get away with it; their acts are not revealed, they are not held accountable, and they continue to receive support. Letting this happen deserts the fields of culture and art, and distances them from the struggles going on in the country. At the same time, this acceptance and silence obstructs those people and institutions that bravely resist, and further restricts already shrinking zones of freedom. We, as cultural and art workers, can counter this by refusing to accept the silencing of artistic expression.

Any cultural and art worker who is ignorant of the ongoing oppression in Turkey, who does not call censorship by its name, who does not see or fails to recognize the ongoing massacres in Kurdish lands becomes part of this oppressive structure. I have channels to speak out, I do not want to intimidate people who don’t have access to such channels, or who have to stay silent in order to avoid risking their lives. It is exactly for this reason, that we have to speak out en masse. I also think that ‘speaking out’ can happen in a variety of ways, just as acts of resistance do.

Although I have a hard time believing it myself, almost everyone I met in Cizre (a Kurdish town inside Turkey bordering Syria) in 2015, has either been killed or else left Cizre in order to stay alive. I owe this statement to the people I met in Cizre. Many other Kurdish towns and cities have suffered from or are currently undergoing similar attacks by Turkish State security forces. Every struggle in this region is connected, even though some might want to separate them. The one sharp difference is that some people get censored and others get killed in this country. Exactly because of this, we, the ones who get censorred, need to keep ourselves connected to other resistances and realize of our privilege. With this letter I wish to show solidarity with those working in the fields of culture and art who have already experienced or might experience similar censorships. My statement aims to express that we do not have to bear those abuses alone, with the hope that more of us will be able to speak up, and the hope that we can act collectively.

belit sağ

Artists’ Response to the Cancellation of the Post-Peace Exhibition (Istanbul, Turkey)

May 5, 2016

For more background on this case please read “Post-Peace” exhibition cancelled in Istanbul

//EN

In the weeks since the initial writing of this statement, the context which necessitated it has been evolving rapidly. The cycle of violence that is taking place, the recent attacks in Ankara and Istanbul, deeply sadden us. While the censorship of an art event may seem like a relatively minor matter in light of this, we believe we have an obligation to speak about our experience, especially now. By publishing this statement we want to counter the self-censorship and state censorship which occur all too frequently in times of crisis and emergencies. This is the current situation in Turkey, but it is not limited to Turkey alone. The use of public emergencies to legitimise the suppression of cultural expression, journalism, and academia is a more general current in which many are swept up. It is the responsibility of cultural workers to speak out against this silencing, and to advocate for spaces of discussion and reflection, cultural tolerance, and universalism. For these reasons, we are publishing our collective statement on the censorship of Post-Peace. 

ARTISTS’ RESPONSE TO THE CANCELLATION OF THE POST-PEACE EXHIBITION

As artists and contributors of ‘Post-Peace’, the exhibition curated by Katia Krupennikova and selected in October 2015 as the winning proposal of Akbank Sanat’s International Curator Competition 2015, we strongly state our indignation towards Akbank Sanat’s last minute cancellation of the exhibition.

We were invited within the framework of the exhibition “to question how war and peace appear today”. The opening was scheduled for March 1; it was cancelled on February 25. In an email to Krupennikova and the jury members, Akbank Sanat director Derya Bigalı stated that “over the course of our preparations, Turkey went through a very troubled time. In particular the tragic incidents in Ankara which are very fresh in people’s memories.”

We are very aware that the social and political situation in Turkey has intensified during the period leading up to the exhibition. Human rights in Turkey are rapidly declining on a daily basis; the freedom of expression of independent media, cultural organisations, and citizens in Turkey is facing unprecedented pressure and (self)censorship. In our view it is urgent and essential that art and culture engage with and address this distressing situation.

The premise of Post-Peace was to offer a platform for a plurality of voices to explore how much “war” is present in contemporary “peace”, as stated in the curator’s initial proposal. The silencing of Post-Peace by Akbank Sanat points to an alarming symptom, currently all too visible throughout Turkey, a climate of fear and paranoia. We deplore the situation in which an art institute actively interferes with what they think should be the boundaries of public discussion and knowledge.

