On Friday, 12 May 2017, after only being open for a week at the EPEKA Gallery in Maribor, the photo exhibition War and the WWW: Kurds in Syria and Networking Websites was closed prematurely. It was supposed to be open to the public between 5 May and 9 June.
The exhibition was shut down following an intervention by the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Slovenia into the management of Scientific and Research Association for Art, Cultural and Educational Programmes and Technology EPEKA. EPEKA’s management decided to yield to the Turkish Embassy’s accusations and claims that the exhibition was promoting prohibited terrorist groups without verifying the true nature and actual meaning of these allegations and without consulting the authors of the exhibition.
EPEKA’s management also failed to directly and promptly inform the authors and Membrana Institute, the co-producer of the exhibition, of the exhibition’s closing, nor did it provide them with the exact reasons why. EPEKA also failed to publish this information on its website, where the exhibition is still presented as a project, supported and executed by this organisation. Information regarding the exhibition was still available on EPEKA’s webpage on 6 June 2017: http://epeka.si/razstava-vojna-www-kurdi-v-siriji-spletna-omrezja/
As co-producer of the exhibition, Membrana, and the authors of the exhibition Jan Babnik, Iza Pevec and Uroš Abram see the early closure of the exhibition as inadmissible censorship of the freedom of expression and artistic creation. Consequently, we strongly condemn the intervention of the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Slovenia, viewing it as encroachment on the autonomous operations and activities of an independent non-governmental organisation in Slovenia. We also strongly condemn the decision of EPEKA’s management to yield to the pressure imposed by the Turkish Embassy, which led to the premature closure of the exhibition. We view this decision as unacceptable and highly irresponsible.
We believe that the intervention on the part of the Turkish Embassy in Slovenia cannot be interpreted in any other way than as deliberate pressure being imposed by an undemocratic, authoritarian regime on the freedom of expression and artistic creation, which cannot merely be viewed as an attempt to violate the rights of expression of Slovenian artists, but also as a direct violation of rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia to its citizens.
The international community and non-governmental organisations have long been warning about the direct and systematic violations of human rights in Turkey, while the intervention of the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Slovenia is a clear example of the spread of these practices, which stand in contradiction to European democratic principles and norms on the territory of another sovereign country and an EU member state.
The protest against the intervention of the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Slovenia does not, of course, absolve EPEKA’s management of its responsibility for allowing the Turkish regime to block the exhibition, thus sacrificing the freedom of public expression and artistic creation and, consequently, also its very own sovereignty and legitimacy. On the level of principle, any kind of cooperation in the implementation of censorship is morally unacceptable.
The actions taken by EPEKA’s management were also controversial from an operational and strategic perspective. On an operational level, the premature closure of the exhibition without informing the artists was a gross breach of the integrity of the copyrighted work and an ethically questionable violation of proper cooperation. While on a strategic level, EPEKA’s actions were irresponsible, as the organisation should have evaluated the risks that the exhibition could pose to EPEKA’s Turkish volunteers involved in the organisation’s activities in Slovenia and its branch in Turkey in advance. And last but not least, the organisation should have informed the co-producer and authors of the exhibition about the issue at hand. EPEKA’S management also acted irresponsibly toward the artists, who were not promptly notified that representatives of a foreign country with a powerful control apparatus are accusing them of terrorist propaganda.
Photographs from the exhibition (Facebook page of EKEPA)
Brochure of exhibition as it was set in Cankarjev dom
(extended text in Slovenian and English language)
Published for the purpose of the exhibition presented on the festival “Tolstoj, iskalec resnice” in the production of Cankarjev dom, 11. 1. — 3. 3. 2017).
Membrana, Institute for Research, Education and Cultural Activities
For additional information please contact:
member of curatorial team War and the WWW
031 777 959
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