A Message From Anne Pasternak
November 4th, 2012
Creative Time’s 2012 Summit, devoted to wealth inequity, was by any measure a smashing success, with amazing speakers, robust conversation, and, for the first, time, a second day, which was devoted to small-group discussions. The house was packed and the feedback from our presenters and audiences was tremendous.
As many know, we were also faced with an unexpected but important conversation at this year’s Summit, when two of the scheduled presenters, in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, which includes a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, withdrew in protest over the inclusion of the Israeli Center for Digital Art (ICDA) as one of the Summit’s “in-depth partners.” What ensued was an animated conversation about the BDS. Occurring at the Summit itself and via social-media platforms, this reflected differing views, but also included some inaccuracies about the Summit—e.g. that it was sponsored by the Israeli government, or that ICDA was a funder, in addition to inaccuracies about ICDA itself. We wanted to write to you not only to ensure that the record is accurate, but also to let you know how we dealt with the issue at the time and what we continue to do.
For nearly forty years, Creative Time has been devoted to art that engages public spaces, public issues, and the public itself. The free exchange of ideas, even unpopular ones, is a foundational principle of everything we do, because we believe that maintaining an open forum for dialogue is critical to advancing art, promoting social change, and building healthy democracies. In fact, this was evident at the 2012 Summit itself, where presenters were free to diverge from their original topic and weigh in with their views about the BDS, providing our audiences with unanticipated but important and timely dialogue. We respect all artists for acting on their political convictions.
As anyone who has faced similar situations knows, it is difficult to get ahead of the curve when something like this happens. In this case, the situation was complicated by the fact that we were not privy to some conversations occurring on social networks during the days leading up to the conference, as well as during the event itself. While we would have liked to participate in all the discussions that were taking place and to do so quickly, we were also determined to do so responsibly, which mandates learning about a range of important issues, histories, and views. We continue that process of listening and learning, and hope you will agree that what follows reflects our serious commitment to engage in today’s issues with care.
First, Correcting the Record
Every year, Creative Time works to disseminate the ideas explored at its Summit to the broadest possible audience around the world, and offers streaming at no cost to all, including arts and activist organizations, educational institutions, and individuals. This year, streaming sites were located in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Israel, and the Arab world. In a spirit of inclusion and collegiality, we have called those who stream the Summit our “partners.” Each year, some streaming partners also invite artists, activists, curators, and critics to present their own talks and discussions. Creative Time has referred to these organizations, which this year included ICDA, as “in-depth partners.” (When we received information about their events in time, we identified our in-depth partners as such on the Summit website.) Some interpreted our use of the term “partners” to mean that those organizations were funders of the Summit. Again, this was not the case.
Revised Language on our Website
After lengthy conversations, and at the urging of some of our presenters, on October 10 we revised our website to provide greater clarity and transparency about the nature of our streaming “partners” by replacing the word “partners” with “sites” and “in-depth partners” with “screening and discussion sites.”
Role of ICDA
The Israeli Center for Digital Art was one of the nearly forty valued organizations worldwide that screened the 2012 Summit free of charge, as it did in 2011, and one of those that also organized related talks and/or workshops. To learn more about ICDA, click here.
The Summit did not receive any funds from the Israeli government or the Israeli Center for Digital Art. A complete list of funders for the 2012 Summit may be found on our website, at www.creativetime.org/summit/overview/. We are very grateful to them all.
Creative Time’s Immediate Actions
Some of the actions we took immediately included:
• As events unfolded, we had numerous conversations—in person and via phone—in an effort to learn what was taking place, understand all perspectives, get the facts straight, and try to ensure that information being disseminated by others was factually correct;
• The morning of the Summit, I revised my opening remarks to inform our audiences (both in-person and online) about our core principles—namely that the Summit has always been a place for the free exchange of ideas;
• We developed and posted on our website a statement of the principles on which we base our actions, which include disseminating information to the broadest possible audience, regardless of geographic, socioeconomic, or racial barriers;
• Importantly, we welcomed open dialogue at the Summit itself.
The history and current reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is highly nuanced, and the diverse proposals for achieving peace and justice in the region are complex and varied. We are therefore talking to people with various areas of expertise and conducting research in order to advance our learning and come to a deeper understanding that will surely inform our work ahead.
As we do this, we will be guided by our core principles and our belief that art can create meaningful spaces for engaging difficult subjects, and that it is of great importance that we work to preserve the freedom of expression without which art and democracy cannot thrive. Therefore, while we respect and work to protect the right of anyone to participate in the BDS campaign, the Summit must continue to be a place of open dialogue, reflecting the role of cultural organizations in providing opportunities to interpret, share, and debate our histories and our ever more intertwined present.
President and Artistic Director