Artists Burn Artworks in Tel Aviv Square to Protest ‘Cultural Loyalty’ Bill

Organizers called on artists ‘to sacrifice [their artworks] as victims of the loyalty law,’ an initiative from Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev that could restrict content that is critical of the state

Naama Riba
Naama Riba
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Artist Ze'ev Engelmayer burns an effigy of the 'Shoshke' cartoon character.
Artist Ze'ev Engelmayer burns an effigy of the 'Shoshke' cartoon character.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Naama Riba
Naama Riba

Artists have launched a protest against the so-called loyalty in culture bill sponsored by Culture Minister Miri Regev by burning their works in Tel Aviv on Sunday night.

“Burning Art: Artists Against the Loyalty Law,” opened at Kikar Hamedina. During Sunday night’s action, the initiators of the protest, illustrator Zeev Engelmayer and artist Oren Fischer called on artists who work with materials to come and burn their works, “to sacrifice them as victims of the loyalty law,” or alternately to come to the square to display them.

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“This law will lead to art in the service of the government and to creators beginning to take ‘the agenda’ into account,” said Engelmayer, creator of the cartoon character Shoshke, at the opening. “Filmmakers are starting to think about whether it pays to make a film. Any criticism is deemed unpatriotic. … We are at the start of a slippery slope that will lead us to disaster. If we don’t band together and start to fight the situation now, it will be too late. Art cannot exist without an independent agenda. The moment someone dictates to you, it is no longer art, but propaganda.” After his speech, Engelmayer set alight a version of Shoshke.

Credit: Haaretz

Author Amir Harash burned his work, “The World Would be Lost,” while declaring, “In a place where books aren’t burned, they don’t read books.” Artist Oren Fisher burned the book “Max and Moritz,” for which he illustrated a cover that was displayed in his one-man show. “The book is full of innocence, it’s an emotional story about compassion – a book that I won’t be able to display because it’s against what the government is trying to advance,” he said, to explain why he was burning it.

Artist, lecturer and curator Shahar Sarig said he was planning to burn his painting, “Jews Together at a Bar Mitzvah.” He said the work from 2008 constituted a landmark in his career, which is why he chose to burn it. “It’s from an exhibition that dealt with Judaica and Jewish Art from the 19th century, like Modigliani, and sought to show that one could deal with Judaica today,” Sarig explained. “The painting demonstrates the belief that there can be dialogue, and I’m burning it because personally, I’ve lost more of my faith in systems because of the law.”

Artist Sigalit Landau will display her work, “Jepththa’s Daughter” (a temporary name), which is not going to be burned; it will be shown in a group exhibition called “Athens in Tel Aviv” that’s opening Thursday at the Neve Schechter Gallery in Tel Aviv. The sculpture, 2.5 meters high, was just finished on Sunday; its name comes from the biblical figure known only by the name of her father, the judge Jepththa from Gilead, and who was sacrificed because of a vow her father had made.

She connected her work to the protest. “We are sacrificing culture for politics,” she said. “These are people who don’t understand culture and how much love is needed to bring something into the world.”

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