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Art Censorship Index Tracks Censorship Cases Amidst Israel-Palestine Conflict

NCAC Launches Tool to Document Art Censorship Post-October 7, Fostering Dialogue and Accountability

As artists increasingly report censorship after expressing views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a new online tool, the Art Censorship Index, has been launched to document and map such incidents since October 7. The initiative, introduced by the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), aims to support free expression in the arts.

The NCAC, a New York-based nonprofit with over 50 affiliated organizations, advocates for the rights of artists and cultural creators. “Our cultural sphere is at its richest when artists and cultural institutions are able to reflect upon challenging social and political issues of our time,” stated Elizabeth Larison, director of NCAC’s Arts and Culture Advocacy Program. “By documenting these instances of art censorship, we hope to inspire greater accountability and dialogue within the artistic community and beyond.”

The index was created in response to a sharp rise in censorship claims following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli military actions in Gaza. According to the local health ministry, over 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed. The index focuses on instances where art was expressly canceled, withdrawn, or abandoned due to its perceived political content or the personal politics of the artist.

Notably, the index excludes cases where artists altered their work post-curation, where curatorial frameworks precluded selection, or where employees were fired or galleries severed representation. It also does not record the expulsion of student groups from campuses.

One indexed incident in the United States involves the cancellation of a talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen about his memoir “A Man of Two Faces,” originally scheduled at 92NY last October. The event was canceled hours before it was to start, reportedly due to Nguyen’s critical stance on Israel expressed in an open letter in the London Review of Books.

Another case involves the cancellation of a panel at Ohio University’s Wexner Center for the Arts, which was to feature Berlin-based Palestinian artist Jumana Manna. The event was canceled after scrutiny of Manna’s video “Foragers,” which critiques the Israeli government’s policies on Palestinian foraging practices.

The NCAC hopes this initiative will highlight trends in art censorship, advocate for artistic freedom, and empower resistance against censorship efforts. The organization encourages the submission of suspected censorship incidents directly to their platform.