UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Whitworth Gallery Removes Forensic Architecture Statement – But Then Reneges

The Whitworth Art Gallery, which is part of Manchester University, has removed the controversial written statement by Forensic Architecture that introduced its “Cloud Studies” exhibition, following interventions by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), the Manchester Jewish Representative Council (JRC), North West Friends of Israel (NWFoI) and the Manchester Zionist Central Council (ZCC).

UKLFI considered that the statement contained inflammatory language - it portrayed Israel as an occupation force engaged in ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and human and environmental destruction. UKLFI wrote to Manchester University querying whether the University had complied with its public sector equality duty to have due regard to the need to foster good relations between different communities.

A meeting was subsequently held between representatives of Manchester University, the Whitworth Gallery and the organisations mentioned above.

Following the meeting, Prof Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President of Manchester University, wrote on behalf of the Whitworth and the wider University: “.. we are very sorry for any distress which has been experienced by members of our Jewish community in connection with aspects of the Cloud Studies exhibition, particularly the accompanying written statement. The communications which the Whitworth and the University have received have expressed particular concern about the written statement authored by Forensic Architecture which is displayed at the entrance to the exhibition. We note, and understand, the concerns expressed about the inclusion of that statement within the exhibition space, including regarding how it might be received by visitors to the gallery and around its potential impact on members of our Jewish community. We consider it appropriate for it to be removed, which we have now done.”

Prof Thakkar also stated that the Whitworth will be undertaking a review of its governance arrangements around the approval of new artistic content at the gallery.

UKLFI, the Jewish Representative Council of Manchester, North West Friends of Israel and the Zionist Central Council have released the following joint statement:
“We are pleased that following our representations, The Whitworth Art Gallery has removed the written statement by Forensic Architecture that introduced the “Cloud Studies” Exhibition.

During our recent meeting with gallery representatives and the University of Manchester, it was pointed out that this was a factually incorrect and dangerously one-sided account on an extremely complex foreign policy issue. For a publicly funded body to support such a problematic and biased narrative was disappointing.

The fact this is the second occasion the gallery has displayed deeply problematic content in the space of a few weeks is unacceptable. We therefore welcome the review of governance arrangements that the Whitworth will be undertaking. We hope that lessons have been learnt and the same mistakes will not be repeated.”

UPDATE 17 August 2021

Manchester University wrote to North West Friend of Israel on 13 August 2021, stating that Forensic Architecture’s introductory statement had been removed by the Gallery and that a review would be undertaken of governance arrangements around the approval of new artistic content.

According to media reports, Forensic Architecture responded by demanding the removal of the whole exhibition. Apparently in response to this demand from Forensic Architecture, on 17 August 2021, Manchester University reneged on their decision to remove the introductory statement from the exhibition.