News / Graphic Design

TEMPLO’s co-founder Pali Palavathanan talks protest, action, and institutions

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Earlier this week It’s Nice That reported on the fact that 30 artists had requested their work be removed from a Design Museum exhibition, in opposition to an alleged on-site arms trade event that took place there on the 17th of July.

The dinner took place midway through the Hope to Nope exhibition, which explores how graphic design and technology have “played a pivotal role in dictating and reacting to the major political moments of our times,” and, understandably, many of the featured artists and designers felt there’d been a conflict of interest.

A letter was authored, signed, and then delivered to the museum by the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Pali Palavathanan, co-founder and creative director of TEMPLO has serious concerns about the situation, but is yet to sign.

“We were mortified when we received a call from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) given our United Nations project in the exhibition documents the 2014 Gaza War and specific artillery that was used in the conflict,” he tells It’s Nice That.

However, Pali is keen to stress that he isn’t “beating the Design Museum with a stick,” and that considering the bigger picture is crucial. He says that while all of us should appreciate that in the current political and economic climate that the arts are under “severe financial pressure,” there is still an onus on museums and galleries to prioritise the creative community they’re championing. His stance on the subject is clear: “There have to be some ethical boundaries for how income is generated.”

“Part of the reason we haven’t as yet put TEMPLO’s name down on the open letter is we are waiting for a proper response from the Design Museum,“ he says, adding that what he describes as “hiding” behind the banner of charity isn’t enough, especially given recent events in the sector.

He thinks that it is “great that the letter has been written and sent,” but, as a community, creatives should remember that they have a “collective responsibility to stay aware and engaged with the issue.” Pali is pushing for a more open dialogue with other museums and galleries, ultimately leading to “change in policy, ethics and codes of conduct.”

CAAT’s letter asked for the removal of a selection of works by the 1st of August, but Pali seems unsure what good this will do in the long run. “There is no point in us removing our work from the exhibition and a similar situation occurring in the future,” he says. “This needs to be a line drawn in the sand and a benchmark example set for other institutions to sit up and take notice.”

Pali goes on to say that, “This opens up a much bigger, global debate around trust of organisations and brands. Being fully ethical in our modern world is very hard. But our hope is that in this post-truth era things are moving in the right direction and ‘clean’ sponsorship will be easier to find for galleries and museums in the future.”

Ultimately what he, and others, want to see is “more transparency around event bookings in museums and galleries.”