Because of Akbank Sanat’s irresponsible action, our labour for this exhibition is now invisible. This forces us to create a collective statement in order to give voice to the experience of censorship. We are very aware that, in a way, we are lucky ones: we are fortunate enough to be able to share our experience, in comparison to those suffering from more brutal forms of censorship and silencing, whose voices threaten to be totally erased.

We strongly object to the short notice cancellation of the exhibition, and are united in the following viewpoints:

  1. We want to underline that the explanation given by Akbank Sanat, emailed only to Katia Krupennikova and the jury members, is far from transparent and hardly credible, since the supposed reasons for the cancellation apparently did not affect the rest of Akbank Sanat’s program, like its film festival and music concerts. Hence, we claim that the cancellation of Post-Peace was an act of political censorship.
  2. The censorship of Post-Peace unveils a situation in which corporations fund the production of exhibitions to enhance their image, and then brutally dismiss artworks and artists when they deviate from the corporation’s political agenda. In this way, the ‘taste’ of the institution becomes an instrument of repression and control. As artists that are involuntarily caught up in this situation, it is our responsibility to oppose this predicament, which has become symptomatic of a certain sector of the art world. If unchallenged, this kind of control over artistic production threatens to become the prevailing norm.
  3. We would like to use this moment to publicly announce our solidarity with all those who suffer from any form of censorship inflicted on people and communities in Turkey.
  4. We therefore strongly condemn and are deeply concerned about the ongoing trial against artist and writer Pınar Öğrenci and artist Atalay Yeni. Along with 23 other people, they are being accused by the Turkish government of conspiracy to terrorism, and might face up to 18 years in jail for attending the peace march “Barış İçin Yürüyorum/I Am Walking for Peace”. Pınar Öğrenci was scheduled to deliver a lecture performance during the public program of Post-Peace. We stand in solidarity with the declaration of “Barış İçin Yürüyorum/I Am Walking for Peace” that “The only way to cope with the ordeal we are facing today and to make an end to this war, death and destruction, goes through voicing our demand for peace louder, together and courageously, and to stand in solidarity with the people in the region.”
  5. We remain committed to the open and reflective discourse that Post-Peace aimed to create. The situation that we are currently experiencing strengthens our resolve to make sure that this exhibition takes place, and to continue working on this urgent topic and to develop an international discursive platform about it.

Yaşar Adanali, Anonymous Stateless Immigrants collective, Ella de Búrca, Anna Dasović, Ehsan Fardjadniya, Yazan Khalili, Lyubov Matyunina, Adrian Melis, Dorian de Rijk, belit sağ, Anika Schwarzlose, Alexei Taruts, Oxana Timofeeva, Anastasiya Yarovenko.

//TR

Bu metni yazmaya başladığımızdan bu yana geçen zamanda metni gerekli kılan bağlam çok hızlı bir şekilde değişti. Tekrarlanan şiddet eylemleri, Ankara ve İstanbul’daki son saldırılar bizi derinden üzdü. Bu yaşananlar gözönüne alındığında bir sanat etkinliğinin sansürlenmesi görece küçük bir şeymiş gibi görünse de, bu deneyimimiz hakkında özellikle şu anda konuşmamız gerektiğine inanıyoruz. Bu metni yayınlayarak, kriz durumlarında ve acil durumlarda sıklıkla vuku bulan otosansür ve devlet sansürüne karşı olduğumuzu belirtmek istiyoruz. Bu, Türkiye’nin içinde olduğu son durum, ama bu durum sadece Türkiye’ye özgü ya da Türkiye’yle sınırlı değil. Kamu alanındaki aciliyetlerin kültürel, gazetecilik, ve akademik alandaki ifade özgürlükleri kısıtlamalarını meşru hale getirmek için kullanılması pek çok insana hareket alanı bırakmayan yaygın bir uygulama. Bu susturulmalara karşı ses çıkarmak, müzakere ve derinlemesine sorgulama alanlarının gerekliliğini savunmak kültür emekçilerinin bir sorumluluğudur. Bu saydığımız nedenlerden dolayı Barış Sonrası (Post-Peace) Sergisi’nin sansürlenmesi üzerine yazdığımız ortak açıklamamızı yayınlıyoruz.

