Barbican under fire over ‘anti-Israel propaganda’ science fiction film

The Board of Deputies said the film, co-created by a Palestinian artist, is "blatant propaganda hiding behind science-fiction"


One of the country's leading arts venues has defended itself against allegations of anti-Israel bias after the Board of Deputies claimed one of its exhibitions is "blatant propaganda".

As part of its Into the Unknown exhibition, the Barbican, in the City of London, is screening In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain, a sci-fi film co-created by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind, who is Danish.

The Board claims the 29-minute feature appears to imply Jews had invented their links to Israel.

The film follows a “resistance group” which makes underground deposits of porcelain dishes suggested to belong to an entirely fictional civilisation.

This is to “influence history and support future claims to their vanishing lands”, according to the synopsis found on the British Council’s website. The film, it says, exists in “the cross-section between science-fiction, archaeology and Middle Eastern politics".

Ms Sansour says the film “explores the role of myth for history, fact and national identity”.

Ms Sansour added: “Once unearthed, this tableware will prove the existence of this counterfeit people. By implementing a myth of its own, their work becomes a historical intervention – de facto creating a nation.”

The film is set in an unknown time and place, and the voice-over is in colloquial Arabic.

In an email to the Barbican, Gillian Merron, Board chief executive, said accusing Jews of falsifying their connection to Israel “smacks of antisemitism and is of grave concern”.

She also told the JC the piece was “blatant propaganda hiding behind the facade of a science-fiction exhibition”.

The Barbican denied that was the intention of the piece, and said it was an apolitical organisation and its association with particular artists was a result of “exceptional artistic work”, and it “does not imply sympathy with their personal views”.

A Barbican spokesman said: “The short film is set in a non-specific time and place and uses a combination of science fiction and archival imagery that slips fluidly between unknown pasts, presents, and futures.

“The artists’ intention is that the symbolic visual language in the film speaks of history and tradition, yet it cannot be placed in any distinct or quantifiable time period.

“Into the Unknown aims to create a compelling and genre-defying journey through two centuries of science fiction, encapsulating everything from Soviet era sci-fi to Afro Futurism.

“It includes over 800 film clips, books, comics and artefacts from the last 200 years, from across all continents, and aims to show that artists, writers and illustrators from all over the world have used the science fiction perspective to depict potential futures, pasts and presents.”

In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain has been supported by Arts Council England and the Danish Arts Council, and has previously been exhibited at Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, the Bluecoat in Liverpool and at the BFI London Film Festival.

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