MoMA’s ‘Without Boundary’, Without Politics?…more commentary

I had posted earlier (previous entry) on this show's opening and some initial reactions.  The following offers the views of two of the participating artists and how they feel about the current exhibition and how it is not in the least making any political reference or comment on how religion and society have affected the artists and their artistic product.  It is uncustomary for an exhibited artist to publicly criticize or air apparent disappointment towards the art show they are part of, but so was the case for at least two of the show's artists.  The New York Observer published the following:

Without Boundary is the most important exhibit MoMA has launched in at least a decade, and it’s the first exhibition of contemporary art from the Islamic world in a major American museum since 9/11. The show features 14 artists from Islamic countries, an Indian born to Muslim parents, and two Americans (Mike Kelley and Bill Viola were added late in the show’s development). Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Turkey and Pakistan are represented in the exhibition, though nearly all of the artists from those countries now primarily work in the West. The exhibition is a reminder of the difficulties that museums face when it comes to merging—or not—art and politics.

“My immediate reaction was, how could anyone today discuss art made by contemporary Muslim artists and not speak about the role the subjects of religion and contemporary politics play in the artists’ minds?” Ms. Neshat said. “For some of us, our art is interconnected to the development of our personal lives, which have been controlled and defined by politics and governments. Some artists, including Marjane Satrapi and myself, are ‘exiled’ from our country because of the problematic and controversial nature of our work.”

Ms. Neshat is right: Many of the artists in the show have addressed the exilic condition and geopolitics in their art, but you wouldn’t know that from Without Boundary. There’s not a single reference in the show to the United States being at war in two Muslim countries, to its running intelligence operations in others, to its “war” against an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization, or to how the civil liberties of many Muslims have been affected by the governmental response to 9/11. Without Boundary often seems more a product of RISD than Ramallah.

The two artists, Shirin Neshat and Emily Jacir have spoken out:

That artists included in a show at the Museum of Modern Art would speak out against that show is highly unusual. MoMA is the most powerful art museum in the world, and the pressure from gallerists and collectors to not criticize the museum is intense. Outspokenness can hurt relationships that could lead to important sales or inclusion in exhibitions. For Ms. Neshat and Ms. Jacir to be willing to speak out is an indication of the complicated politics involved in this kind of show—and of how the show’s apolitical nature has frustrated its artists.

You can read the complete article in the New York Observer here.

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