Barış Sonrası Sergisi Sanatçılarından Sergi İptali Kararına Tepki


Katia Krupennikova’nın küratörlüğünü üstlendiği ve Akbank Sanat Uluslararası Küratör Yarışması’nı Kasım 2015’te kazanan Barış Sonrası (Post-Peace) isimli serginin sanatçıları ve katılımcıları olarak, Akbank Sanat’ın sergiyi son dakikada iptal etme kararına karşı kızgınlığımızı dile getirmek istiyoruz.

Bu sergiye ‘savaş ve barışın günümüzde nasıl tezahür ettiği’ sorusu çerçevesinde davet edildik. Serginin açılışı 1 Mart olarak planlanmıştı, ve sergi 25 Şubat’ta iptal edildi. Akbank Sanat Direktörü Derya Bigalı, Krupennikova ve jüri üyelerine yolladığı e-mail’de, ‘Serginin hazırlıkları sırasında Türkiye çok sıkıntılı zamanlardan geçti. Özellikle Ankara’da yaşanan trajik olaylar, halkın hafızasında çok taze.’ ifadelerini kullandı.


Sergi hazırlıkları aşamasında Türkiye’deki toplumsal ve siyasi durumun kötüye gittiğinin farkındayız. Türkiye’deki insan hakları ihlalleri gün geçtikçe artıyor; bağımsız basın, kültür kurumları ve vatandaşların ifade özgürlüğü görülmemiş bir baskı ve (oto)sansürle karşı karşıya kalmakta. Kültür ve sanatın, bu zorlu sürecin yakın takipçisi olmasının acil ve elzem olduğunu düşünmekteyiz.

Küratörün ilk sergi metninde belirttiği gibi, ‘Barış Sonrası’ Sergisi’nin amacı, günümüzdeki ‘barış’ halinde ‘savaş’ın nasıl bir yeri olduğuna dair farklı fikirleri bir araya getiren bir platform yaratmaktı. Akbank Sanat’ın ‘Barış Sonrası’ Sergisi’ni susturması, endişe verici bir semptoma, Türkiye’de fazlasıyla görünür hale gelen korku ve paranoya iklimine işaret etmektedir. Bir sanat kurumunun kamusal tartışma ve bilginin sınırlarının ne olması gerektiğine bilfiil müdahale ettiği bu durumu esefle karşılıyoruz.

Akbank’ın bu sorumsuz tavri bizlerin bu sergi kapsaminda ortaya koyduğu emeği görünmez kılmıştır. Bu durum bizi bu sansürlenme deneyimimizi görünür kılmak için müşterek bir açıklama yapmaya yöneltti. Bir açıdan da şanslı olduğumuzun farkındayız: sansürün daha acımasız şekillerine ve susturulmalara maruz kalan ve ifadelerinin tümüyle yok edilmesi tehdidiyle karşı karşıya olanlara kıyasla deneyimimizi paylaşabilme şansına sahibiz.

