The course of events - Feminine Tripper's refusal to consider applications by Israeli choreographers
This is a documentation of the course of events regarding Feminine Tripper Festival's refusal to consider Israeli aplicants. This is an attempt to gather information and to stay faithful to the act of documentation (although i was a side in these events). Nevertheless, as the discussion went viral it is impossible to grasp the whole of it. You are welcome to inform me about additional information regarding the topic.
Feminine Tripper Festival
FEMININE TRIPPER is an Oslo (Norway) based art festival which took place during March, 19-25th, 2018.
It is organized by the BUTOH-LABORATORIUM - Margrete Slettebø and Kristiane Nerdrum Bøgwald, and is supported by NORDIC BLACK THEATRE.
The festival deals with themes of gender and femininity, as describe in the open call:
"Feminine Tripper" - An event showing multiartistic research into topics of femininity, gender identities and power.
The strength to be found in fragility, the softness lurking in solidity. Two opposing forces, seemingly opposite, but where one entails the other. What gender dream are we currently dreaming? Are we moving towards androgyneity or multigenderism? Is femininity threatening masculinity, the other way around or are these labels outdated alltogether?
Gender is a way to display ourselves. Self-presentation and identities are connected to our bodies.The body and voice represents physical realities, but also abstractions. It can be a door into knowledge and curiosity about who we are. In a society where rationality and physical realities is given priority- where does art fit in? Are we still adapting to a hard-edged ‘what you see is what you is what you get’- man’s world or is there space for the soft, intuitive and ambiguous? Art is about self-expression coming from our minds, our bodies our souls. What gender makes art?
(The FB page is blocked to Israeli IP's since ?)
Criteria described in the open call
The festival announces their open call through various internet platforms and the dead line for applications was 23/2/18. Here is one example for the content of the open call.
Quote for the open call:
"All artists can apply with performances, video works, poetry, music, installations, visual works, regardless of age, sex, gender and nationality." (emphasis added)
The Israeli applicants
Myself (Adi Shildan), and at least four other female Israeli choreographers (Nitzan Lederman, Eden Weisman, Maayan Cohen Marciano & Roni Rotem) applied to the festival, each with our own work independently. Additionally, at least two other Israeli choreographers that live abroad (Germany & Japan) applied as well. We all applied in time and sent all the required information, videos etc.
First response to my application (24/2/18)
After applying by sending an e-mail to the festival (23/2/18), i received the following e-mail (24/2/18):
Refusal letter from the festival (7/3/18)
On 7/3/2018 i received by e-mail a refusal letter, it was identically sent to all the Israeli choreographers living in Israel and also to the Israeli choreographer living is Japan. The Israeli choreographer living in Germany didn't get the same letter, but got an email that his work was not chosen for the festival.
Here is the full content of the e-mail:
Link to the article they refer to: https://www.haaretz.com/1.4875039 (dated 20/9/2005).
A collective response from the Israeli choreographers (15/3/18)
After receiving the refusal letter, one of us posted on an Israeli dance Facebook group asking if other choreographers got the same response. Only then we realized we all got the exact same e-mail, and decided to talk with each other and formulate a common response to the festival.
The Attached response letter:
Links from the letter:
Haaretz, November 27th, 2017: Dances With Partial Nudity Stripped of Funding by Israel's Culture Ministry
The Guardian, November 28th, 2017: Nudity lands Israeli dancers in fresh conflict with culture minister
Haaretz, February 13th, 2018: Movie Theater of the Absurd: Regev's Boycott of 'Foxtrot' Snubs Israeli Culture
Haaretz, June 2nd, 2017: Resist Israel's Culture Minister, Don’t Fear Her
The Festival's e-mail response (15/3/18)
Israeli choreographers e-mail response (17/3/18)
Open letter from Feminine Tripper festival (18/3/18)
Going into a wider public discussion (16/3/18 going on)
After we sent the above email, the five Israeli choreographers published the email correspondence and the response letter in social media as open letters to the public (mainly personal FB pages and FB dance groups). Additionally, once the festival announces the participants, we also emails or messages through FB messenger to the selected artist in order to inform them about the situation.
