FRAC’s loan to Israeli Biennial sparks heated debate
Last week, e-flux announced details regarding the third edition of the Mediterranean Biennale, which will run from June 29 through September 30 in Sakhnin, Israel, bringing together 57 artists.
The event has however received backlash from a large part of the artistic community — in particular from those Arab artists whose work was lent by the FRAC PACA to the biennial, without either the artists’ permission or informing them.
In the eyes of many, the event aims to promote Israel’s politics of soft-power. For Akram Zataari, whose video work Saida June 6, 1982 was lent to the biennial, “more and more art products are used as diplomatic currency to serve this or that agenda”, adding that the FRAC’s curators have also seriously misunderstood the artwork’s intent. The video — “a [reconstruction] of an Israeli air raid” was based on photographs taken on the first day of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, after which the artist “lived for three years under Israeli occupation.”
In a separate announcement, artists Yto Barrada, Bouchra Khalili and Zineb Sedira have also demanded the withdrawal of their works, adding that they “stand in solidarity with [their] Palestinian colleagues and the Palestinian people”.
Bouchra Khalili 'The Mapping Journey Project', 2008-11,
For his part, FRAC director Pascal Neveu has stated in an interview with Le Monde that the artist had been informed prior to the loan, as per standard procedure.
Biennial curators Belu-Simion Fainaru and Avital Bar-shay have accepted the withdrawal of the works — though Fainaru added that “this is a political decision supported by the BDS movement, aimed at creating a boycott against Israel in every possible field, including the field of art, as a reflection of the new anti-Semitism that has been created in France and Europe in recent years. They are trying to spread anti-Semitism in the world while harming, slandering and isolating Israel in the global arena and creating an international boycott against the state.”