Activists Say “No to the Genocide Pavilion” in Biennale Protest Against Israel

VENICE — A group of over 100 artists, art workers, and activists protested outside the Israeli and United States pavilions at the 60th Venice Biennale this morning, April 17, as a second intervention simultaneously took place on the Rialto bridge, where activists displayed a banner denouncing the war in Gaza.

“We gather as arts workers to refuse the presence of a genocidal apartheid state on the world cultural stage of the 60th Venice Biennale,” exclaimed one activist with the anonymous Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA). “To accept the inclusion of the Israeli pavilion is to accept genocide, to normalize the ongoing decimation of an entire population, to deny human rights, to create a precedent for justifying totalitarianism.”

“We gather as arts workers to refuse silence,” the activist continued, reading from the group’s proclamation. “In the words of Jewish Voice for Peace, ‘Never again means never again for anyone.’”

A crowd of journalists and art professionals lined up outside the Biennale entrance on the second day of previews ahead of the public opening. Red fliers reading “NO DEATH IN VENICE – NO TO THE GENOCIDE PAVILION” in black block letters were handed out to passersby. They were also thrown up in the air, the skies dotted with bright-red rectangles that read: “No Death in Venice.”

The Israeli pavilion was closed to visitors as of yesterday, April 16, by artist Ruth Patir, who pledged not to reopen the exhibition until a ceasefire and a hostage deal is reached. But several groups had previously been calling for the exclusion of Israel from the event altogether.

Outside the US pavilion, which stands next to Israel’s, the crowd of demonstrators chanted, “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide! We charge you with genocide!” against the distinctive multicolored and geometric designs of Jeffrey Gibson, the first Native artist to represent the nation at the Biennale. After 30 minutes, the group marched toward other pavilions, chanting slogans including “Viva, Viva Palestina!” (“Long live Palestine” in Italian) and “One solution, Intifadah revolution!” A discreet police presence followed the protest from a distance.

A flier distributed by the organizers mapped out the military and other types of financial support provided to Israel by other countries participating in the Biennale. According to the document, these include Canada, with over $82 million in military exports to Israel since 2015; Egypt, “complicit in blocking aid to Gaza”; and the US, with around $158 billion in military aid since 1948.  

The activists also announced the creation of a virtual Palestinian pavilion, expressed in the form of a “manifesto against the state of the world.” 

After less than one hour, the group of protesters, now shrunk to some 50 people, left the Biennale’s Giardini premises.

“Now is the time for art and poetry,” one handout read. “For art that rejects the logic of prevailing power.”

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