That started a wider discussion in social media and press, locally and internationally.
Some individuals published these events in their personal FB pages.
Here is a link to one of the main FB threads by Mia Habib:
Mia's first post (21/3/18):
"Feminine Tripper is described as aiming at being “an event showing multiartistic research into topics of femininity, gender identities and power”.
The two artistic directors has chosen to boycott five Israeli dance artists (applicants to the festival) due to the political situation in Israel/ Palestine. The five artists answered with a longer letter to the festival directors. The two directors answered that they will elaborate on the letter as soon as the festival and “the heavy workload” is over.
In this FB post I am not going for a discussion around cultural boycott of Israeli frilans artists. In my opinion there are very good arguments for and against cultural boycott, both stands with the aim of changing the current political situation.
Reading the letter from the Israeli artists I see voices who have taken a critical stand to the society in which they operate, as well as voices who are eager to go in dialogue. I therefore react to the festivals answer of dealing with this when the festival is over. I think the time is now to elaborate, with respect to the artists themselves and to the rest of the field.
If the festival thinks a boycott is in place, then that should be argued for in a thorough way and I think the rejected artists based on their nationality should be dealt with with utmost respect. These are sensitive matters and if the festival wants to boycott the artists in the other end, it needs to be handled with care and not be brushed under the carpet till later.
I do think other artists participating should have the chance to know about this and to be a part of the discussion. Only then does boycott/ or an active choice of not boycotting work- when it leads to a wider discussion creating awareness about the complexities around this. In this case it could also be interesting to bring in the questions of double standards that the Israeli artists pose in their letter to the festival. Furthermore, boycotting individuals based on their nationality with no or almost no state funding for their art could be another potent question for debate. I think there is a lot of material in the letters which could be subject to good discussions and dialogue. Also including the artists themselves as voices in the discussion.
If the festival delays facing the consequences of their own political stands I have a hard time believing in their platform for critical thinking around any of the other topics, femininity, gender identities and power."
Margrete Slettebo, one of the festival curators responded in this thread (22/3/18):
Dear Mia and everyone. First of all, we are two individual artists with day jobs that are organizing an international festival this week. We are sorry that we therefore have not had the time raise the public debate and to answer all the questions that we have received regarding our decision. We are not afraid of this, but our focus has been on making a fantastic festival for all the participants, including Ines.
First of all, I am surprised that the Palestinian perspective is so absent in this discussion. You say, Mia, that you read the letter from the Israelis as an invitation to dialogue. I must say, I have another impression. I find their arguments remarcably similar to what most Israeli public figures uses to create a cover for the facts on the ground. I am happy to discuss Spain, Saudi Arabia and Russia any other time, but not as a favour to Israel, to support their efforts to uphold an image as a regular democratic country. The crucial point for us is that Israel is involved in an illegal occupation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the Westbank. They are controlling all the borders of the occupied Palestinian territories, making free mobility for Palestinian artists and others impossible. This is the real discrimination. We know that many Palestinians are in prison, simply for speaking up against the occupation of their country. On the Israeli side we know that it is incredibly difficult to oppose the Israeli govt as a "free" artist at the moment. If you voice an opposition to the govt you may lose or never receive funding. I have examples of this if you are interested. If you take part in an Israeli state funded theatre you have to play also in illegal settlements (deemed so by the United Nations general assembly on many occasions). We have received letters of thank you from Israeli individuals that support our position because they think it is a non-violent, but effective strategy to change the politics of Israel. It is not a pleasent thing for a small festival to do, but we deemed it important enough.
The programmed artists
The content sent to the programmed artists (16-18/3/18):
We are Adi Shildan, Eden Wiseman, Roni Rotem, Maayan Cohen Marziano and Nitzan Lederman - the Israeli choreographers that applied for Feminine tripper festival 2018. Since you are about to take part and present your work in the festival, we have decided to share with you in advance the policy of this year’s curators that was placed upon us and the short exchange we’ve been having with them. Our participation was denied due to political agenda based on our nationality. You can read further all the details in the attached files: The email sent to us on March 7th 2018, Our response letter dated March 15th, Festivals answer dated March 15th.
