Donald Trump signed another executive order on Friday, January 27th restricting travel and immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries for the next 90 days – Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. In addition, all refugee entry is disallowed for 120 days, and Syrian refugees are barred for an as of yet unspecified amount of time. There has been widespread outrage across the country and the world in response to such action. Protests erupted at airports, where those who had been in transit at the time of the executive action were being detained by customs officials. Since the 27th, there has been much confusion about what the executive order means for people who live in the United States or are hoping to travel here in the near future. The arts community, too, has been touched by the wide-reaching implications of Trump’s Immigration Order.
All across the country and the world, different institutions and artists are wondering what this ban means for them. A Contemporary Iranian Art show, Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, is opening at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto on February 4th. Shahpour Pouyan, one of the artists whose work is being showcased, is a green card holder living in the United States. He now feels that it is unwise to leave the country, as it is unclear what the rights of green card holders are with regards to reentering the United States. About this he says: “I am stuck here. I can’t leave the country and as an artist it means I can’t make shows and present my works internationally.” Such restrictions present serious problems for artists who count on traveling for work to make a living. Not to mention the very personal and emotional affront to those who have built lives in the United States and are now afraid to leave for fear that they will not be allowed to return home.
Institutions affected by the ban could include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which worries that the ban will impede cultural exchange with the countries listed above. Museums run by placing
items on loan to other museums around the world. This allows for the exchange and flow of culture on a large scale. Travel and immigration bans could make the exchange of cultural objects much more difficult, and it also stops artists and professionals from being able to do their jobs. Also on the line are archaeological expeditions and surveys that have been planned in conjunction with professionals in Iran and Iraq. A particularly important excavation at Nishapur in Iran is now in jeopardy. Curating exhibits with artists from the banned countries also poses a problem if they are not allowed to enter. But this is not just a problem for exhibitions, but also “for fellowships, exhibitions, conferences, research projects, and other professional reasons.” Art and immigration are closely intertwined, and artists and institutions everywhere benefit from the exchange of cultural information.
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