Serginin son dakikadaki iptalini inatla sorguluyoruz, ve aşağıda belirtilen noktalarda ortaklaştığımızı belirtiriz:

  1. Akbank Sanat tarafından Katia Krupennikova’ya ve juri üyelerine email olarak gönderilen açiklamanın şeffaflıktan ve inandırıcılıktan uzak olduğunun altını çizmek isteriz. Serginin iptalinin sözde nedenleri görünüşe bakılırsa Akbank Sanat’ın film festivali ve müzik konserleri gibi diğer programlarını etkilememiştir. Bu sebeplerden dolayı ‘Barış Sonrası’ Sergisi’nin iptalinin politik bir sansür olduğunu iddia ediyoruz.
  2. Barış Sonrası Sergisi’nin sansürlenmesi, şirketlerin imajlarını güçlendirmek için sergi üretimlerini finansal olarak destekledikleri, ancak politik çıkarlarına uymayan sanatçı ve işlerin ortaya çıkması durumundaysa bu sanatçı ve işlerini acımasızca yoksaydıkları bir döngüyü görünür kılmaktadır. Bu şekilde, sirketin ‘üslubu’ (sanatci üzerinde) bir baskı ve kontrol aracı haline gelmektedir. İsteğimiz dışında kendimizi böylesi bir durumda bulan sanatçılar olarak bu kötü gidişata karşı çıkmanın sorumluluğumuz olduğunu düşünüyoruz. Bu durum sanat dünyasının belirli alanlarında semptomatikleşmiştir, ve karşı durulmadığı sürece de sanatsal üretimin üzerindeki bu kontrolün yaygın bir kaideye dönüşme tehlikesi vardır.
  3. Bu açıklamayla, Türkiye’de sansürün farklı biçimleriyle karşı karşıya kalan kişi ve gruplarla dayanışma içinde olduğumuzu da göstermek istiyoruz.
  4. Aynı zamanda, sanatçı ve yazar Pınar Ögrenci ve sanatçı Atalay Yeni’ye karşı açılan davayı kınadığımızı ve dava süreciyle ilgili kaygımızı dile getirmek istiyoruz. “Barış İçin Yürüyorum/I Am Walking for Peace” barış yürüyüşüne katıldıkları için, 23 kişiyle beraber Türkiye hükümeti tarafindan terör propagandası yapmakla suçlanarak 18 yil hapis istemiyle yargilaniyorlar. Pinar Ögrenci’nin ‘Barış Sonrası’ sergisi programında bir performans yapması planlanmıştı. Bizler, “Barış İçin Yürüyorum/I Am Walking for Peace”in yaptığı şu açıklamayı desteklediğimizi berlirtiriz: “Bugün karşı karşıya kaldığımız bu zorlu durumla başa çıkmanın, savaşı, ölümleri yıkımları durdurmanın yolu barışa ilişkin talebimizi daha yüksek sesle, cesurca söylemekten ve bölge halkıyla dayanışmaktan geçiyor.”
  5. Barış Sonrası Sergisi’nin yaratmayı amaçladığı açık uçlu ve sorgulayıcı söylemde ısrar ediyoruz. İçinden geçmekte olduğumuz bu süreç, bu serginin yapılmasının, aciliyeti olan bu konularda yapılan çalışmaların devam etmesinin, ve uluslararası söylemsel bir platformun geliştirilmesinin gerekliliğini vurgulamaktadır.

Anonim Vatansız Göçmenler Kolektifi (Anonymous Stateless Immigrants Collective), Ella de Búrca, Anna Dasović, Ehsan Fardjadniya, Yazan Khalili, Lyuba Matyunina, Adrian Melis, Dorian de Rijk, belit sağ, Anika Schwarzlose, Alexei Taruts, Anastasiya Yarovenko.

LETTER OF SOLIDARITY – To the participants and organizers of the exhibition Agitprop! at the Brooklyn Museum

May 4, 2016

To read more about the Anti-Gentrification movement in Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Museum  Artists, writers and critics’ Open Letter: No Real Estate Summit at the Brooklyn Museum! 

 

To the participants and organizers of the exhibition Agitprop! at the Brooklyn Museum
Dear colleagues,

As participants in the exhibition, we call for solidarity with the Anti-Gentrification movement in Brooklyn. As the conceptual framework of the exhibition claims: there is no division between art and activism.