Since we have all responded to the festival’s theme, we assume that all of us share something in common - seeing ourselves and our artistic work as an aim to create alternative perspectives of discriminating reality in a thoughtful, humanitarian manner.
We are interested in surfacing this event in the appropriate timing, before the festival takes place. Timing that would allow whomever is interested in responding to do so and hopefully, encourage a true, real-time dialogue to take place.
We will be happy to hear your response and please feel free to contact us.
An open letter by Inés Belli, a programmed artist at the Feminine Tripper festival:
Oslo, March 2018
Open letter from Inés Belli, programmed artist at the Feminine Tripper festival taking place in Oslo, March 2018
These past few days, I have found myself, involuntarily, in the midst of a political and ethical discussion concerning the decision of the curators of the festival Feminine Tripper, Kristiane Nerdrum Bøgwald and Margrete Slettebø, not to program Israeli artist in the festival program.
Feminine Tripper is a festival taking place in Oslo from 19th - 25th of March. The Festival aims to show multi artistic research into topics of femininity, gender identities and power. The two curators and directors for the festival chose to reject five Israeli artist due to the political situation in Israel and Palestine, as they (the curators) are in support of the Palestinian call to boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) of and from Israeli institutions, this includes also cultural institutions involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The five artist collectively wrote a letter to the explaining how they felt discriminated against, to which the curators replied that they would elaborate a reply to the letter once the festival was over. This has been written about in a national newspaper in Israel: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5181105,00.html.
The curators have now written an open letter in response to the five Israeli artist.
Due to my participation as programmed artist in the festival, I feel that my opinion is called for, given the situation at hand. Therefore I wish to express my feeling and views on the matter in this open letter, hoping that it can contribute dialog and insight from the perspective of the third party - the programmed artist.
There are many issues we can and should discuss concerning the events that have taken place the last days in regard to the festivals handling of this situation. Among others, we should bring awareness to the complexities of an active choice to boycott or not boycott artistic or academic work.
I, for one, wish to bring forth my own experience in regard to this situation, which concerns how the programmed works now lay in the shadow of the curators political views.
Firstly, I want to make clear that I do not write on behalf of the other programmed artist in the festival. These views, opinions, feelings and experiences are mine, and mine alone. Secondly, I do not wish to go in to a discussion about the boycott of The State of Israel - and this is where it got complicated for me:
I applied for participation in the festival Feminine Tripper because I though that the festivals profile and theme, as communicated through the open call, would be a relevant setting to show my work. The piece that I am programmed to show, «A(nother Feminist) Manifesto» aims to address the ambiguity in feminism and femininity as a backdrop for dialog and discussion around gender, identity and popular culture. But due to the current situation, my work and its aim are no longer the focus of my participation in the festival.
Suddenly, I found myself in the midst of a political, ethical and personal dilemma in which I «lose» either way. Either way, if I decide to leave the festival, only one days before I am due to perform or if I choose to go through with the performance, it can be read as a political statement that I do not wish to make publicly. This, I feel, undermines my art.
The situation which has developed in the last days serves as a backdrop for how my art is read. In publicly supporting a political cause, the curators it automatically lay a political filter on the work presented. Their public political standpoint dictate the politics of the festival - and in consequence my politics as a programmed artist and individual. This undermines the artist message and intention. For me, this situation undermines the way in which i wish the specific work which I will be performing, calls for a nuanced dialog on feminism and gender. This is something that I do not appreciate. This is something that I did not sign up for, as the curators support for BDS was not communicated through the open call. This, the directors of the festival must take very seriously and resume responsibility for.
I hope the experiences from a programmed artist serve as food for thought for both the curators of the Feminine Tripper Festival and for others curating and organizing artistic, academic or intellectual events.
Silence vs. dialogue
"Feminine Tripper festival, break the silence" by Deise Nunes (22/3/18)
Published online in Golden Mirrors Art Norway blog
"The arts and performance festival Feminine Tripper is taking place in Oslo this week, with its main event planned to happen on March 24.
