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Kanders Must Go: An Open Letter from Theorists, Critics, and Scholars [Updated list of signatories]

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Andres Rodriguez

On April 5th, the following letter was released bearing the signatures of more than 120 theorists, critics, and scholars. The purview of the letter has since been expanded to include artists, curators, and others working in the art field. The updated list of signatories is presented below. It now features the names of more than 100 artists, including many with close ties to the exhibition history of the Whitney, the collection of the Whitney, and the Whitney Independent Study Program. More specifically, the updated list includes a number of artists who will be participating in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, which will open on May 17th. The latter signatories are presented together, and the first to be listed below.

We, the undersigned theorists, critics, and scholars, are writing to address the unfolding crisis at the Whitney Museum, and to call for the removal of Warren B. Kanders, the vice-chairman of the museum’s board. In making this call, we are amplifying a demand put forth by 100 members of the Whitney staff in a letter to the museum administration in November, 2018. Kanders is the CEO of Safariland, a "law enforcement products company" responsible for the manufacturing and marketing of weapons such as the tear gas used against migrant families at the U.S./Mexico border, Water Protectors at Standing Rock, protestors in Ferguson, Oakland, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Egypt, and more. Safariland also supplies the NYPD and Corrections Departments across the country. We stand with those members of the staff who organized and spoke out at great risk to themselves, and the dozens of grassroots groups that have been taking action at the Whitney Museum in the period since the staff letter was released.

The stakes of the demand to remove Kanders are high and extend far beyond the art world. Alongside universities, cultural institutions like the Whitney are among the few spaces in public life today that claim to be devoted to ideals of education, creativity, and dissent beyond the dictates of the market. Yet, these institutions have been historically entwined with the power structures of settler colonialism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism. They have long functioned as “good places to convert roughly obtained private wealth into social prestige,” as the Washington Post recently put it. These institutions provide cover for the likes of Kanders as they profit from war, state violence, displacement, land theft, mass incarceration, and climate disaster. Upon learning about Kanders’ connection to Safariland, the authors of the staff letter wrote, "we felt not annoyed, not intellectually upset—we felt sick to our stomachs, we shed tears, we felt unsafe . . . For many of us, the communities at the border, in Ferguson, in the Dakotas, are our communities."

The demand to remove Kanders points to broader patterns of toxic philanthropy on museum boards, universities, and other public and private institutions. Protests are currently proliferating around museums, from P.A.I.N. Sackler’s recent success in forcing the Guggenheim and the Tate to cut ties with the Sackler family, to ongoing campaigns targeting El Museo Del Barrio, MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brown University Arts Initiative where Kanders is also a donor and board member. These calls to hold institutions accountable, and to deeply transform them, have a long historical lineage, including the work of the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and the Art Workers Coalition in New York City during the 1960s.

The Whitney and institutions like it are sites of struggle, bringing multiple stakeholders together in acts of solidarity. These new formations, in turn, flow into broader movements for freedom and justice. The demand to remove Kanders issued in the staff letter, and the subsequent mobilization by dozens of community groups for the ongoing 9 weeks of art and action, suggest that the tides are turning. Saying “no” to Kanders opens a positive opportunity to begin a deep, and long-overdue conversation about artwashing, the role of private funding in the cultural sphere , and the accountability of institutions to the communities they claim to serve.

The Whitney staff letter has called for "the development and distribution of a clear policy around Trustee participation," that would “clarify what qualifies or disqualifies a wealthy philanthropic individual for the Board. Is there a moral line?” Clarifying lines of unacceptability concerning Trustee participation would be a crucial step by the museum, but on its own this reform will not resolve the crisis at the Whitney, or at other institutions facing similar dilemmas. At stake are deeper structural questions related to the distribution of power and the shape of institutional governance. These questions have been addressed in recent years by a range of grassroots groups and student movements working to “decolonize” museums and universities. They are building solidarity across struggles by demanding decolonization commissions that include community stakeholders, and that are guided by a variety of urgent principles: Indigenous land rights and restitution, reparations for enslavement and its legacies, the dismantling of patriarchy, workplace democracy, de-gentrification, climate justice, and sanctuary from border regimes and state violence more generally.

There are no easy solutions to the current crisis of the Whitney, and there is no blueprint for decolonization. But there is a desire to confront these problems across a broad spectrum of the arts, academia, and grassroots community groups. As mobilizations and actions continue, we call upon educators and cultural workers of all kinds, including artists in the Whitney Biennial and in the collection of the museum, to join us in taking a stand against Kanders. This moment is an opportunity for the museum leadership to do the right thing, to stand on the right side of history, and to participate in a transformative process that could set the bar for other institutions across the country.