Therefore we appreciate the decision of the Museum to include “The People’s Monument to Anti-Displacement” (PMAD) into the show and their commitment to support the concerns of the community the Museum is located in and should represent. It seems now that the Brooklyn Museum is backing out of their agreement to host the Anti-Gentrification/Displacement Summit that should take place on July 10, 2016, highlighting the struggles of the community in regards to gentrification and displacement.

We strongly hope that the Museum keeps their promise to allow a program that addresses re-zoning, displacement, homelessness, eviction, harassment, police brutality, and other impacting factors affecting communities of color.

We live in a world where forced migration, segregation and displacement of the poor, of refugees and homeless have become normality. Many European states have closed their borders and built fences physically hindering hundred of thousands of people to seek refuge in the safe and wealthy states of the European Union. European cities have established fenced refugee camps, a system that decades before was put into practice to house Roma communities that have been brutally evicted from their settlements. This is a structural problem of the capitalist system that profits from structural exclusion and class racism, securing low production costs and thus maximizing the profit of the 1%. On top of that, segregation and surveillance of the poor, housing in camps and minimum social services for evicted and excluded communities generates extra-profit and jobs for the security and social services sector.

We think that the Brooklyn Museum, as a public institution, could have an outstanding role in addressing life-threatening displacement and eviction, because it has established a good contact with the community and welcoming attitude towards the local Anti-Gentrification network.

We believe that the Museum has a great responsibility to maintain the good contact with the local community, exactly because the critical voices and engaged practices put at display within the exhibition Agitprop! can’t be divorced from actual people and real problems.

We have informed the curator and exhibition organizers that we want the loan fee for our piece Red Winter exhibited at the show to be transferred directly to the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network, and we are trying to find an administrative solution for making this happen.

Our Commons are Free Movement, Access to Land, Water and Knowledge!

In Solidarity,
Rena Raedle and Vladan Jeremic

orfeus-agitprop-view

Installation view of the Agitprop! exhibiton. Photograph by Orfeas Skutelis

Artists respond to the Guggenheim-Gulf Labor split

April 29, 2016

An exhibition of newly acquired works from the Middle East and North Africa, titled “But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise,” opens today at the Guggenheim in New York. Ten of the participating artists have issued a statement condemning the museum’s recent decision to end talks with the activist group Gulf Labor Coalition.

The artists listed below have work included in the Guggenheim Museum’s collection and in the UBS MAP exhibition: But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa. We express our disappointment over the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation’s recent decision to end dialogue with the Gulf Labor Coalition, concerning labor practices in the construction of their Abu Dhabi Museum. As artists connected in various ways to this region, we believe in new institutions as cultural forces; we support their creation but also believe they can be catalysts for greater social change. We hope that the Guggenheim remains committed to innovation on both a representational as well as a structural level. Furthermore, we believe that dialogue is the most productive way forward for all parties involved. This exhibition is one form of dialogue and we regret that it opens amidst the current development in the exchange between the museum and GLC. We urge the museum to reconsider and reverse its decision to terminate its dialogue with GLC and affiliated NGOs.

List of names:

Abbas Akhavan
Kader Attia
Ali Cherri
Mariam Ghani
Joana Hadjithomas
Iman Issa
Khalil Joreige
Hassan Khan
Ahmad Mater
Zineb Sedira

Note: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige are collaborators, so they collectively constitute one of the 16 discrete artistic participants in the exhibition, and they both also signed the statement separately.

Guggenheim Museum Terminates Negotiations with Gulf Labor Coalition(GLC) over Labor Rights in the UAE

April 19, 2016

Dear Colleague,

In 2007, the Guggenheim Foundation and the leadership of the United Arab Emirates embarked on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum project, designed to serve as a catalyst for cultural exchange and to expand narratives of art history. Eight years later, our mutual commitment remains strong.

While construction of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum has not yet begun, our work to deliver on its potential continues. A team of curators based in New York and in Abu Dhabi has been actively developing a curatorial strategy for the future museum and has convened several forums with leading academics and critics to chart the project’s curatorial and intellectual parameters.

