Laurie Anderson Withdraws from Visiting Professor Post at German University After Pro-Palestine Letter Resurfaces - The World News

Laurie Anderson Withdraws from Visiting Professor Post at German University After Pro-Palestine Letter Resurfaces

The New York–based artist and musician Laurie Anderson said she would not take up a visiting professor position at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany, amid scrutiny over her views on Palestine.

Earlier this month, the school announced that Anderson, who has produced such works as the hit 1981 song “O Superman,” had been appointed its Pina Bausch Professor, a position named after a famed dancer. But since that announcement, the school appears to have reneged on its decision, citing the fact that Anderson signed a 2021 open letter that urges support for Palestine.

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A figure stands in darkness, illuminated by fluorescent lights above and the glowing bow she draws across a violin

“To frame this as a war between two equal sides is false and misleading,” the letter reads. “Israel is the colonizing power. Palestine is colonized. This is not a conflict: this is apartheid.”

Moreover, the letter continues, “We have seen how governments in Europe and beyond recently have instated policies of open censorship, and fostered a culture of self-censorship, towards Palestinian solidarity. Conflating legitimate criticism of the State of Israel and its policies towards Palestinians with antisemitism is cynical. Racism, including antisemitism, and all forms of hate, are heinous and not welcome in the Palestinian struggle. It is time to stand up to these tactics of silencing and overcome them.”

She was one of thousands to sign the letter, whose signatories also included artists such as Nan Goldin, Kara Walker, Simone Leigh, and many more.

On Friday, the Folkwang University of the Arts issued a press release saying that Anderson would no longer be taking up the position at the school on April 1. Specifically, the release claimed that the letter “takes up boycott demands from the anti-Israel BDS movement,” even though neither the movement itself nor a boycott of Israel are ever mentioned in the text. (In Germany, BDS has been particularly controversial, with some political figures attempting to render it illegal.)

“For me the question isn’t whether my political opinions have shifted,” Anderson said in a statement. “The real question is this: Why is this question being asked in the first place? Based on this situation I withdraw from the project. My colleagues at the University and the Pina Bausch Foundation have discussed this with me at great length and we have jointly decided this is the best way forward.”

In its release, the university said the decision came amid “the context of the current discourse about freedom of art and freedom of expression.”

It was the latest such development in a country whose art scene has been roiled by the October 7 Hamas attack, with many artists who voice pro-Palestine views facing the prospect of canceled exhibitions and withdrawn opportunities.

Earlier this month, Berlin attempted to implement a funding clause reliant upon a definition of antisemitism that many said would be used to keep pro-Palestine artists from receiving money. After mass protests, the funding clause was ultimately repealed.

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