Signed,

Signatories: Phase Two (as of May 2, 2019)

Participants in the Whitney Biennial 2019

Eddie Arroyo

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Morgan Bassichis

Meriem Bennani                   

Robert Bittenbender

Lucas Blalock

Milano Chow

Colectivo Los Ingrávidos

Thirza Cuthand

Nicole Eisenman

Janiva Ellis

Kota Ezawa

Brendan Fernandes

Marcus Fischer

Forensic Architecture

Ellie Ga

Nicholas Galanin

Jeffrey Gibson

Todd Gray

Sam Green

Ilana Harris-Babou

Madeline Hollander

Iman Issa

Steffani Jemison

Adam Khalil

Zack Khalil

Christine Sun Kim

Jackson Polys

Josh Kline

Carolyn Lazard

Calvin Marcus

Troy Michie

Keegan Monaghan

Caroline Monnet

Darius Clark Monroe

Sahra Motalebi

Sofía Gallisá Muriente

Wangechi Mutu

Lydela Nonó

Michel Nonó

Laura Ortman

Paper Tiger Television

nibia pastrana santiago

Elle Pérez

Gala Porras-Kim

Daniel Lind Ramos

Carissa Rodriguez

Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Martine Syms

Kyle Thurman

Mariana Valencia

Agustina Woodgate

 

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Angel ‘Monxo’ López (Hunter College)

Basel Abbas (artist)

Ruanne Abou-Rahme (artist)

Rahel Aima (writer)

Nora Akawi (Columbia University)

Francheska Alcántara (Artist)

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla (artists)

Lina Álvarez (University of Louvain, Frantz Foundation Foundation)

Ayreen Anastas (artist)

Joel Neville Anderson (University of Rochester)

Tomie Arai (artist)

Julieta Aranda (artist)

Laurie Arbeiter (artist)

John M. Archer (New York University)

Fareed Armaly (artist)

Doug Ashford (artist, Cooper Union)

Michael Ashkin (artist, Cornell University)

Julie Ault (artist, writer)

Elizabeth Axtman (artist)

Déborah B. Santana (Mills College)

Xamuel Banales (California State University, Stanislaus)

Erika Barbosa (artist)

Judith Barry (artist)

Miriam Margarita Basilo (New York University)

Kevin Basl (artist, curator)

Chloë Bass (artist, Queens College)

Cooper Battersby (Syracuse University)

Kadambari Baxi (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Martin Beck (artist)

Anthea Behm (University of Florida)

Luis J. Beltrán-Álvarez (University of Connecticut, Storrs)

Francisca Benitez (artist)

Marina Berio (visual artist and member of PAIN Sackler)

Tal Berry (artist)

Gurminder K. Bhambra (University of Sussex)

Hannah Black (artist)

Andrea Blum (artist, Hunter College)

Natasha Boas (curator)

Gregg Bordowitz (artist)

David X. Borgonjon (critic, Rhode Island School of Design)

Brian Boyd (Columbia University)

Charlotte Brathwaite (director)

Suzanne Broughel (artist)

Imani Jacqueline Brown (Center of Research Architecture, Goldsmiths)

Julia Bryan-Wilson (University of California Berkeley)

Matthew Buckingham (artist)

Jen Budney (University of Saskatchewan)

Dora Budor (artist)

Peter Burleigh (University of Basel)

Joshua Caleb Weibley (artist)

Sean Cashbaugh (Princeton University)

Mabel Rodríguez Centeno (University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras)

Raven Chacon (artist)

Hannes Charen (Pratt Institute)

Zahid R. Chaudhary (Princeton University)

Paloma Checa-Gismero (University of California, San Diego)

Mel Chin (artist)

Kami Chisholm (filmmaker & curator)

Canada Choate (Artforum)

Chinatown Arts Brigade

Michale Conti (artist)

Cooking Sections (Alon Schwabe & Daniel Fernandez Pascual)

Danilo Correale (artist)

Anna Craycroft (artist)

Douglas Crimp (University of Rochester)

Mark Crispin Miller (New York University)

Taina Cruz (artist)

Joseph Cuillier (SUNY Purchase, The Black School)

Catherine Czacki (artist and writer)

Vicki DaSilva (artist)

Chad Dawkins (curator, Southwest School of Art)

Jeremiah Day (artist)

Eva Mayhabal Davis (cultural worker and curator)

Mira Dayal (Artforum)