To date, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum project has acquired more than 250 artworks; 70% by non-Euro American artists, with a concentration on art from West Asia. In 2014, an inaugural exhibition, Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection, welcomed more than 90,000 visitors in Abu Dhabi and was extended due to popular demand. At the same time, museum educators in New York and in Abu Dhabi continue to build on four years’ worth of public programs and workshops aimed at engaging with the vital and diverse populations of the UAE and the region.

Despite these tangible efforts and successes, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi continues to be maligned by some critics as a symbol of aggressive commercial expansion and as a perpetrator of grave abuses against foreign migrant workers. We would like to set the record straight.

There are currently no workers on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and there is no construction on the site because a contractor has yet to be selected. Since the inception of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project, the Guggenheim and the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) have held ongoing discussions about TDIC’s plans to safeguard conditions for workers who will build the future museum and to define measures for continuous enhancement of those conditions. As the museum developer, TDIC is fully responsible for construction and selection of contractors, and has committed to selecting a general contractor of international standing and high integrity.

In 2010, TDIC developed its Employment Practices Policy (EPP), which outlines workers’ welfare requirements on its projects including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The EPP, which was endorsed by the Guggenheim and to which we contributed recommendations for its revision in 2015, has been noted by Human Rights Watch as providing “more labor protections than anywhere else in the Gulf.”

Annual public, independent monitoring reports by PricewaterhouseCoopers continue to show improvements among those who are working under the EPP on current TDIC projects on Saadiyat Island. At the same time, the government of Abu Dhabi has taken additional measures to strengthen protections for workers at the national level, including decrees enacted in January of this year that standardize contract terms and increase flexibility for workers to move between employers.

For six years, we have engaged in open dialogue with critics and others concerned about the topic of worker welfare. Despite this progress and our demonstrated and ongoing commitment to this issue, some of our critics have dismissed efforts by TDIC and the Guggenheim as meaningless while simultaneously taking credit for the changes that have been made. The Gulf Labor Coalition, in particular, has pursued a campaign of direct action against the Guggenheim since 2010 in the media and in our museums in New York and Venice. We believe this treatment is unfair, convenient for publicity purposes, and distracts from sincere efforts to address an issue to which TDIC and the Guggenheim have dedicated significant energy and resources with measureable progress.

Since 2010, we have engaged with Gulf Labor to seek common ground on the issue of worker welfare, participating in numerous phone calls and in-person meetings by members of the Guggenheim Foundation’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership. After our most recent meeting, held in February 2016, we reached the conclusion that these direct discussions are no longer productive. Gulf Labor continues to shift its demands on the Guggenheim beyond the reach of our influence as an arts institution while continuing to spread mistruths about the project and our role in it.

Despite this change in our posture toward Gulf Labor, our commitment to workers’ welfare on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project remains as strong as ever and we continue our dialogue with other NGOs including Human Rights Watch and the International Labour Organization. We also continue to pursue progress with our partners in the UAE and have offered to update Gulf Labor on major project developments.

The Guggenheim is and always will be a champion for art and for artists. We respect activism and recognize its value. We welcome dialogue and accept criticism. But we cannot stand silent in the face of deliberate falsehoods.

As global arts institutions in a rapidly changing world, we all face challenges that will require our best thinking and our mutual support. In that spirit, I welcome your questions and thank you for your continued collegiality.

Yours truly,

Richard Armstrong
Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation

Gulf Labor Coalition responded to Armstrong’s letter

On April 13, 2016, Guggenheim Board of Trustees unilaterally severed negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC). In a conference call, the Guggenheim informed GLC that they will no longer meet with us, nor listen to our proposals about the living and working conditions of the workers who are and will be building museums in Abu Dhabi.

