We, the artists and curator of A Permanent Nostalgia for Departure: A Rehearsal on Legacy with Zaha Hadid, currently on view at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (CAC) wrote a statement of solidarity with Palestine addressed to the Director and staff on November 6th, 2023.
Our letter included a request that the CAC publish our collective statement online and within the exhibition, alongside its own statement of solidarity which demands an immediate ceasefire to hostilities and states the CAC’s institutional commitment to highlighting and elevating global anticolonial narratives across its public programs and exhibitions.
The CAC has thus far failed to address any of our demands.
In publishing our statement, we would like to call out the institution’s failure to take a stance against injustice, uphold its own stated institutional values, or demonstrate care and responsibility towards its exhibiting artists.
ORIGINAL LETTER SENT BY ARTISTS AND CURATOR TO CAC
STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINE
A letter to the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati –
The exhibition A Permanent Nostalgia for Departure: A Rehearsal on Legacy with Zaha Hadid celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Zaha Hadid-designed Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art. The title, drawn from a text by Etel Adnan, serves to remind us of the implications of past events and how they directly inform, saturate and shape our present.
Over the past month, the world has witnessed another horrific cycle of indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian land and people, drawing global attention to the severity of the ongoing oppression, dehumanization and continued aggression produced against Palestinians by apartheid forces. A genocide and a globally recognized systemic infringement on human rights is taking place with the full support of Western governments. For over 75 years, Israel has inflicted countless acts of destruction, land dispossession and forced displacement as it continues to systematically abuse the rights of Palestinians through mass surveillance, mass incarceration, control of free movement and denial of the right of return, to name a few. Remaining silent would only constitute full complacency to these violations. What we are bearing witness to today is a stark reminder of the frenzy for war and ‘vengeance’, the media-fueled domination of false and biased narratives, as well as the silence and complicity of museums and cultural institutions who proudly proclaim their commitment to equity and diversity.
We are a collective of individuals whose lives and work share roots in global struggles against imperialism. Our show's title resonates with the kinship of shaken foundations, and while our presence and practices echo from different landscapes, we share in the inheritance of traumas and erasures as we embody, translate and transform them. On the 20th anniversary of the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) building, we also mark the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a formative experience in our collective memory whose resounding legacies of extraction and loss we, as artists and curator, contend with and counter through our work. Only a few weeks prior to the latest wave of intensified violence on Palestinians, we witnessed the forceful displacement of Armenians, whose continuous ethnic presence in Artsakh has lasted millennia. Many of us can draw on first-hand experiences of the violence and destruction inflicted on communities, cities, cultural landmarks, and the environment as a direct consequence of conflict, or have experienced the ongoing silencing and censorship of anyone speaking out against it. The racism, terror and injustice people have suffered at the hands of colonialism reverberates through us.
The CAC states that its mission is rooted in the belief that “art and creativity are universal experiences with the power to illuminate the challenges we need to address as citizens and societies to create a more equitable world.” We recognize the history of the institution as a space that championed the work of artists who faced erasure through political and public censorship. The CAC acknowledges on its website that its own building is situated on occupied land, and affirms its commitment to education around pre-colonial and colonial history in order to “recognize narratives which have been whitewashed or erased.”
In light of the ongoing armed, humanitarian and political siege on Gaza, assault on the West Bank, and criminalization across the diaspora, we call on the CAC to uphold its institutional values by demanding an immediate ceasefire and vocalizing its solidarity with the Palestinian anticolonial struggle for freedom and liberation from occupation and apartheid. We are hopeful that the CAC can realize the parallels and deep connections that this cause has to significant liberation movements relevant to its own context and community, chiefly the African American struggle against white supremacy. It is also important to note that, over the past 75 years, Israel has been the largest benefactor of U.S. foreign assistance, making U.S. tax payers directly complicit in the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people, and further reinforcing the urgent need to advocate for this cause as not only a moral responsibility but a civic duty.
Collectively, not only can we recognize and reclaim narratives of liberation and decolonization, but we can recount them directly from our own personal experiences. Denying us this act of solidarity only serves to instrumentalize our intellectual and artistic labor against us.
This is a time to speak up against all forms of injustice. We demand the following from the CAC:
- To publish our letter across all CAC communication channels, including the website, newsletter and social media alongside a statement of solidarity which calls for an immediate ceasefire to hostilities, and states the CAC’s institutional commitment to highlighting and elevating global anticolonial narratives across its public programs and exhibitions.
- To distribute this letter amongst all CAC staff and facilitate internal dialogue within the institution.
- To make our letter accessible to visitors at the CAC reception, as well as within the exhibition galleries, and to call attention to it during tours.
- To appeal to audiences and visitors to exercise their political and civic duties by calling and writing to their representatives to demand a ceasefire and an end to the occupation.
- To assume a leadership position in the support of people within your immediate community in Ohio who are standing in solidarity with Palestinians and currently facing discrimination and censorship.
As artists and curator, we have often lent our voices to institutional discourse around repair, healing and recovery. Yet today, we are left to question if our engagement with museums and cultural spaces has truly been intended with care, or if our work is being exploited to mask underlying framings of ‘otherness’. We believe that the true possibility of recovery can only be achieved by having the courage to question the state of the world and confront our individual and collective struggles, as well as resist social amnesia towards the evidence of our time and records of our history. As we experience a period of heightened divisive rhetoric and an alarming rise in islamophobia and antisemitism, we wish to take a stance against silence and denial towards all forms of oppression, and remain unequivocally allied with our Palestinian siblings whose grief we carry, and our Jewish siblings whose suffering is being weaponized against another people. We will continue to find ways to reconstruct suppressed narratives by deploying transformative language to acknowledge and commemorate them through our work and within our lives.
Rand Abdul Jabbar, Khyam Allami, Emii Alrai, Maite Borjabad, Hamed Bukhamseen, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, Andrea Canepa, Ali Ismail Karimi, Dima Srouji.
Read Testimonial 8 in our Palestine Uncensored series →