Protesting through the channels of high-profile arts institutions is a tricky feat. Whether it be via an act of visible disobedience a la Just Stop Oil or a work itself aimed towards protest, there’s a high likelihood that the intent will not reach the intended. But artists Nicholas Galanin and Merritt Johnson are taking the approach of an absence of art in order to express their protest, as they have called for the de-installation of their work Creation with her Children.
In an effort to express their solidarity with Palestine and decry the republican House of Representative’s bill to give $14.3 billion in support to Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, Galanin and Johnson have requested that Creation with her Children be taken down from display in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Their work is part of the gallery’s first show of Indigenous art in 30 years (Galanin being a member of the Lingít/Unangax tribes) “The Land Carries Our Ancestors”, curated by artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.
The artists state on Instagram:
“We’re grateful to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith for curating the The Land Carries Our Ancestors, and for choosing to include our work, and to the National Gallery for supporting the exhibition and publication. The work we contributed to The Land Carries Our Ancestors, titled Creation with her children is a reflection on survival, resistance against colonization, the importance of continuum and connection to Land. The work we do as artists does not end in the studio or with our artist statements, it extends into the world.
We do not take the importance of this exhibition for granted. It is with deep regret that we must ask for our work be removed from the National Gallery due to US government funding of Israel’s military assault and genocide against the Palestinian people. We’re calling on the Federal Government to demand an immediate ceasefire, cut military aid to Israel, and lift the siege on Gaza.”
The National Gallery has agreed to take down Creation with her Children in accordance with the artists’ wishes. It’s a unique form of protest and one that perhaps may only have its desired impact if other artists choose to follow suit. Nevertheless, the bill that aims to support the continued violence is promised to be vetoed by Joe Biden.