Siddhartha Deb (The New School)

Pablo Delano (artist, Trinity College)

Ramona S. Diaz (filmmaker)

Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez (artist)

Tasha Dougé (artists)

Jenny Dubnau (artist)

Lisa Duggan (New York University)

Emily Vey Duke (Syracuse University)

Sam Durant (artist)

Charles Esche (University of the arts London, Van Abbemuseum)

Kodwo Eshun (artist, Otolith Group)

Sarah Farahat (artist)

Sarah Farnsworth (artist)

Avram Finkelstein (artist)

Ciará Finlayson (Artforum)

Noah Fischer (artist, writer)

Marc Fischer (Public Collectors)

Harrell Fletcher (artist, Portland State University)

Dalaeja Foreman (curator and organizer)

Marina Reyes Franco (curator)

Andrea Fraser (artist, University of California, Los Angeles)

Rene Gabri (artist)

Nicholas Gamso (Stanford University)

Joel Garcia (cultural worker, Meztli Projects)

Benj Gerdes (artist)

Martha Gever (critic)

François Gèze (publisher)

Amber Ginsburg (artist)

Guerilla Girls

Nan Goldin (artist)

Thyrza Nichols Goodeve (writer, editor, Brooklyn Rail)

Avery Gordon (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Sam Gould (artist, editor)

Malanya Graham (artist)

Sabine Gruffat (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Alicia Grullon (artist)

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Mateus Guzzo (artist)

Paul Haacke (Pratt Institute)

Hans Haacke (artist)

Terike Haapoja (artist, Parsons)

Suzy Halajian (independent curator)

Deedee Halleck (artist, writer)

Lamont Hamilton (artist)

Stina Hamlin (Indigenous Womxn's Collective NYC)

John G. Hanhardt (curator)

Christina B. Hanhardt (University of Maryland)

Brynn Hatton (Colgate University)

Christina Heatherton (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Amber Hickey (independent scholar)

Megan Hicks (Hunter College)

Steven Holmes (curator)

Amber Hoy (First Peoples Fund)

Aaron Hughes (artist)

Maria Hupfield (Artist / Indigenous Womxns Collective NYC)

Adelita Husni-Bey (artist)

Emily Jacir (artist)

Maryam Jafri (artist)

Eric Janke (artist)

Merritt Johnson (artist)

Isaac Julien (artist)

Sophie Jung (artist)

Jennifer Kabat, critic, The New School

Rebecca Karl (New York University)

L.A. Kauffman (writer)

Mary Kelly (artist, University of Southern California)

Devin Kenny (artist)

Lara Khaldi (artist)

Yazan Khalili (artist)

Silvia Kolbowski (artist)

Dana Kopel (New Museum)

Barbara Kruger (artist)

Carin Kuoni (Vera List Center)

Amy L. Powell (curator, University of Illinois)

Nadir Lahiji (architectural critic)

Aaron Landsman (Theater Artist, Writer, Teacher, New York, NY)

Louise Lawler (artist)

Elisabeth Lebovici (historian and writer)

Pedro Lebrón Ortiz (University of Puerto Rico)

Andrew H. Lee (curator, New York University)

Emily Jean Leischner (University of British Columbia)

Zoe Leonard (artist)

Simon Leung (artist, University of California, Irvine)

Stephanie Lindquist (artist)

Awilda Rodríguez Lora (performance choreographer)

Zachary Lockman (New York University)

Jason Loebs (artist)

Clarinda Mac Low

Jumana Manna (artist)

Daniel Marcus, The Ohio State University / Columbus Museum of Art)

Jennifer Martin (artist)

Estefanía Montañez Maymí (artist)

Park McArthur (artist)

Dinah McClintock (Kennesaw State University)

Claire McDonald (University of Washington)

Glendalys Medina (School of Visual Arts)

Simone Meltesen (artist)

Asa Mendelsohn (artist)

Georgia Metz, artist

Crystal Migwans (Columbia University)

John Miller (artist, Barnard College)

Nadja Millner-Larsen (New York University)

Sherry Milner (College of Staten Island, CUNY)

Maya Grace Misra (artist)

Naeem Mohaiemen (writer and artist)

Olivia Mole (University of California, Los Angeles)

Christophe Montacui (journalist)

MTL+ (artists)

Cynthia Mulcahy (artist and curator)

Willa Nasatir (artist)

Mark Nash (UC Santa Cruz)

Mary Nolan (New York University)

Heather M. O’Brien (artist, American University of Beirut)

Occupy Museums

Uriel Orlow (artist)

