Thursday, April 28, 2011

Censored Algerian artist talks about his part in the Sharjah Biennial controversy

Recently, Jack Persekian, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, an umbrella organisation overseeing the biennial, was sacked by Sharjah ruler Sheik Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi. The reason, according to the Foundation, was a "public outcry" caused by the inclusion of an artwork by Algerian artist and writer Mustapaha Benfodil, an installation consisting of mannequins in soccer uniforms emblazoned with Arabic phrases that were deemed blasphemous.

The art world has been quick to gather around Persekian. An online petition is currently circulating to show support for the administrator and condemn the censorship. Persekian, however, disavows the the petition. "I have not authorised the online petition that has been launched in my name by certain people associated with the Sharjah Art Foundation," he said. "I am not an advocate of boycotting any institutions to effect changes in the Middle East art scene. I have always believed in the benefits of respectful dialogue and routine interactions to effect change. Those personal beliefs still apply today and going forward into the future for the Sharjah Art Foundation and its artists."

So far, the media focus has been on the act of censorship and firing of Persekian. However, ART INFO UK caught up with the artist in London to discuss his work and hear his version of the story. You can read the interview here.
Image Mustapha Benfodil's Maportaliche/It Has No Importance 2011, before it was removed from the Sharjah Biennial