InstitutionsArtists 25-08-2017

London's Barbican Centre accused of alleged anti semitism

One of London’s most prestigious institutions has been accused of alleged anti semitism after the Board of Deputies of British Jews claimed that a video work — In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind, shown as part of the exhibition “Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction” — as being no more than “blatant propaganda about the Israel-Palestine conflict”.

Sansour and Lind’s film presents a scenario where a “narrative resistance group attempts to implant the existence of a fictional civilisation in history by burying fragments of pottery in the ground.”

Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews took issue with the film in a letter addressed to Barbican COO Sandeep Dwesar, claiming that the work, disguised as a sci-fi fantasy, aims to delegitimize the Jewish connection to Israel. 



In a Facebook post, Sansour has called the accusations “grave and baseless”, adding that whilst her film is set within an Israeli/Palestinian framework,  it is not set in a specific time or place. Moreover, the work aims to go beyond the conflict and to explore the power of narrative and its relationship to various political realities. If the artist has affirmed that both her and Lind oppose the Israeli occupation, they commented that they both “thought and hoped that we had moved beyond the days when criticism of the policies of the state of Israel gave rise to automated accusations of anti-Semitism.”

For its part, the Barbican has defended the work, which will continue to show as part of the exhibition.

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