The festival program was put together after an open call diffused on social media in February. In that call for applications, the organisers wrote: "All artists can apply with performances, video works, poetry, music, installations, visual works, regardless of age, sex, gender and nationality." Despite the broadness of the initial proposal, applications from ten Israeli artists were refused based solely on their nationality. Five of them came together and wrote a public letter to the curators, opening a debate that has reached several vehicles in the Israeli media, as well as artists and cultural workers on social media.
A few days ago, the choreographer Mia Habib started a thread on her profile on Facebook, where she published copies of the correspondence between the festival curators Margrete Slettebø and Kristiane Nerdrum Bøgwald and the artists Eden Wiseman, Roni Rotem, Nitzan Lederman, Maayan Cohen Marciano and Adi Shildan, who argue that the festival's decision to boycott them is "encouraging division and the continuum of conflict, rather than setting an example of another path to the world". The curators issued a standard answer postponing the discussion to after the end of the festival. Habib followed up the post with a call for open dialogue between artists and curatorial board, arguing that: "These are sensitive matters and if the festival wants to boycott the artists in the other end, it needs to be handled with care and not be brushed under the carpet till later."
A non-answer answer
Slettebø answered the thread using her private profile, pointing to an until now unknown BDS-policy (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) from the festival's side and to the consequences of the Israeli occupation for Palestinian artists and the population in general: "The crucial point for us is that Israel is involved in an illegal occupation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the Westbank (...), making free mobility for Palestinian artists and others impossible. This is the real discrimination." To others who brought up the issue on their Facebook profiles, the answer was the same, in what looks like a copy-paste attempt to calm down the moods in order to save the main festival event from the controversy. Instead of bringing clarification to their position as an art facilitating entity, Slettebø's answer falls in the vacuum of the official silence from the Feminine Tripper festival towards the public.
The model who illustrates the Feminine Tripper poster (who I carefully cropped out of the picture that opens this post) has written a status claiming ownership of her own image, fearing that it will be connected to anti-semittism in media vehicles that cultivate increased polarisation in this question. The dancer Inés M. Belli, whose work was curated to be shown in the festival, has also expressed her uneasiness with the situation, exposing that she at last decided to maintain her performance on the program: "After consideration, I have chosen to show my work at the festival. That being said, I urge the festival directors to take responsability for their handling of the situation in respect to both the artist in question and all the programmed artist of the festival."
Feminine Tripper, please break the silence
The issue at this point is not how BDS-friendly or pro-Israel people are. It is the way the festival has chosen to deal with the rejected artists and those who have questioned their boycott. On their Facebook page, nothing indicates that the event is in the centre of serious political debate. EDIT: The festival has received a storm of polarised reviews, some of them containing hateful and violent speech.
The thread on Mia Habib's profile shows now a collection of statements that have one thing in common: they all urge the Feminine Tripper festival to break the silence. I ask hereby Kristiane Nerdrum Bøgwald and Margrete Slettebø to listen to these voices.
Finally: respectfully, but incisively, I feel the urge to address the curators with a few considerations:
The boycotted Israeli artists should by now have been publicly called to participate in this debate through an open platform facilitated by the festival, starting with an official statement reflecting upon how the boycott of individual artists can contribute to change on a macro political level, and explaining why the open call did not inform of the festival's BDS policy.
It is inappropriate to respond to such a debate on behalf of an international art festival using a private Facebook account, copying and pasting comments on threads, while protecting the main communication platform of the event, where cool pictures keep being posted as if nothing is happening. It is disrespectful towards the field one is part of and says one wants to dialogue with.
I really believe the Feminine Tripper festival is capable of handling this case in a way that can turn it into a positive earthquake in the arenas where art and curatorial practice meet politics. Please, break the silence.
EDIT: On March 19 Nitzan Lederman used her Facebook profile to publish the latest letter from the festival to the artists, which she reposted on Habib's Facebook thread on March 22. In the letter, the curators give a more elaborated exposition of their reasons for the boycott, pointing to the BDS movement and to Slettebøs personal experience during her fieldwork in Israel and the occupied territories ten years ago. They write: "We are sorry if our decision afflicted Israeli artists that are opposing Israel's occupation policy. We realise that we in the future should make time to gather this information. (...) We welcome this discussion, but the main focus for us now is to welcome people to the very first edition of the festival Feminine Tripper."
