Burning Man Removes Pro-Palestine Watermelon Artwork From Website

Burning Man has removed a pro-Palestine artwork from its website days after a Change.org petition called to take it down. The petition’s authors said the work’s title, “From the River to the Sea,” constituted “language that advocates for the annihilation of Israel.”

The sculpture was conceived as an 8-by-14-foot fiberglass installation in the shape of a watermelon, one of the foremost symbols of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. Its title refers to the slogan heard at international protests against Israel’s ongoing bombardments of Gaza, which have killed over 35,000 people.

In a screenshot of the since-removed listing retrieved using Wayback Machine, the artwork description includes a quote by Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Though the sculpture was never realized, a petition urging Burning Man organizers to remove the rendering and description from its website garnered over 1,250 signatures.

A description of the now-removed artwork (screenshot Elaine Velie/Hyperallergic via Wayback Machine)

The petition’s author, who could not be identified and did not respond to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment through the Change.org platform, called the work’s title “a battle cry that legitimizes violence against Jewish people” and cited last month’s United States House of Representatives resolution declaring the phrase antisemitic. 

Burning Man has not yet replied to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment. In a statement to San Francisco Gate, spokesperson Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley said the work was removed because it was “likely not an actual art piece coming to Black Rock City” and was “intended to stir an emotional response within the Burning Man community.” She did not mention Israel or Palestine.

Burning Man offers grants for select projects but invites all participants to create installations, which must adhere to various safety standards but are not officially curated. The listing for the work “From the River to the Sea” said the sculpture was submitted by “Decolonize Now,” based in Gaza, Palestine. Unlike most submissions on the archived listing web page, the watermelon’s creator had no contact information or website link.

Burning Man runs from August 24 through September 2 at the Black Rock City venue in Nevada. Last year’s edition made headlines when less than an inch of rain turned the site into a mudfest that turned inescapable when roads closed.

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