Abounaddara, The Prodigal Son’s Progress, 2010, video, sound, color, 5 minutes 27 seconds.

Syrian Film Collective Accuses Milan Triennale of Screening Its Works Sans Consent

In a Facebook post with the heading “Our films are not available / Nos films ne sont pas disponibles,” the Syrian film collective Abounaddara accused the curators of the Milan Triennale of screening its works without the group’s permission. The show’s organizers approached the filmmakers about participating last November, but Abounaddara declined the offer. “The Triennale of Milan argues that they are not exhibiting films, but rather simply providing monitors connected to the Abounaddara’s Vimeo channel,” said the group in its message. “Can an institution make use of films by the internet and without the consent of their authors? Can a curator decide these films are not artworks, but just internet, and thus ignore the related artistic and moral rights?”

Terra Inquieta” (The Restless Earth), the section of the triennale in which Abounaddara’s works appear, was curated by Massimiliano Gioni, the artistic director of the New Museum in New York. According to a press release for “Terra Inquieta,” the show “explores real and imaginary geographies, reconstructing the odyssey of migrants through personal and collective tales of exodus inspired by varying degrees of urgency and longing” via “the war in Syria, the state of emergency in Lampedusa, life in refugee camps, the figure of the nomad or stateless person, and Italian migration in the early twentieth century.” In response to the exhibition’s conceptual framework, Abounaddara said “the Milan Triennial uses films that speak of the struggle of the Syrians for dignity, in the service of an aesthetic-political discourse on the ‘refugee crisis’ which privileges a Western point of view. There is an abuse of right in [using our works], duplicated with contempt, to which our collective cannot resign, except to renounce our fight for the right to the image.”