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Israeli Artist Shuts Venice Biennale Exhibit and Calls for Gaza Cease-Fire

Since February, thousands of pro-Palestinian activists have tried in vain to get the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most prestigious international art exhibitions, to ban Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza.

But on Tuesday, when the Biennale’s international pavilions open for a media preview, the doors to the Israeli pavilion will nevertheless remain locked, at the request of the artist and curators representing Israel.

“The artist and curators of the Israeli pavilion will open the exhibition when a ceasefire and hostage release agreement is reached,” reads a sign the Israeli team stuck on the pavilion door.

“I hate it,” Ruth Patir, the artist chosen to represent Israel, said in an interview about her decision not to open the exhibition she was working on, “but I think it’s important.”

The sign on the window of the Israeli pavilion on Tuesday.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for the New York Times

She said that although the Biennale, which opens to the public on Saturday, is a huge opportunity for a young artist like her, the situation in Gaza was “much bigger than me” and she felt the closure of the pavilion was the only solution. action she could take.

The war cast a shadow over major cultural events. Since the October 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel, in which Israeli officials said about 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage, and Israel’s campaign in Gaza, which authorities, killed more than 33,000 people, artists reacted during major events in the surrounding area. the world. There were protests on the stages of the Oscars and Grammy Awards, an artist subtly included a “Free Palestine” message in his work at the Whitney Biennial, and there were debates over Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest.

These protests all came from outside Israel. And while many Israelis share Patir’s desire for a ceasefire and hostage deal, a call for a ceasefire from an artist representing the country at a An important international event could draw criticism from Israeli lawmakers, said Tamar Margalit, a curator of the Israeli pavilion who made the decision with Patir and Mira Lapidot, another curator of the pavilion. The Israeli government, which paid about half of the pavilion’s costs, was not informed in advance of the protest, Margalit said.

Margalit said visitors will still be able to view one of Patir’s video pieces through the pavilion’s windows. For this two-and-a-half minute piece, Patir used computers to animate images of ancient fertility statues, which are a recurring motif in his work. The female statues, with many cracked or missing limbs, come to life in the film and move while wailing in sorrow and anger.

Patir said the artwork, completed this month, reflected his sadness and frustration over the conflict. The emotions depicted in the film “perfectly matched the experience of living in that moment,” Patir added.

In recent decades, the Venice Biennale has often reflected the strained relations between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. In 1982, after Israel invaded Lebanon, an Italian communist organization detonated a bomb outside the Israeli pavilion, damaging some of the artwork there. More recently, in 2015, pro-Palestinian activists briefly occupied the Israeli pavilion and the Peggy Guggenheim collection.

This year, the furor over the Israeli pavilion began in February when the Art Not Genocide Alliance, an activist group, published an open letter calling for a ban on what it considers the “ongoing atrocities” of Israel in Gaza.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural scene constitutes an endorsement of its policies and the genocide in Gaza,” the letter said. Signatories included photographer and activist Nan Goldin and artists representing their countries in 14 of this year’s Biennale pavilions, including those from Chile, Finland and Nigeria.

On Tuesday, Art Not Genocide Alliance said in a statement on Instagram that Patir’s protest was a meaningless and opportunistic gesture “timed for maximum media coverage.” Patir should not show a video work even with the pavilion doors locked, the statement added.

In its February letter, the group drew historical parallels to justify its call for a ban. In the 1960s, the Italian government banned access to South Africa due to apartheid. And when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Russian artists chosen to depict it decided to withdraw. (Russia is not participating this year and has lent Bolivia its large pavilion, located in a prime location in the Biennale gardens.)

Biennale organizers rejected the comparisons, saying any country recognized by the Italian government was free to participate. Italian lawmakers provided even stronger support. In February, Gennaro Sangiuliano, Italy’s culture minister, said Israel had both “the right to express its art” and the duty to “witness to its people precisely at a moment like this when it has been ruthlessly struck by ruthless terrorists.” »

Throughout the uproar, Patir, whose work is little known outside Israel, remained silent, declining interview requests as she completed work on her pavilion exhibition, titled “(M)other Country “.

Early descriptions of the presentation called it a “fertility pavilion,” but Patir said the show was actually an exploration of the pressure put on women to become mothers. Four years ago, Patir said, she was diagnosed with a genetic mutation that increased her risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and doctors recommended she freeze her eggs so as not to lose a chance to become a mother.

At that point, she was “faced with the patriarchal gaze of the medical world, trying to put me in this fertility box,” Patir said. She began recording her medical appointments to use in her work.

Last September, a committee of Israeli art professionals, appointed by the Ministry of Culture, chose Patir to travel to Venice; a month later, Hamas attacked Israel.

Patir said she regularly cries because of these attacks and Israel’s retaliation in Gaza. She also regularly attended protests in Tel Aviv, she added, calling for a hostage deal and the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Working on the pavilion exhibit had been his only solace, Patir said, although the conflict cast a shadow over that, too.

During a visit to the Israel Antiquities Authority’s reserves to examine its collection of ancient fertility goddesses, Patir said, an archivist let her handle a set of broken and fragmented statues. “It was almost triggering,” Patir remembers, “to see these women broken compared to all the images on the television news.”

As the event approached, Patir said she and conservatives hoped the situation would improve. They couldn’t imagine “that we would be in Venice in April with the hostages still in captivity, with the war still going on,” Patir said. So they made decisions: first to cancel the party that traditionally celebrates the opening of the pavilion, then to create a work of art in response to the war, finally to stop the exhibition completely.

Little progress has been made toward a ceasefire and tensions have increased between Israel and Iran. But Patir said she hoped conditions would be right to welcome visitors before the Biennale ends on November 24.

“I think we’re going to open it,” Patir said. “I believe we will.”

Gn entert
News Source : www.nytimes.com

Eleon

With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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