Jeremy Deller: Artists For Palestine Petition Involvement Was A Mistake

With Jeremy Deller’s recent inclusion, as part of a total of 14 artists, in an open letter submitted to the Guardian in which they condemn Cuban artist Tania Bruguera’s continued detention in her home country – one might be forgiven for thinking that the artist was again politically engaged when replying positively to another request for his involvement – this time in a petition to culturally boycott Israel – but it turns out the artist made a mistake.

The previous political action was an open letter, from artist’s including Simon Starling, Mark Leckey, and Elizabeth Price -as well as Deller, the group argued that Bruguera’s aim in her work “is not a question of direct political action but to open our eyes to the injustices and social issues in the world and to expose the mechanisms of power and protocol that shape human behaviour”.

Now the Turner Prize-winning artist Deller has told the press that he never intended to sign an open letter in support of the cultural boycott of Israel.

“I thought long and hard about it and then declined,” Deller has recently stated. “This was over a long period of time – months, I think – so the first I heard about my name being on the pledge was your article. The inclusion of my name was a genuine email mix-up.”

The petition was launched February 13, which was organised by ‘Artists for Palestine UK’ and bears the signatures of nearly 1,000 British artists and art world figures – this includes Ed Atkins, Phyllida Barlow, John Berger, Mona Hatoum, and Bob and Roberta Smith. The petition is in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The signatories agree to decline professional invitations to Israel or funds from institutions linked to the Israeli government.

The artist did add that he had learned an important lesson: “The moral is to read emails on a proper screen, not a phone in the future.”