On April 17, 2016, Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, sent an email to artists, art critics, curators, and museum directors all over the world describing GLC as a group that “continues to shift its demands,” is “continuing to spread mistruths,” and uses “deliberate falsehoods.”3 He insisted that no work had begun on the Abu Dhabi site, a recurring claim that GLC has already challenged.5

GLC has a long history of thinking creatively about how to advance dialogue with the Guggenheim and Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC: Abu Dhabi), about demands that are foundational to building a global museum on Saadiyat. The core demands (Living Wages, Recruitment Debts, Worker Representation) were formulated since the announcement of the artist boycott of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in 2011, and were included in multiple letters to the Guggenheim.

GLC has published research reports, analyzed each Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) monitoring report, invited NGOs and labor organizations (e.g., ILO, HRW, ITUC) to join discussions, and initiated multiple meetings with Guggenheim. In response to all this work by GLC, statements by the museum made it clear that the Guggenheim is not serious about dialogue with artist groups towards fair labor standards.

The GLC negotiation team regrets that Guggenheim has broken off negotiations in a hostile manner. Despite our show of good faith by maintaining a moratorium on protests for a year, and despite Guggenheim’s own public statements about constructive dialogue, the museum has rescinded and closed the path to working with rights organizations, ready to help create workable frameworks for guaranteeing workers’ rights.

GLC & NGO Coalition’s Meeting with Guggenheim (Feb 2016)
GLC spent the first half of 2015 requesting a meeting with the Trustees, to no avail. Only after a May Day occupation of the Guggenheim New York, and the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, did they finally agree to meet with GLC. We had meetings with Guggenheim on June 3 (attendees included, for the first time after many requests, Guggenheim Board Chairman William Mack and President Jennifer Blei Stockman) and September 15, 2015 (attendees included Board member Stephen Robert). We then requested a “summit” level meeting between GLC, Guggenheim, and several organizations with global expertise capable of helping Guggenheim meet international labor and rights standards. We were told the earliest a meeting could happen was six months later in February 2016. As a gesture of good faith, GLC continued a moratorium on public actions (since May 2015) while negotiations were ongoing.

GLC assembled an NGO coalition for the February meeting. These organizations brought expertise in labor, migration, human rights, and construction in the Gulf. Their members were: Fiona Murie (Building and Woodworkers’ International), Jill Wells (Engineers Against Poverty), Sarah Leah Whitson (Human Rights Watch), Jeffrey Vogt (International Trade Union Confederation), Shilkha Silliman Bhattacharjee (Society for Labor and Development). The Guggenheim team was led by Richard Armstrong and Trustee John Calicchio. A significant aspect of the meeting was the NGO coalition’s view that what was transpiring in the Gulf would fall under the umbrella of “Human Trafficking” or “Forced Labor.”

At the end of what appeared to us as a productive three-hour meeting, we sent a letter to the Board with two concrete proposals:
1) To initiate, as of April 1, 2016, a meeting every two weeks between GLC, our NGO partners, and representatives from the Guggenheim Museum, the Board of Trustees, and TDIC.
2) At these meetings, propose revisions to TDIC’s EPP in 5 areas: i) Living Wages; ii) Recruitment Debt; iii) Worker Representation; iv) Accountability for Sub-Contracting Tiers; v) Enforcement of existing and future provisions; and vi) Robust Monitoring.

Guggenheim Breaks Off Negotiations (Apr 2016)
On April 13th we were told that the museum leaders feel that the museum has always conducted themselves in “a spirit of goodwill,” in contrast to GLC’s “antagonistic” conduct with “demands [that] are simply escalating.” The museum staff then told us that our proposals lie “outside of their reach,” as they are “matters of state.” Even though we left the February meeting feeling optimistic, we were now informed that “the tenor of the last meeting was not productive,” nor is the “general pattern of your behavior.” This is in spite of the fact that the core demands (Living Wages, Recruitment Debts, Worker Representation) were consistently included in multiple letters to the Guggenheim since 2011.

