Art and Conflict is the result of a year-long research enquiry, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, exploring the extraordinary work of contemporary artists, activists and cultural organisations in the context of armed conflict, revolution and post-conflict.
Bringing together a diverse range of perspectives, Art and Conflict aims to raise provocations and open up conversations within the arts, as well as across sectors and disciplines.
An introduction by Michaela Crimmin (Royal College of Art and co-director Culture+Conflict) precedes specially commissioned essays and texts by artist Jananne Al-Ani; Dr Bernadette Buckley (Goldsmiths, University of London); writer Malu Halasa; curator Jemima Montagu (co-director, Culture+Conflict); curator Sarah Rifky (Beirut, Cairo); artist Larissa Sansour; and, Professor Charles Tripp (SOAS). Two further essays by Michaela Crimmin and Dr Bernadette Buckley reflect on art and conflict in Higher Education in the UK.
Edited by Michaela Crimmin and Elizabeth Stanton
Design by Tom Merrell
Published by Royal College of Art, London, 2014, with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The Art and Conflict research inquiry was realised as a partnership with Index on Censorship, with additional support from the British Council, Culture+Conflict, the University of Manchester, and Goldsmiths, University of London.
Following criticism over the removal of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour from the short list of the Lacoste Elysee prize, Lacoste announced today their decision to cancel participation and support to the Elysée Prize on the account of the situation, and in order to “avoid any misunderstanding.”
The Musée de l’Elysée also announced today that they have decided to suspend the competition, based on “the private partner’s wish to exclude Larissa Sansour.” They also added that they “reaffirm” their support for Sansour, for “the artistic quality of her work and her dedication.”
The museum said that their decision reaffirms “commitment” to their “fundamental values,” and said that the decision to suspend the prize is in line with their history of defending “artists, their work, freedom of the arts and of speech.”
While the Musée de l’Elysée is placing responsibility on the shoulders of Lacoste, the fashion brand said that both Lacoste and the Musée de l’Elysée “felt that the work at hand did not belong in the theme of joie de vivre (happiness).” Lacoste also added that the decision was only made known to Sansour after making an agreement with the museum.
Lacoste said that Sansour’s work did not fit the criteria for the prize, but the museum said that nominees “had carte blanche to interpret the theme in which ever way they favoured, in a direct or indirect manner, with authenticity or irony, based upon their existing or as an entirely new creation.”
While both statements confirmed the approval of Sansour from the beginning, the objection to her work remains unclear. Lacoste denies implications that she was excluded “on political grounds,” but that it was merely a prize to “promote young photographers and provide them with an opportunity to increase their visibility.”
While both organisations claim to have suspended the competition, it is unclear as to whether or not this was a joint decision.
Lacoste has refuted claims that the work of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour was removed from the shortlist for the Lacoste Elsee prize based on her work being too “pro-Palestinian” as she has claimed.
Lacoste told Index that the work was removed from the shortlist “because it didn’t correspond to the theme of the 2011 edition” which was “joie de vivre” and said that they “regret the political interpretation” of their decision.
Soren Lind, husband and assistant of Sansour, denied that this was the case and said Sansour had received “nothing but praise” for her work.
Nominees for the prize were told in an email that even though the museum was teaming up with Lacoste, it was not an “advertising campaign” and gave the nominees “total artistic freedom” in interpreting the theme. Lind said that the artists were told that they “didn’t have to take [the theme] literally.”
The question of violating the rules was new to Lind. According to him, “nothing in communications prior had anything saying that she doesn’t meet the requirements.” Messages exchanged between Musée de l’Elysée and Sansour also contradict the reasoning offered by Lacoste. In a message notifying Sansour of her removal from the list, a representative from the museum said that “the decision was taken by Lacoste” and that the museum had defended her work.
Lind also mentioned that the director of the museum, Sam Stourdzé, told him in a phone conversation that while the “piece is not anti-Israeli, he still felt it was too political.”
Steering clear of political themes has been a point of conflict in the past, Lind said. One of last year’s finalists, Camila Rodrigo Grana also created debate with her work, which showed a bootleg vendor in Lima selling counterfeit Lacoste polo shirts, which also could be interpreted politically. Lind said that although concerns were voiced, the committee “ended up allowing the project” rather than pulling her from the nomination list.
Lind pointed out that officials were censoring artists and “expecting them to be compliant.” The museum, which has offered to display Sansour’s work separately, attempted to convince her to sign a statement stating that she “decided to pursue other opportunities.”
Index has also attempted to contact the Musée de l’Elysée, but has not yet had a response.
London-based artist Larissa Sansour has claimed that she has been removed from the shortlist for a prestigious European prize after her work was deemed too “pro-Palestinian” by the sponsors, fashion label Lacoste.
In a statement today, Jerusalem-born Sansour said the fashion label had decided her submitted work, Nation Estate which addresses ideas of Palestinian identity and statehood, was pro-Palestinian. The photo and video work was developed specifically for the Lacoste Elysée Prize, awarded by Lausanne’s Musée de l’Elysée.
Sansour claims she was asked by the prize organisers to approve a statement saying she had quit the prize “in order to pursue other opportunities”.
An email seen by Index on Censorship, introducing shortlisted artists to each other, appears to confirm that Sansour was on the original list of eight artists and collaborators. The other seven nominees named in the email from the prize organisers remain on the published shortlist.
“I am very sad and shocked by this development. This yearPalestinewas officially admitted to UNESCO, yet we are still being silenced. As a politically involved artist I am no stranger to opposition, but never before have I been censored by the very same people who nominated me in the first place. Lacoste’s prejudice and censorship puts a major dent in the idea of corporate involvement in the arts. It is deeply worrying.”
Index has attempted to contact Lacoste, but has not yet had a response.