Anna Ozbek (artist)

Amanda Pajak (arts administrator)

Alpesh Kantilal Patel (Florida International University)

Claire Pentecost (artist, Art Institute of Chicago)

Norma Pérez  (teacher, NYCDOE)

diana perez-ramirez (organizer)

Shani Peters (City College of New York)

Laura Poitras (artist, filmmaker)

Jenny Polak (artist)

PJ Gubatina Policarpio (Educator, Curator, Community Organizer)

Pieter Paul Pothoven (artist, Gerrit Rietveld Academie)

William Powhida (artist)

Public Studio (artists Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky)

Sam Pulitzer (artist)

Jesse Purcell (artist)

Walid Raad (artist)

Yvonne Rainer (artist)

Michael Rakowitz (artist)

Pablo José Ramírez (curator and writer)

Timothy J Reiss (New York University)

Oliver Ressler (artist)

Jordan Reznick (UC Santa Cruz)

Favianna Rodriguez (artist, CultureStrike)

Andres Rodriguez (artist)

Rachel Rodriguez (Indigenous Womxn’s Collective)

Shellyne Rodriguez (artist)

Vincent Romaniello (artist)

Aura Rosenberg (artist)

Martha Rosler (artist)

Peter Rostovsky (artist)

Cameron Rowland (artist)

Anjalika Sagar (artist, Otolith Group)

Nordine Saïdi

Duba Sambolec (artist)

Javier Santiago-Lucerna (professor, San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Kerri Scharlin (artist)

Edgar Schmitz (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Sarah Schulman (writer)

Dread Scott (artist)
Ekrem Serdar (curator, Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center)

Nizan Shaked (California State University, Long Beach)

Daniel Shea (artist)

Liana Shewey (Indigenous Womxn's Collective NYC)

Yacine Siad

Lisa Sigal (artist)

Shelly Silver (artist, Columbia University)

Xaviera Simmons (artist)

Sandra Skurvida (Fashion Institute of Technology-SUNY)

Kate Slezak (artist)

Rob Slifkin, New York University

Alexandria Smith (artist, Wellesley College)

Terry Smith (University of Pittsburgh)

Tania Sousa (artist)

Jonas Staal (artist, writer)

Alysse Stepanian (artist and curator)

Hito Steyerl (artist)

Benjamin Stipes (artist)

Stephanie Syjuco (UC Berkely)

Michael Taussig (Columbia University)

James Merle Thomas (Temple University)

Eduardo Thomas (University of California, San Diego)

Sinclair Thompson (New York University)

Conor Tomás Reed (Brooklyn College)

Shi An Tong (artist)

Mary Tremonte (artist)

Jim Uleman (New York University)

Jaret Vadera (artist, Cornell University)

Myriam Vanneschi (art advisor, writer, curator)

Jehdy Ann Vargas (artist)

Artie Vierkant (artist)

Irene Villaseñor, (Writer and Member of The NYC Indigenous Womxns Collective

Kemeyawi Wahpepah (Indigenous Womxn’s Collective)

Jason Waite (University of Oxford)

Brett Wallace (artist)

Frazer Ward (Smith College)

Tiffany Auttrianna Ward (writer and curator, Maryland Institute College of Art)

Lori Waxman (critic)

Jane Weinstock (curator)

We Will Not Be Silent

William Wilson (artist, Santa Fe Community College)

Evan Calder Williams (Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard)

Michael Witte (University of California, San Diego)

Krzysztof Wodiczko (artist)

Sam Wohl (artist)

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa (artist, critic)

Diane Wong (artist)

Alisha B Wormsley (artist)

Chloe Wyma (CUNY Graduate Center)

Santiago X (artist)

Bernard Yenelouis (artist and writer)

Betty Yu (artist)

Natalia Miranda Yupanqui (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru -PUCP-, Harvard University)

Constantina Zavitsanos (artist)

Carol Zou (cultural worker)

Or Zubalsky (artist)

To add your name to this open letter, write to kandersletter@gmail.com

Signatories: Phase One (as of April 5)

Alexander Alberro (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Dave Alff (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Avi Alpert (Princeton University)

Jane Anderson (New York University)

Corina L. Apostol (independent curator, editor and art historian)

Ariella Azoulay (Brown University)

Ivana Bago (Delve - Institute for Duration, Location and Variables)

Kazembe Balagun (Rosa Luxemburg Foundation)

Karen Barad (UC Santa Cruz)

Brooke Belisle (SUNY Stony Brook)

Omar Berrada (Cooper Union)

Claire Bishop (CUNY Graduate Center)

