Briefing

Calls to release Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov; documenta 14 cancels Berardi piece; Village Voice ends print edition

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, 2015. Photograph: CCCB, The Influencers, Creative Commons

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, 2015. Photograph: CCCB, The Influencers, Creative Commons

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, 2015. Photograph: CCCB, The Influencers, Creative Commons

Calls are mounting for the release of avant-garde Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov, with the arts community in Moscow on edge, fearful of a crackdown on dissenters and freedom of expression. Serebrennikov’s supporters chanted ‘freedom’ outside the courthouse where he appeared on fraud charges on Wednesday. The director of Moscow’s progressive experimental theatre Gogol Centre is charged with embezzling GBP£900,000 of state money intended for a theatre project. ‘I do not know anything about the misuse of funds’, Serebrennikov stated, ‘I am an honest man’. His supporters counter that the trial is politically motivated – Serebrennikov is a prominent advocate for LGBT rights and critic of the Kremlin. Currently under house arrest, if convicted, Serebrennikov faces up to ten years in jail.

Ruba Katrib, currently curator of SculptureCenter, New York, is heading to MoMA PS1 as curator. Katrib formerly worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami before moving to SculptureCenter. ‘I am thrilled that she is joining the museum,’ PS1 chief curator Peter Eeley said, praising Katrib's ability to seek 'connections between the conditions of life and the thicket of ideas and conversations that shape contemporary art’. Katrib takes up the role on 15 October.

The organizers of documenta 14 cancelled performance piece Auschwitz on the Beach by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi after facing criticism over its comparison of the European refugee crisis to the Holocaust. Charlotte Knobloch, commissioner for Holocaust Memorials of the World Jewish Congress described it as a ‘grotesque production’. The scheduled piece was replaced by a public reading of the poem by Berardi that inspired the work, to be followed by a discussion, titled ‘Shame on Us: A Reading and Discussion’.

After a 15-month delay, the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, West Bank, holds its inaugural show this weekend. Internal disagreements have meant the museum has been empty since building works were completed in May 2016. The new exhibition is curated by Reem Fadda, former associate curator for Middle Eastern art at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. ‘Jerusalem Lives’ will include works by Khaled Jarrar, Khaled Hourani and Emily Jacir. Fadda spoke to The National about the thesis guiding the show: ‘Metaphorically, if we accept that globalization started in Jerusalem, then let’s look at how it has failed in Jerusalem and how this kind of failure has been exported to the rest of the world’.

The fallout from Charlottesville and debates over memorials in the US roll on – one of the latest chapters is the decision taken by the Museum of the City of New York to support a long-running campaign to remove a controversial statue of 19th-century doctor J. Marion Sims, located in East Harlem. The physician is variously remembered as the father of gynaecology, as well as a man who carried out brutal experiments on enslaved women without their consent. The museum's decision follows New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a review of ‘symbols of hate on city property’.

According to a recent New York Times report, the compositions of museum boards in New York remain strikingly undiverse. Exceptions include the Studio Museum in Harlem where 82 percent of board members are people of colour (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art it’s only 25 percent, and at the New York City Ballet, 10 percent). You can take a look at the data over here

The artist list for the 2017 Moscow Biennale has been announced – this year’s edition is titled 'Clouds ⇄ Forests’ and opens at Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery on 19 September, running until 18 January 2018. The biennial’s seventh edition explores ‘a new eco-system formed through a circulation of ‘Cloud Tribes,’ who were born on the Internet cloud space, and ‘Forest Tribes’ who are born on cultural origins’. Participating artists include Matthew Barney, Björk, Pierre Huyghe and Olafur Eliasson. You can see the full list here.

It’s the end of an era for the Village Voice as it waves goodbye to its print edition, the latest sad episode in the world of US alternative weeklies which have particularly suffered through the transition to digital journalism and the terminal decline of print advertising revenue. The storied paper was founded in 1955 by a group which included Norman Mailer, as a weekly paper of alternative journalism, offering a blend of political and cultural coverage. Past luminaries include Hilton Als, Robert Christgau and Peter Schjeldahl. The Village Voice will continue as a digital publication.

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