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Widespread pro-Palestinian action planned for Australian arts venues

TJI Wrap
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Graffiti style writing including the words Israel and Palestine

Detail from Mike Parr, Going Home at the Anna Schwartz Gallery (Zan Wimberley)

Published: 11 December 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Anna Schwartz Gallery has dropped artist Mike Parr, three members of the STC board have resigned, and the damage to Australia’s creative communities is set to continue.

Creatives for Palestine, a campaign supported by Overland magazine, is calling on artists, actors and other creatives to turn their workplaces into political battlegrounds.

Artists are asked to “show up in solidarity” on Wednesday 13 December by wearing keffiyehs, pins or Palestinian solidarity shirts to their local gallery, theatre, or arts venue.

The action will further inflame an already raging conflict about actors and artists using their platforms to demonstrate against Israel’s military response in Gaza.

On Sunday gallerist Anna Schwartz announced she would end her long-standing representation of artist Mike Parr over a work about the October 7 attacks and subsequent Israel-Hamas War.

Parr, who is a leading performance artist, painted a series of phrases about Israel and Palestine within jumbled automatic writing he produced with his eyes closed during a four hour performance at the gallery on Sunday. Many of the phrases are quotes from the London Review of Books and include "Israel was founded on the forced displacement of Palestinian people”; "Only Nazis do ethnic cleansing" and "I am told Hamas rapes women and cuts off the heads of babies".

Schwartz told the ABC she had not censored the work, which remains at the gallery, but could no longer be associated with Parr, whom she has represented and promoted for 36 years.  

“Whatever the intention, the co-appearance of the word ‘Nazi’ with the word ‘Israel’ made me sick. I come from a background where my parents, my grandfather came to Australia from Poland luckily diagnosing in 1938 what was about to happen. He brought my grandmother, my father and his sister to Australia. The rest of the family were murdered.

“My beloved mother-in-law was taken to Auschwitz at the age of 16 with her father, who was killed immediately… These people came to Australia thinking it was the farthest place they could live in order to live calm, rational lives.”

Schwartz said she was also deeply upset that a frame of conjecture had been placed around the rape of women and murder of babies, despite clear evidence of Hamas’s actions on October 7.

Fallout continues from the controversial action by three Sydney Theatre Company actors who donned keffiyahs at the opening night of The Seagull as a pro-Palestinian demonstration of solidarity.

Three members of the STC foundation board, all Jewish, have now resigned over the company’s handling of the action: Judi Hausmann, Alex Schuman and Ruth Ritchie.

In her resignation letter, Ritchie said the company’s noncommittal posture was “as powerful as a scarf in a curtain call”.

“Saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing. If you don’t feel confident about your position on the war, rights to free speech, or the place for appropriate protest, do the homework, examine your conscience and step up to listen and to speak,” she said.

“There will be another "Seagull Three" at your beloved ballet, museum, symphony, theatre, festival or library. Let’s not canonise or demonise artists or be surprised by their protest.”


A call to action from Creatives for Palestine (Overland)

Mike Parr dropped by gallerist Anna Schwartz after political performance piece (SMH)

Gallery drops artist after Israel-Gaza performance (ABC)

‘As powerful as a scarf in a curtain call’: Third resignation in STC fallout (SMH) 


Boycotted, Canceled and Isolated: Will Israel Become the New Russia Due to the War in Gaza? (Haaretz)  

Israel's artists are being shunned by the world's cultural community since the war erupted, some are scrapping their own plans for forays abroad, and it's getting tougher to draw foreign artists and performers here. Is Israel becoming Russia 2.0?

Israel is increasingly portrayed as the villain. Some perspective, please (George Brandis, SMH)

The scenes from Gaza on the nightly television news are, of course, awful. Bewildered and suffering children, hysterical parents, outraged doctors and paramedics struggling to cope. Predictably, Western opinion, appalled by what it sees, is beginning to shift against Israel.

This Finnish Jew wore a dress with names of Israeli hostages to Independence Day ball  (Jerusalem Post)

The President of the Jewish Community of Finland Yaron Nadbornik wore a #BringThemHomeNow necklace, while his wife, Galith’s, dress featured the names of the hostages.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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