Zach Blas (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Houria Bouteldja (Parti des Indigènes de la République)

Benjamin H.D. Buchloh (Harvard University)

Craig Buckley (Yale University)

Eduardo Cadava (Princeton University)

Susan Cahn (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Tina Campt (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Lindsay Caplan (Brown University)

Anne Carson (professor of classics and writer in residence New York University)

Paula Chakravartty (New York University)

George Ciccariello-Maher (Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, New York University)

Nikki Columbus (writer and editor)

Drucilla Cornell (Rutgers University)

Ashon Crawley (University of Virginia)

Andrew Culp (California Institute of the Arts)

Robert Currie (New York University)

Arlene Davila (New York University)

Ben Davis (art critic)

Heather Davis (The New School)

Ashley Dawson (CUNY Graduate Center)

Eric de Bruyn (Freie Universität Berlin)

T.J. Demos (UC Santa Cruz)

Dipti Desai (New York University)

Rosalyn Deutsche (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Jaskiran Dhillon (The New School)

Ricardo Dominguez (UC San Diego)

Diane Elze (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France (Frantz Fanon Foundation)

Abou Farman (The New School)

Silvia Federici (Hofstra University)

Denise Ferreira da Silva (University of British Columbia)

Nicole Fleetwood (Rutgers University)

Tatiana Flores (Rutgers University)

iLiana Fokianaki (State of Concept Athens)

Hal Foster (Princeton University)

Sara Galletti (Duke University)

Elaine Gan (New York University)

Benj Gerdes (Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm)

Judith Goldman (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Macarena Gomez-Barris (Pratt Institute)

Jennifer González (UC Santa Cruz)

David Graeber (London School of Economics)

Sandy Grande (Connecticut College)

Erin Gray (New York University)

Chelsea Haines (CUNY Graduate Center)

Nicole Hallett (University at Buffalo School of Law)

Zack Hatfield (Artforum)

Tarry Hum (Queens College)

Adelita Husni-Bey

Yelena Kalinsky (Michigan State University)

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui (Wesleyan University)

Laleh Khalili (SOAS University of London)

Robin D. G. Kelley (University of California, Los Angeles)

Olga Kopenkina (independent curator and art critic)

Chris Lee (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Sohl Lee (Stony Brook University, SUNY)

Lucy Lippard (independent critic)

Tanya Loughead (Canisius College)

Ben Mabie (Verso Books)

Antonia Majaca (Dutch Art Institute)

Nelson Maldonado-Torres (Rutgers University)

Jaleh Mansoor (University of British Columbia)

Reinhold Martin (Columbia University)

Theresa McCarthy (University of Buffalo)

Tom McDonough (Binghamton University, SUNY)

Ara H. Merjian (New York University)

Sheehan Moore (CUNY Graduate Center)

Fred Moten (New York University)

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Vasuki Nesiah (New York University)

Mimi Thi Nguyen (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Tavia Nyong’o (Yale University)

A. Naomi Paik (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Ian Alan Paul (SUNY Stony Brook)

Daniel Penny (critic)

Andreas Petrossiants (writer)

Jelena Petrovic (independent curator, Red Mined collective)

Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Columbia University)

Katja Praznik (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Jasbir K. Puar (Rutgers University)

Julia Robinson (New York University)

Julian Rose (Columbia University)

Andrew Ross (New York University)

Adair Rounthwaite (University of Washington)

Dean Itsuji Saranillio (New York University)

Barry Schwabsky (art critic)

Emily Eliza Scott (University of Oregon)

Sima Shakhsari (University of Minnesota)

Girish Shambu (Canisius College)

Stephen Sheehi (College of William and Mary)

Lara Sheehi (Licensed Clinical Psychologist)

Tamar Shirinian (Millsaps College)

Gregory Sholette (Queens College)

Audra Simpson (Columbia University)

Nikhil Pal Singh (New York University)

Anne Spice (CUNY Graduate Center)

Samuel Stein (Hunter College)

Jasmina Tumbas (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Jelena Vesic (curator, art historian and lecturer)

Bojana Videkanić (University of Waterloo)

Andrew Weiner (New York University)

Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths, College of London)

Jonah Westerman (SUNY Purchase)

Kenneth White (Binghamton University, SUNY)

Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia University)

Shannon Woodcock (independent historian)

Lily Woodruff (Michigan State University)

Cynthia Wu (Indiana University)

Neferti Xina MacAgba Tadiar (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Soyoung Yoon (The New School)

Benjamin Young (Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY)

Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar (Brown University)