The police demanded on Thursday that a Tel Aviv art gallery take steps so that a video on display in which two men are seen kissing and a photo depicting a hand in a man’s pants not be visible from the street.
Following a complaint by an individual that art of a sexual nature was visible through the window of the Indie group photography gallery on Chlenov Street in south Tel Aviv, police demanded the art gallery take appropriate steps to remove the art from visibility to the public.
The complainant said children were standing next to the gallery’s show window, looking inside and laughing, according to police sources. Police sources told Haaretz that the demand to remove the video from view of the outside was not the due to its homosexual character but rather that a depiction of sensual kissing could upset residents. The police noted that they were responding to a specific call and had not opened an investigative file on the case.
Gallery artist Tamar Nissim told Haaretz that she had asked a municipal inspector who accompanied the policeman if the reason for the demand was that the video showed two men kissing. Nissim said that the inspector told her the same would have applied if it had been a woman and a man.
“I was somewhat in shock. It was upsetting,” Nissim said, adding that the policeman suggested that the video be switched to another station. “I explained to [the policeman] that it is video [art] and there are no other channels, so they told me to remove the picture and shut off the television. It didn’t seem to make sense to me to take down the picture, so I suggested simply closing the gallery’s blinds.”
The 84-minute video, “First Kiss,” depicts a kiss between two men, created by video artists, Idan Bitton and Alfredo Calle Ferran. The photo with a hand reaching inside a pair of pants is called “Kim.” It was taken by Yael Meiri, who was awarded the Artik award for LGBT art this week. Both pieces are part of an exhibition called “Post Pride.”
The curator of the exhibit, Omri Shapira, told Haaretz: “The exhibition deals with the question of what happens in a world after equal rights, a world with acceptance and inclusion of everyone. It’s very ironic. The work in the show window is of two men kissing one another in a loop. It’s a work that has been displayed all over the world for the past five years. It has had two million views on YouTube."
Shapira went on to say, "In the gallery there is an artwork that deals with gender identity, depicted in the work is a hand inside of a pair of sweatpants. There are no genitals, just a hand inside the pants. The police asked that one work be removed from the window and to take the second work down entirely."
"I walk around the streets and all day I see images of men and women: this one's fixing her bra, this one is putting his hand in his underpants. In this case, you don't even know what's underneath," Shapira added.
On Thursday night, Shapira returned to the gallery and lifted the blinds, allowing the works to be visible from the street. According to Shapira, he intends to leave the blinds open all weekend, until the exhibition closes on Saturday.
In response to the police's demands, the LGBTQ Association said: "Without a doubt, the influence of the government can be felt here and it's trickling down. We are being restricted in the public space, meaning that our lives are being restricted as well. Those who make the mistake of thinking that LGBTQ-phobia no longer exists is receiving, along with us, a visceral reminder that LGBTQ-phobia even exists here in Tel Aviv."
The association went on to say, "we cannot indulge the fear and the ignorance because they lead to violence. We have a huge responsibility to continue to struggle and to advance a society that is tolerant, liberal and open, in which love is love, and each one of feels free to be ourselves without putting their personal safety at risk."
The police issued a response saying: "The actions of the Israel Police are meant to enforce the law in an equal manner, unconnected to sexual, racial or gender identity, to best answer the individual needs of all the different racial and social groups and communities that make up Israeli society."
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