Johanna Hedva, an artist based in Los Angeles and Berlin, said their attempt to call Israel’s actions in Palestine an “undeniable genocide” ended up leading to the cancelation of a solo show planned to open at Germany’s Kunstverein Braunschweig tomorrow.

In a lengthy statement posted to Instagram, Hedva claimed that they had tried to insert that phrase into a press release for their show and that the institution’s leader had rolled it back to refer to “ongoing genocide.” Hedva claimed the phrase was then further re-edited, with the latter word changed to now read “wars.”

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Hedva also said that the director, Jule Hillgärtner, had her last day at the museum today. Hillgärtner is still listed on the Kunstverein Braunschweig’s website as the museum’s director; the museum did not respond to an inquiry from ARTnews as to whether her employment status has changed.

According to Hedva, the museum claimed that the show, titled “Are You Willing to Break It,” was officially canceled because the museum was “understaffed.” On its website, the Kunstverein Braunschweig indicates that the show is “suspended for capacity reasons,” but does not mention Hedva’s claims that they disputed the language in the press release. The description of the exhibition is no longer available on the website.

A Kunstverein Braunschweig spokesperson said that Hillgärtner had departed the museum, and that Benedikt Johannes Seerieder, the curator of the Hedva show, had left the institution at the end of his contract a month ago. Regarding Hedva’s allegations about the show’s press release, the spokesperson said, “I was not involved in the editorial process, so I can not provide any further information at this time.”

Hedva referred a request to see their correspondence with the museum to their representative, who did not respond. Hillgärtner did not respond to a request for comment submitted to her Kunstverein Braunschweig email address.

Hedva is well-known for their writing, artworks, and music; much of their work has focused on disability and death. Their essay “Sick Woman Theory,” about their own illness and the manifold ways it has been shaped by a capitalist society, has been considered influential, and even ended up lending the 2021 MMK Frankfurt exhibition “Crip Time” its epigraph. Within Germany, their work was previously been shown at museums such as the Gropius Bau and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, two leading institutions in Berlin.

The dispute over the show is the latest one of its kind in a German art scene that has been convulsed by the October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s war in Gaza.

Following the attack by Hamas, the militant group that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages, many artists spoke out in support of Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed more than 31,000 people since October 7, according to the local health ministry. But artists’ support for Palestine has frequently been met with pushback in Germany, where some cultural officials have claimed that not siding with Israel amounts to antisemitism.

Against the backdrop of all this, German exhibitions for pro-Palestine artists have been canceled, and there have been public-facing disputes over the political views of curators, artists, and others.

This past January, Berlin implemented a policy guiding financial support for artists and institutions that rested on a definition of antisemitism that required support for Israel; the policy was eventually repealed amid much controversy. That policy was one of the factors that fueled Strike Germany, a movement that calls on artists to boycott institutions in the country.

Hedva said in their statement that they did not join Strike Germany, hoping instead to lead what they called a “conversation” with leadership.

“I support the symbolic aims of the strike, but the point of a strike is to leverage the with-holding of one’s labor in such a way that the institutions will be negatively impacted enough as to be forced to change,” Hedva wrote. “This will not happen in Germany until those who work within the institutions join the strike. Freelance artists striking is not enough.”

Update, 3/15/24, 2:05 p.m.: This article has been updated to include comment from the Kunstverein Braunschweig.

Correction, 3/18/24, 1:20 p.m: A previous version of this article misstated the name of an essay by Hedva. It is “Sick Woman Theory,” not “Sick Girl Theory.”