A surreptitiously pro-Palestinian work at the Whitney Biennial

During the 81st edition of the Whitney Biennial, Native American artist and activist Demian DinéYazhi’ (born 1983) exhibits an installation entitled We must stop imagining apocalypse/genocide + we must imagine liberation (“We need to stop imagining apocalypse/genocide + we need to imagine liberation”). On Wednesday, March 13, officials at the Whitney Museum of American Art said they did not realize that certain flashing neon letters also revealed the message “Free Palestine,” but that this discovery did not change anything. their decision to exhibit the work at the contemporary art biennial, which opens on March 20, 2024.

The installation refers to the title of a poem, inspired by Native American resistance movements, by Navajo activist Klee Benally, a friend of the recently deceased artist. Demian DinéYazhi’s installation represents these two sentences in large illuminated letters, placed in front of the museum’s windows so that they can be seen from the street. But the flashing lights also spell out the words “Free Palestine,” a message the artist describes as the deeper meaning of his work.

Museum officials point out that this message was initially not present in the work. The installation would in fact have been carried out before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When the work arrived for exhibition, museum curators say they thought the flashing neon lights would draw attention to words like “genocide” or “liberation.” The message was then noted by Annie Armstrong, editor for Artnet News.

Angela Montefinise, head of communications for the museum, confirms that there are no plans to modify or remove the work from the exhibition, recalling that “the Biennale has long been a place where contemporary artists address subjects of ‘news’ and that ‘the Whitney Museum is committed to being a space for artists’ positions.’

The 81st edition of the Whitney Biennial takes place from March 20 to August 11, 2024. Entitled “Even Better Than the Real Thing”, it brings together seventy-one artists and collectives around the notion of “present”, inviting them to reflect and generate discussions on current issues. The exhibition is curated by curators Chrissie Iles and Meg Onli, in collaboration with Min Sun Jeon and Beatriz Cifuentes.

Similar Posts