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Prison divestment activists at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Friday, October 18. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.

Phil Collins Pulls Work from MoMA PS1 in Solidarity with Prison Abolition Activists

The British artist Phil Collins has asked MoMA PS1 to remove his work from its upcoming exhibition “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011,” opening November 3, following recent protests against its alleged ties to mass incarceration. Earlier this month, more than 220 cultural figures signed a petition urging MoMA board member Larry Fink, the CEO and chair of BlackRock, to divest from the private prison companies Core Civic and GEO Group. Activists also staged a demonstration outside of MoMA during an opening party celebrating its recently completed $450 million expansion on October 18.

“This decision is an expression of solidarity with the millions of human beings currently held in cages in US prisons and jails, with their communities and loved ones, and with friends, colleagues, organizers and campaign groups working tirelessly to call out, resist, and counter the social violence perpetuated by the prison system,” Collins wrote in a statement provided to Artforum. “The times we live in are not business as usual. Museums and cultural spaces, their collections, exhibitions, and programs, should not be aligned with or funded by investments in mass incarceration, war profiteering, ecological catastrophe, debt ownership, devastation, oppression, and the pain of others.”

Instead of screening Baghdad screentests, 2002, a forty-seven-minute film featuring Iraqi men and women sitting silently in front of the artist’s camera, at MoMA PS1, Collins will team up with MoMA/BlackRock Divest coalition, which is campaigning for Fink to divest or leave the museum board, to organize viewings of the work in various communities in New York City that have been impacted by dispossession, war, or the prison-industrial complex.

“Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011,” a presentation of more than 250 works that examine the aftermath of American-led military operations in Iraq, will feature work by seventy-five artists, including Afifa Aleiby, Dia al-Azzawi, Thuraya al-Baqsami, Paul Chan, Harun Farocki, Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Guerrilla Girls, Thomas Hirschhorn, Hiwa K, Hanaa Malallah, Monira Al Qadiri, Nuha al-Radi, and Ala Younis. MoMA did not immediately respond to Artforum’s request for comment. 

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