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The Whitworth gallery in Manchester. Photo: Oatsy40/Flickr.
The Whitworth gallery in Manchester. Photo: Oatsy40/Flickr.

Forensic Architecture Pulls Work from Whitworth Following Palestine Statement Removal

Turner Prize–nominated collective Forensic Architecture has demanded the closure of an exhibition of its work at Manchester, UK’s Whitworth gallery after a statement of solidarity with Palestine was removed from the show’s entrance, the Guardian reports. Greeting visitors to “Cloud Studies,” which opened July 2, was a note headlined “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine,” and reading, “We believe 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.”

The Whitworth, which operates under the aegis of Manchester University, took down the note after the group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) complained that the message and the portion of the exhibition focusing on violence by Israelis against Palestinians were “incendiary” and “one-sided,” characterizing the comparison of Black and Palestinian liberation struggles as “designed to provoke racial discord.” The removal took place following a meeting among representatives from the university, the gallery, UKLFI, and local Jewish groups, from which Forensic Architecture, whose members comprise architects, archaeologists, and journalists, was allegedly excluded. The collective’s leader, Eyal Weizman, a British Israeli professor teaching at London’s Goldsmiths, is said to have learned of the statement’s removal from a UKLFI blog post. Subsequently, he and his colleagues demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition, which investigated the effects of pollution, chemical attacks, and the aftermath of explosions on marginalized people, taking the use of chemical irritants in Palestine, Syria, and Chile as examples, among others.

Weizman, who characterized the exhibition as “compromised” by the note’s removal, told the Guardian, “The statement refers to well-documented realities in Palestine, endorsed by major human rights groups. That the University of Manchester did so following the pressure from a self-appointed lobbying group known to platform the extreme-right settler movement in Israel disregard well-accepted principles of academic and artistic freedom and is an affront to the principles of human rights, in Palestine and elsewhere, that FA’s exhibition promotes.”

“In our view the university took a responsible decision, allowing the continued display of what passed for artistic elements in Forensic Architecture’s exhibition, even though these were also misleading, but removing the introduction which was pure propaganda,” UKLFI told the publication. “Forensic Architecture’s decision to pull the whole exhibition suggests that they are more interested in propaganda than art.”

Whitworth director Alistair Hudson said in a statement said that the exhibition had been “paused,” adding, “We recognize the concerns expressed about the inclusion of that statement within the exhibition space and take these seriously, including regarding how it might be received by visitors to the gallery and around its potential impact on some communities in the city, community cohesion and fostering good relations.”