In an open letter released today, August 13, a group of artists participating in the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya, Japan, demanded to remove their works from the festival. The open letter, published in Artnews, is signed by 10 artists including Tania Bruguera, Pia Camil, Claudia Martínez Garay, Regina José Galindo, and Pedro Reyes, who also served as a curator in the triennial. The artists protest the closure of the exhibition After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ on August 3, a decision they described as “an unacceptable act of censorship.”
“We believe that the Aichi Triennale organizers’ decision to surrender to irrational threats and political demands violates freedom of expression and we question their decision to close the section ‘After Freedom of Expression?’ without previously discussing it with the participating artists, the other curators and the organizers of the special exhibition,” the open letter reads. “We fundamentally disagree that this is an issue of ‘risk management’ and not one of censorship, a fact that has been denounced publicly by Amnesty International Japan, AICA Japan, Pen international as well as local and international press.”
The Aichi Triennale has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
The exhibition After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ was meant to probe Japan’s history of art censoring and celebrate artworks that had been previously excluded from museums in Japan. It was shuttered after the triennial received multiple threats of violence over the inclusion of the sculpture “Statue of a Girl of Peace” (2011) by South Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung in the show. The work addresses Japan’s history of military sexual slavery, a contentious issue in the relations between Japan and South Korea. Last week, Police arrested a man suspected of making an arson threat against the triennial in a fax message that evoked the deadly attack on Kyoto Animation studios in July.
“We understand that it is not an easy decision to make when people’s lives and security are at stake,” the open letter continues. “But as a public institution, it is also its responsibility to work in collaboration with the corresponding authorities to provide protection and security for its staff, visiting public and anyone involved in the exhibition.”
The open letter follows a previous statement signed by 72 of the 90 artists in the triennial. The statement, posted on Facebook on August 6, objected to the closure of the exhibition and called on the triennial to reverse its decision. It was signed by Tania Bruguera, Candice Breitz, Heather Dewey Hagborg, Chim↑Pom, Regina José Galindo, Minouk Lim, Park Chan-kyong, and Javier Téllez, among others.
Their demand to pull their works from the triennial is a “public gesture of solidarity with the censored artists,” the artists wrote at the end of their open letter. “Through this action we sincerely hope that the organizers of the Aichi Triennale will re-open the section After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ and continue with their valuable work without thwarting freedom of expression by giving way to political intervention and violence.”
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