Emily Jacir Calls for Help
I was slated to have a one person show at the Ulrich Museum in Wichita, Kansas in January 26th. The piece was Where We Come From which was included by Dan Cameron on the 8th Istanbul Biennale "Poetic Justice", and a small excerpt of it was also included in this years Whitney Bienniel.
This show has been planned for over a year, much to my horror two days ago I was told that the The Jewish Federation of Kansas has put pressure on the University and the Museum so that they have been granted permission to place brochures and a sign in the gallery expressing their views concerning the politics of the Middle East. Actually, the University and Museum have no idea what text is contained in the brochures and what the posters are but have given them permission nonetheless.
This is a complete infringement on my right to free speech, not to mention an insult to me as an artist. It is intolerable that I have to go through this just because of my background. I am sure no other artist would accept to work under such conditions. They are placing a huge unnecessary burden on my exhibit with the presence of the brochures which are intended to silence or censor my work. I am shocked that they would place such conditions in a the space of a museum.
On the one hand they are allowing me to speak but on another they are trying to control my work by placing brochures, thereby contextualizing and framing my work in ways I have no control over. Not only is this an infringement to free speech but it also disturbs the integrity of my work.
This also sets a bad precedent for them - the next time the University has a show that some group wants to object to they will have to put that group's sign up in the gallery.
I feel violated as an artist by their decision to put a sign in the exhibition with my pictures. This modifies my installation and the work is no longer what it was intended to be.
I think people should be able to see my work on its own terms and be able to form their own opinion. I am not against having a conversation, or organizing panels where a variety of views can be expressed if necessary.
If this group is allowed to do this then perhaps other groups should also demand that their own signs and brochures be placed in the gallery as well. How could they be refused? The Museum has now opened up my exhibition space as space for comments from one political group so why deny others?
I am very upset and people are telling me I should cancel the exhibition. I am not sure what to do....I don't want to cancel because it is not fair that the people in Wichita are unable to see my work because of this fiasco but on the other hand these terms are unacceptable....
Please help me. Does anyone have contacts with the ACLU or ideas?
The Director of the Museum is David Butler.
Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art
Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, Kansas 67260
contact: Dr. David Butler, Director
telephone: 316-978-3664, fax: 316-978-3898
Kevin Mullins is the Curator who invited me to Wichita.