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Forensic Architecture Withdraws from Whitney Biennial in Protest of Controversial Board Member

Forensic Architecture and Praxis Films, Triple Chaser (still), 2019.

COURTESY THE ARTISTS

On Saturday, yet another dissenter—the eighth so far this week—revealed plans to withdraw work from the Whitney Biennial.

The latest is the group Forensic Architecture, which told Hyperallergic that it would no longer be showing a film it made in collaboration with Laura Poitras and Praxis Films, Triple-Chaser (2019), as a protest against Warren B. Kanders, the vice chair of the Whitney’s board. Their film is the only work to directly address the controversy surrounding Kanders from the moment the Biennial opened in May.

Kanders has been revealed as the owner of the defense manufacturing company Safariland, which produces tear-gas canisters and other items that have been used against protesters around the world as well as asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border. After nearly 100 Whitney staff members—including one of the Biennial’s curators, Rujeko Hockley—signed a letter last fall urging leadership to consider asking for Kanders’s resignation, Adam Weinberg, the museum’s director, called on workers at the institution to start a conversation. Kanders himself said he was “not the problem.”

In response to other artists’ decisions to withdraw from the Biennial as the controversy has  continued to swell, Weinberg said in a statement on Friday, “The Whitney respects the opinions of all the artists it exhibits and stands by their right to express themselves freely. While the Whitney is saddened by this decision, we will of course comply with the artists’ request.”

Forensic Architecture’s move to pull work at the Biennial comes after Eddie Arroyo, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicole Eisenman, Nicholas Galanin, Christine Sun Kim, and Agustina Woodgate made similar decisions. The withdrawals come after “The Tear-Gas Biennial,” an essay by Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett published by Artforum, urged participants to remove their work in protest.

Triple-Chaser, one of the most talked-about works at the exhibition, focuses on Kanders’s philanthropic endeavors and connects them to Turkey’s Gezi Park protests, where tear gas was used against demonstrators, as well as Kanders’s stake in Sierra Bullets, a company that produces ammunitions used by the Israeli Defense Forces.

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