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PACBI-In support of Indian artists protesting against Israel

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Vivan Sundaram | The Hindu | August 6, 2011

In support of Indian artists protesting against Israel

In the story “Indian artists to boycott major show in Israel” (published in The Hindu on August 3), my views have been presented in a way that completely belies my life-long career in art based on the conviction that art and politics (and most certainly culture and politics) are interlocked in complex ways. And that artists can make a significant contribution to ongoing history through protests, boycotts, refusals, and direct address within and beyond their art practice.

Some bare facts: I signed the Palestine Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in 2010, which makes my stand against the state of Israel/in support of the Palestinian cause, self-evident. Added to that, I am not invited to show in the forthcoming exhibition of Indian art in Tel Aviv, so there cannot be even a remote reason for me to renege or prevaricate on the issue of a boycott.

Even if artists who were invited by the curators did not refuse this invitation right away, a subsequent campaign could make them reflect on their decision. Pushpamala N.'s initiative could, and should, provoke artists to explore and extend and revise their political position and related action.

Each one of us will respond to a greater or lesser degree to a historical moment, a place, a movement, to express our solidarity. But one does not need to recount at every point all the ills that beset the world's nation-states and thus cancel every political call on that basis.

I further believe that a political position of any complexity allows artists to use imaginative and intellectual resources in their mode of political intervention: protests and boycotts, open letters in the press, to the state, to the institution concerned, an artist's statement through the work and as a textual support to be displayed or published in the catalogue.

I tried to say a few of these things in much simpler language when your reporter asked for my views. In response to her repeated questions — “but is a boycott necessary; is it at all useful …”, etc. — I told her that besides the boycott, there are individual and collective ways to raise a voice against Israel and in support of Palestine. This does not negate the concept of boycott but extends it to make it more widespread and effective.

Unfortunately, the report as published does not reflect my political position — indeed it turns it on its head. I hope the publication of my actual views will advance a serious political debate among artists, as indeed in the public sphere, to which your paper is so admirably committed.

Posted on 06-08-2011

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