On the evening of March 23, the festival issued a statement on their Facebook page. In Norwegian, a language the boycotted Israeli artists don't understand. I embedded the post, but it has apparently been deleted:
Golden Mirrors was present at the festival. Two of the participants on the program withdrew their performances. No mention was made to that or to any of the artists who were voicing an invitation to dialogue. The event was concluded with a celebration, a closing party with a DJ.
Unfortunately, Feminine Tripper missed an amazing opportunity to make the festival politically relevant beyond the polarisation stimulated by voices that are not interested in art or its value and potential as a dialogue facilitator. It is a pity for the participants who showed their works, that their precious contributions ended up in the shadow of such a disrespectful attitude towards the arts field.
Meanwhile, the voices of important artists were ignored.
Whatever statement from Feminine Tripper made in the aftermath of the event, in the sense of establishing a conversation with the Israeli artists and the international arts field, will be too little, too late. The momentum is gone, and so is the credibility of this festival as a political change agent.
P.S. I believe in peaceful and knowledge based dialogue as a tool for achieving understanding and conflict solution. Criticism and hate are two totally different things. I strongly condemn the hateful backlash the festival has experienced on social media.
Voices within Norway
Response from Fernanda Brancos FB page:
hereby, I, as an independent transnational artist - brasil native, living in Norway - would like to expose my disagreement with the decision of the independent international festival Feminine Tripper took of boycotting independent Israelis artists. Not only for the reason they exposed for the boycott, but also for the attitude of not going immediately into a discussion of a topic that they rose up. From that point, a discussion has been opened and it is a relevant discussion that needs to be addressed with respect. Here, I go no further on my political statements in relations to any government, neither in relation to cultural boycotts, because there are other medias sustaining types of dialogs I wish to have - including face-to-face ones - even then this portal here works for many others. I purely stand for my individual opinion in relation to the festival ACTIONS. Because a political attitude is a political action, and when you stand for that, you need to give continuity to your actions in relations to the escalated actions in reverberation. NO, to silence.
From ACTS laboratory of performance practices:
ACTS laboratory of performance practices (Luanda Carneiro Jacoel, Fernanda Branco) has recently engaged in the diffusion of the events connected to the Feminine Tripper Festival, happening in March 2018 in Oslo. Yet, we were taken by surprise with the political action the independent festival took. ACTS’ artistic directors Luanda Carneiro Jacoel and Fernanda Branco want hereby to communicate that the festival's policy of boycotting Israeli artists based on their nationality, as an alleged act of criticism towards the Israeli government, reflects in no way ACTS’ postures. Regardless of the stance our members and collaborators take about the Palestina conflict, it is not ACTS’ belief that a non-sustainable boycott of individual artists would contribute to bring a solution to that matter. Intentionally or not, the independent festival's position has opened a discussion that has put Norway’s name in an international cultural and political debate. Hence, we assume that the festival will stand for its conviction and engage in this discussion now and during its events in the following days." (from Mia Habib FB thread)
Complaints to the police and the Norwegian Anti-Discrimination Committee by MIFF, a Norwegian pro-Israeli organization (6/6/18):
https://www.miff.no/norge-og-israel/2018/06/06miffs-klage-ma-festival-svare-diskriminering-israelere.htm?fbclid=IwAR0vi7vcRuL92SiZ7idewVb8bkL0CfdQbXUMG_InttreNo9JxAnTxMURhck (Written in Norwegian)
About the IP block: https://www.miff.no/norge-og-israel/2018/03/22norsk-festival-stengt-facebook-israelere.htm (Written in Norwegian)
Social media violence
Violence on social media is destructive and not pro-dialogue. I personally could not see the posts on Feminine Tripper's FB page because they apparently blocked it to Israeli IPs, but i read other posts about the violence they experienced in the internet. Disagreeing with someone does not give anyone the right to act in violent ways.