Artists in solidarity with Palestine demand exhibition close

Uproar after Manchester gallery removes pro-Palestine statement
3 min read
17 August, 2021
An exhibition exploring the use of teargas in Palestine and the use of chemical weapons in Syria has been 'paused' following demands from creators to close it after a pro-Palestine statement was removed.
The pro-Palestine statement was slammed as 'inflammatory' by Jewish groups [Getty]

Artists demanded the closure of their exhibition at a gallery in Manchester after a pro-Palestine statement was removed following pressure by Jewish groups. 

Forensic Architecture - a group of architects, archaeologists, and journalists - created the exhibition to highlight the destruction caused by state and corporate violence.

The exhibition at The Whitworth - a gallery that is part of the University of Manchester -originally included a statement of solidarity with Palestinians targeted "by Israel's occupation forces".  

The statement was slammed as "inflammatory" by Jewish groups including UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and was removed after consultations with the university. 

Forensic Architecture's director Eyal Weizman, a British-Israeli professor at Goldsmiths, demanded that the exhibition be "closed with immediate effect" after hearing that the statement was removed. 

"I'm stunned that the University of Manchester forced the removal of our 'solidarity with Palestine' statement which forms part of our exhibition. The statement refers to well-documented realities in Palestine, endorsed by major human rights groups," said Weizman to The Guardian. 

"Our work seems to have been compromised despite our strong objections," he told the gallery. 

Alistair Hudson, director of The Whitworth Gallery, said it was important that the exhibition remains on show, but that it was "paused" on Sunday. 

An excited visitor went to the exhibition on Sunday only to be told by gallery staff that it had been closed due to "technical issues", The New Arab learned.

Cloud Studies, the first phase of a major new Forensic Architecture investigation, featured the use of teargas and white phosphorus in Palestine and the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria. 

Their statement - titled "Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine" - said: "We honour the courage of Palestinians who continue to document and narrate events on the ground and to struggle against this violence, apartheid and colonization.

"We believe that this liberation struggle is inseparable from other global struggles against racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, and settler colonial violence and we acknowledge its particularly close entanglement with the Black liberation struggle around the world." 

UKLFI Chief Executive Jonathan Turner believed the university "took a responsible decision" in removing the statement.

Turner told The Guardian that "what passed for artistic elements" were in fact "pure propaganda".

"Forensic Architecture’s decision to pull the whole exhibition suggests that they are more interested in propaganda than art," Turner added. 

The New Arab contacted the University of Manchester and The Whitworth for further comment but had not received a response at the time of writing.

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