The upshot, in Guggenheim’s view, is that meetings have begun “to generate unrealistic expectations.” Consequently, the Guggenheim did not wish to have any more in-person meetings with GLC and the rights organizations. This was followed by Richard Armstrong’s email sent to curators, critics, and artists on April 17, which called us a group that uses “deliberate falsehoods.” Armstrong’s latest email matches accusations he also made against GLC in August 2015, when he sent an email to GLC describing us as people who “distort the facts and peddle mistruths” and use “deliberate falsehoods.”

GLC’s Track Record
GLC and allied groups G.U.L.F., Taxi Worker’s Alliance, S.a.L.E. Docks, Fair Labor Coalition, WBYA, and others carried out protests since 2011 that were reported by the global press. What is less widely reported are the research, fact-finding trips, and meetings by GLC to find solutions. Our members have carried out several fact-finding missions to the Saadiyat labor camps. In addition, we prepared analysis of PwC reports on labor conditions on Saadiyat, and made these reports public. No corresponding public analysis of PwC reports was forthcoming from Guggenheim or TDIC.

GLC initiated an average of two annual meetings with Guggenheim since 2011. These were attended by various Guggenheim staff, including Richard Armstrong, Sarah Austrian, Hanan Worrell, Reem Fadda, Suzanne Cotter, and Nancy Spector. Some meetings were also attended by TDIC members Bassem Terkawi and Rita Aoun Abdo. Unfortunately, the departure of multiple staff (Cotter, Spector, Terkawi) disrupted consistent dialogue.

In 2011, we introduced the Guggenheim to the Institute for Human Rights in Business (IHRB) and suggested they take IHRB’s consultative advice. In 2014, GLC urged Guggenheim to invite International Labor Organization (ILO) to join Guggenheim and TDIC for negotiations. In 2015, we introduced working models of fair labor practices in the UAE that Guggenheim could build upon (the carpenters’ union project). ITUC and Human Rights Watch invited Guggenheim to discuss measures for protecting labor rights. Guggenheim did not respond positively to any of these invitations.

Guggenheim’s Track Record
The Guggenheim seems to be pursuing a self-destructive path, putting institutional hubris and PR needs2 before migrant labor rights. Guggenheim appears to have agreed to meetings with GLC to stave off negative press following UAE travel bans on three GLC members1, and the May occupations of the Guggenheim in NY and Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. Now that the press has moved on, Guggenheim has broken off communication with GLC. This is institutional power that treats the labor force building museums, and the artists involved in museums, as disposable and replaceable.

Many of our signatories have long-standing working relationships with the Guggenheim. We are saddened to see a once prominent New York institution damage their global reputation, and goodwill among artists, by refusing to take legal and ethical responsibilities for a building that carries its name. The Guggenheim is following the same path NYU took in silencing critics, until a New York Times story on worker abuse forced the university to begin the process of paying reparations to workers.

Faced with a concrete and optimistic path forward, the Guggenheim chooses to focus on distracting issues like our “antagonistic” tone, avoiding the more relevant facts on the ground: the bodies, lives, and dreams of thousands of workers who are accumulating massive recruitment debts, being cheated on wages, exploited by corrupt contractors and subcontractors, denied any meaningful collective representation, and forced to live out of sight and under watch.

On behalf of the Gulf Labor Coalition (organizing committee):
Amin Husain, Andrew Ross, Ashok Sukumaran, Ayreen Anastas, Doris Bittar, Doug Ashford, Eric Baudelaire, Gregory Sholette, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Haig Aivazian, Hans Haacke, Joseph Rauch, Kristina Bogos, Mariam Ghani, Michael Rakowitz, Naeem Mohaiemen, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Nitasha Dhillon, Noah Fischer, Paula Chakravartty, Rene Gabri, Sam Durant, Shaina Anand, Tania Bruguera, Walid Raad.

See the Gulf Labor Coalition timeline of events via downloadable PDF here: Gulf_Labor_Timeline_Apr-18.pdf

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