The Guardian has reported that Alistair Hudson, director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, is being asked to leave his post by the University of Manchester, following a row over Forensic Architecture’s exhibition at the gallery last summer.
UKLFI, along with the Manchester Jewish Community, had objected in particular to the introductory statement for the exhibition, which contained inflammatory misrepresentations regarding the recent Israeli military action in Gaza.
For example, Forensic Architecture’s statement claimed that “The ferocity of the bombing produced man made environmental disasters, with underground explosions leading to artificial earthquakes under Gaza city. At the same time, the targeting of agricultural storage facilities produced massive ‘air quakes’, with clouds of toxic fumes covering entire residential areas.”
UKLFI pointed out:
“Israel’s bombing did not produce environmental disasters or earthquakes. Israel did bomb tunnels built by the terrorists (often using child slave labour) and the collapse of the tunnels damaged some roads and buildings above them. In one case explosives stored by terrorists in a tunnel exploded, causing a row of houses to collapse. But this was not an earthquake.
Israel did not target agricultural storage facilities. It targeted terrorist facilities, some of which may have used or been disguised as agricultural storage facilities. And this did not produce ‘massive airquakes’ (whatever they are) nor clouds of toxic fumes covering entire residential areas.”
The full statement by Forensic Architecture is below.
UKLFI’s note pointing out misrepresentations in the statement is HERE
Despite the obvious inaccuracies in Forensic Architecture’s introductory statement, Mr Hudson had assured the Vice Chancellor of Manchester University that they had established the accuracy and legalities of the work presented.
The university initially agreed to remove the “introductory statement”. However they backed down from doing so after Forensic Architecture demanded that the exhibition must be closed if the introductory statement was removed. The University agreed to a statement by the Manchester Jewish Community being posted outside the exhibition, but then insisted that there had to be another statement by a pro-Palestinian organisation as well.
UKLFI wrote a Freedom of Information request to Manchester University asking them the following:
What risk assessment (if any) was conducted?
What consideration (if any) was given to the need to foster good relations between persons of different ethnicities, nationalities and religions?
What consideration (if any) was given to the need to eliminate harassment, victimisation and other conduct contrary to the Equality Act 2010.
What was the outcome of any consideration of any of the above?
What steps (if any) were taken to establish the accuracy of factual allegations made in the exhibition?
Please provide copies of all correspondence, notes, minutes and other documents containing or recording the above.
The University replied as follows: “The University has now had the opportunity to consider your request and I can confirm that no recorded information is held relevant to the specific points raised in your request.”
UKLFI wrote to the University in September 2021 suggesting that the University should consider appropriate disciplinary action against Mr Hudson based on the fact that he had assured the Vice Chancellor that they had established the accuracy and legalities of the work presented but the response to the Freedom of Information request showed that no such investigation had been made.
The Guardian article says UKLFI made a series of complaints. In fact there were only two complaints – this one concerning the Forensic Architecture exhibition and another concerning a statement posted on the website of the Whitworth Art Gallery expressing solidarity with Palestine and support for “decolonialisation”: https://www.uklfi.com/manchesters-whitworth-gallery-removes-statement-of-solidarity-with-palestine.
UKLI had also expressed concerns about Forensic Architecture’s entry for the Turner Prize in 2018, but these were based on their “Gaza Platform”, a previous project, not Yaakub Abu al-Qiyan (as suggested by The Guardian): https://www.uklfi.com/anti-israel-propaganda-group-in-turner-prize-shortlist
Forensic Architecture’s Introductory Statement to their exhibition at Whitworth Gallery
‘Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine.
While working on this exhibition we witnessed with horror yet another attack by Israel’s occupation forces on Palestinians. Partners and friend in Gaza told us first-hand about their experiences of the attacks that destroyed multi storey buildings, homes, the offices of news organisations, schools, hospitals and businesses. The ferocity of the bombing produced man made environmental disasters, with underground explosions leading to artificial earthquakes under Gaza city. At the same time, the targeting of agricultural storage facilities produced massive ‘air quakes’, with clouds of toxic fumes covering entire residential areas. Elsewhere across Palestine we saw the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian neighbourhoods by Israeli police and settlers, and raids and tear gas use against cultural centres, including that of our collaborators and friends in Dar Jacir.
We honour the courage of Palestinians who continue to document and narrate events on the ground and to struggle against this violence, apartheid and colonisation. We believe that this liberation struggle is inseparable from other global struggles against racism, white supremacy antisemitism, and settler colonial violence and we acknowledge its particularly close entanglement with the Black liberation struggle around the world.’