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Videos of Syrian Life Pulled from Internet in Protest Effort


In a 2015 photo, Charif Kiwan, Abounaddara’s spokesman, watches an earlier video from the group, “The Old Man and Jihad.”

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Abounaddara, the Syrian video art collective that earned international acclaim for its documentation of Syrian life, has removed the vast majority of its videos from the internet, in response to what it said was their improper use by a Milan art museum.

Charif Kiwan, a spokesman for Abounaddara, whose self-taught filmmakers work anonymously as a collective within and outside Syria, said that the group was invited last year to participate in an exhibition organized by the Trussardi Foundation and La Triennale, a permanent contemporary art museum in Milan. They declined, he said, because the curator wanted to focus on the plight of migrants and refugees, an issue the group does not focus on. “We are not refugees,” he said. “We are just humans living in Syria. Our main fight is to get the right to tell our own stories, with our own images.”

Last week, Mr. Kiwan said, the group learned that its videos, showcased on Vimeo, were being seen at an exhibition called “The Restless Earth,” curated by Massimiliano Gioni, at La Triennale; they were mentioned in reviews of the show.

Mr. Kiwan said that the group asked that their pieces be removed, but did not get a satisfactory reply. In response, on Tuesday, Abounaddara took down some 400 videos — weekly dispatches that date back to 2011 — from its main Vimeo page. (An earlier Vimeo page, with videos from 2010, remains up.)

In an email, Mr. Gioni, also the artistic director of the New Museum in New York, said that, after Abounaddara declined to join in the exhibit, he had informed the group via email that he would still like to feature the works on their Vimeo page. The videos were played on a monitor in the museum, though Abounaddara is not listed among the artists shown in the exhibit. “I had simply made available to the public the works that were already in the public domain,” Mr. Gioni said. (Mr. Kiwan said the group did not receive Mr. Gioni’s email with the Vimeo request.)

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