Post / Statement on the att...

March 2, 2022

Statement on the attempted dismissal of Alistair Hudson from the directorship of The Whitworth

The Asociación de Arte Útil calls for the reverse of The University of Manchester’s decision to remove Alistair Hudson from his position as Director of The Whitworth. As an organisation that seeks to advance the principle of art to foster social change, we stand behind Hudson’s and the museum staff’s decision to welcome the statement of support to the Palestinian liberation struggle that Forensic Architecture added to their exhibition ‘Cloud Studies’ in the summer of 2021, and we condemn The University of Manchester’s capitulation to pressure from pro-Israeli government lobbying groups demanding disciplinary action against Hudson.

Hudson and the museum staff have been bringing together art, discourse, public engagement and civic action in innovative ways. Hudson’s career, which includes past directorships at Grizedale Arts and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, speaks for itself, and has been praised by peers and audiences alike. As he once put it, “I propose the institution as a testing ground for new cultural methodologies, responding to the specific urgencies of its context and positioning itself away from the uniform, globalised narratives of art history. This repurposing of the institution is carried out under the rubric and provocations of Arte Útil, offering a working, real-time model that applies the emerging principles of the decolonised and the post-artistic.” 

The University of Manchester’s intention sets a worrisome precedent for freedom of expression, and thus we join the other declarations in solidarity with Hudson that have been put forward around the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Museums, universities and, more broadly, institutions operating in the cultural field are spaces for debate and dialogue about the questions of our times, and while this does not often come without friction, it is imperative that it still takes place in the name of freedom of expression – whether artistic, academic or other – so that all voices can be heard.

It is appalling that The University of Manchester is proposing to halt the continuation of Hudson’s work at The Whitworth. This would not only prevent the communities of Manchester and beyond to benefit from the museum’s useful practice, but would also be a massive loss for the entire cultural sector.

Nihil Pulchrum Nisi Utile [nothing beautiful unless useful]

Nick Aikens, Curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 

Miguel Amado, Director, Sirius Arts Arts Centre, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland

Tania Bruguera, Artist and activist, Director of Arte Útil Project, Harvard University 

John Byrne, Reader in the Uses of Art, Liverpool John Moores University

Sebastian Cichocki, Chief curator, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw

Charles Esche, Director, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Annie Fletcher, Director, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

Owen Griffiths, Artist and Founder & Director, Ways of Working, Wales

Jo Marsh, Artist and Creative Director, Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham, Wales

Gemma Medina, Art historian and researcher, Eindhoven

Meriç Öner, Researcher and exhibition maker, Istanbul

November Paynter, Curator, Toronto

Lucía Sanromán, Curator, Mexico City

Alessandra Saviotti, Art educator and researcher, Liverpool John Moores University

Alec Steadman, Curator and organiser, Struggles for Sovereignty, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Kuba Szreder, Lecturer and curator, Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw

Stephen Wright, Professor, European School of Visual Art, France

Onur Yildiz, Researcher, Ankara

Peter Zuiderwijk, Designer, Den Haag

Please sign the petition!

Architect Charles Barry’s winning entry for the Royal Manchester Institution (1824) carried the Latin motto ‘Nihil Pulchrum Nisi Utile’ or ‘nothing beautiful unless useful’. Line engraving by J. Fothergill.