Nan Goldin, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Tilda Swinton, Barbara Kruger, and Kara Walker are among the more than 2,000 visual artists, writers, and actors demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in an open letter circulating online. The signatories say the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza are suffering a “collective punishment on an unimaginable scale” from Israel and call for “the end of the complicity of our governing bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes.”
“Silence at this urgent time of crisis and escalating genocide is not a politically neutral position,” the letter reads. “Over the last few years there have been significant steps to institutionally address social justice and inequality and also for your artistic programmes to benefit from these politics. We now ask that they continue and be extended in recognising the crimes against humanity that the Palestinian people are facing.”
Some 1,400 Israeli citizens were murdered, while another 3,500 were wounded, and 200 hostages taken during a brutal attack on October 7 by members of Hamas, the militant organization that governs Gaza. The Israel military responded to the terrorism by cutting off food, water, and electricity and sustained airstrikes that have killed more than 3,000 Palestinians civilians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Last week, Israel ordered more than 1 million Palestinians who live in northern Gaza to evacuate the region, a feat that the United Nations said is “not feasible” and “could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation”.
The situation has prompted an unprecedented number of arts and cultural leaders to take public stances on the conflict. As of today, the growing undersigned includes Artforum Editor David Velasco; visual artists Sky Hopinka, Wu Tsang, and Cecilia Vicuña; curators Candice Hopkins and Hoor Al-Qasimi; sociologist and writer Judith Butler; and actors Charles Dance and Steve Coogan.
“There is ample evidence that we are witnessing the unfolding of a genocide in which the already precarious lives of Palestinians are deemed unworthy of aid, let alone human rights and justice,” the signatories write.
The letter ends with a direct appeal to arts organizations and institutions “whose mission it is to protect freedom of expression, to foster education, community, and creativity, also stand for freedom of life and the basic right of existence…We call on you to refuse inhumanity, which has no place in life or art”.