Defend Alistair Hudson, Defend the Whitworth Gallery.
More than half of the artists participating in British Art Show 9 in Manchester have withdrawn in support of ‘political freedom and artistic expression in cultural institutions and universities across the UK’. Their letter is reproduced in full, below.
In Summer 2021 the Whitworth Gallery at Manchester University hosted Forensic Architecture’s Cloud Studies. The show included a statement expressing horror at the latest Israeli attacks on Gaza and ‘honouring the courage of Palestinians’. This has been the focus of attacks from the lobby group ‘UK Lawyers for Israel’. Because of their campaign, Alistair Hudson’s job as director of the Whitworth is now at risk from Manchester University, his employers.
Artists, academics and cultural workers have made clear that they will not allow the new McCarthyism to take hold in universities and cultural institutions. Support is pouring in. Alongside the artists’ statement, nearly 100 academics at Manchester have called for their University to reinstate Alistair Hudson and apologise to the Whitworth.
Readers can sign a petition in defence of Alistair Hudson, Director of the Whitworth Gallery, here.
- Photo: Cooking Sections collective, from ‘What Is Above Is What Is Below’
Dear Nancy Rothwell,
President and Vice Chancellor, University of Manchester,
As artists participating in the British Art Show 9 which is due to tour to Manchester in May, we are outraged and appalled by the University of Manchester’s attempt to force Director Alistair Hudson to resign from The Whitworth after pressure from the UK Lawyers for Israel. The unfolding of events in response to the statement of solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle exhibited by Forensic Architecture during their exhibition ‘Cloud Studies’ at The Whitworth in 2021 is a direct attack on political freedom and artistic expression.
We condemn the University’s capitulation to continued UKLFI pressure and demands, which sets a very dangerous precedent, particularly in the spaces we often work: cultural institutions, galleries and higher education. We stand in full support and solidarity with the entire Whitworth staff, who have made the institution an exemplar of a civic public space and a useful museum. We believe there is neither space for such actions nor possible engagement with the University and its platforms, especially when public expression is limited, and evidence for human rights violations is obscured. Truth needs to be made public, and cultural spaces have to remain open for difficult discussions.
Operating a museum that is useful to a varied host of communities does not come without conflict or discomfort. However a museum has to learn and practise these conflicts besides our, at times, differing opinions. Between our various artistic practices, we share values that strive for social justice. BAS 9 exhibition is structured around the curatorial framework of healing, care and reparative history; tactics of togetherness and imagining new futures, which is at odds with recent events. Our deep commitment to these themes under fear of censorship makes it impossible to continue our engagement with the University of Manchester given the current position of the institution.
In solidarity with the ongoing liberation struggle of Palestine and Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation; in support of political freedom, and artistic expression in cultural institutions and universities across the UK, as BAS 9 artists we have decided to pull our work out of the exhibition’s iteration in Manchester unless meaningful reparative measures are taken.