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Dec 27 2018

Over 270 Cultural Workers Sign Statement in Solidarity with Sexual Harassment Survivors

by Chloe Chu

Over 270 members of the South Asian arts community have pledged to protect the fair treatment of the sexual harassment survivors who have spoken out about their experiences. Among the signatories are, from left to right, top to bottom: MITHU SEN, courtesy the artist and Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; KIRAN NADAR, copyright Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; SHEELA GOWDA, copyright and courtesy Iniva, London; AMAR KANWAR, photo by Jonty Wilde, courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield; GAURI GILL, courtesy the artist; NALINI MALANI, photo by Rafeeq Ellias; SHAHIDUL ALAM, photo by Christopher Michel; and NAEEM MOHAIEMEN, photo by Abeer Hoque, courtesy Tate, London.

More than 270 prominent members of the South Asian arts community have signed a pledge to stand in solidarity with the survivors of sexual harassment who have come forward with their stories. The statement was circulated to the media and shared online beginning on December 22. Among the well-known signatories are artists Amar Kanwar, Dayanita Singh, Shahidul Alam, Gauri Gill, Naeem Mohaiemen, Nalini Malani, Sheela Gowda, and Mithu Sen; curator Natasha Ginwala; private museum founder Kiran Nadar; and several owners of galleries based in India, including Experimenter, Gallery SKE and Chatterjee & Lal. International practitioners who have added their names to the letter include the Guerrilla Girls, Documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk, Tate Modern director Frances Morris, and New York artist Martha Rosler.

The statement emerged following a protest at the fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) on December 14. During the question-and-answer session that followed a lecture-performance by the Guerrilla Girls, a group of artists, curators and writers stood up to inquire about KMB organizers’ lack of response to sexual misconduct allegations—published on the anonymous Instagram account Scene and Herd (@herdsceneand)—naming KMB participating artist Subodh Gupta and co-founder Riyas Komu. One of the questions the protestors raised was: “Will the investigating body at KMB and other cultural organizations take measures to protect the anonymity and safety of the survivors who come forward to provide testimony?” Neither the members of the United States-based feminist group nor KMB’s curator Anita Dube were able to answer on behalf of the institution. 

These grievances were echoed in the statement signed and circulated by arts professionals in the wake of the protest. According to the open letter: “Survivors who publicly tell their stories face serious forms of retaliation. They are reluctant to disclose their identities because they fear losing work. As a community, we commit to ensuring that people who are speaking out are protected, and that professional opportunities are not denied to them. [. . .] We strongly object to the use of defamation as a method to intimidate and silence survivors and those who represent their interests [. . .] We will do our best to protect spaces for open conversations, and uphold basic codes of professionalism.” KMB Foundation has previously stated that it would investigate the allegations against Komu, but has made no response to the latest questions about its course of action.  

Chloe Chu is ArtAsiaPacific’s associate editor.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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