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Virtual | Panel Discussion – ‘Before Silence: Afghan Artists in Exile’

March 24, 2022 | 5:00 pm

2pm PT / 3pm MT / 4pm CT / 5pm ET

Before Silence: Afghan Artists in Exile is an online exhibition presented by Art at a Time Like This, in partnership with PEN America’s Artists At Risk Connection(ARC).

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August and the subsequent takeover by the Taliban, which has a long and brutal history of censoring artistic expression, many Afghan artists, including writers, musicians, filmmakers, and intellectuals, have been persecuted and targeted simply for being artists. Fearing for their lives, many artists have been forced to go into hiding, self-censor or destroy  their creative work, or flee the country, putting the future of the arts and culture in the country into question. 

Before Silence presents a powerful selection of works representative of the up and coming generation of Afghan artists who have continued to create and inspire amidst insecurity and humanitarian suffering. Through photographs, paintings, cartoons, murals, and performances, this powerful exhibition offers a complex dialogue between artists, danger, deprivation, and insecurity. The artists featured in the exhibition are Ali Rahimi, ArtLords, Latifa Zafar Attaii, Lida Afghan, Mohsin Taasha, Morteza Herati, Naseer Turkmani, Rada Akbar, and Shamayel Shalizi. It was a monumental task to pull together this exhibition with the artists scattered throughout the world after fleeing Afghanistan in recent months. This exhibition would not have been possible without unique collaboration between an arts organization and a leading human rights advocacy group.

To mark the occasion of this exceptional exhibition, please join us for a panel discussion with Art at a Time Like This co-founders Anne Verhallen and Barbara Pollack, conceptual artist Rada Akbar, and director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection, Julie Trebault.


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About the speakers

Headshot of Rada AkbarRada Akbar, born and raised in Afghanistan, is an activist and artist who uses her art to speak out against misogyny and oppression. Her work consists of a mixture of wearable monuments, performance, photography and installation pieces. It has been displayed in numerous national and international exhibitions. In 2015, she received an honorable mention in the UNICEF Photo of the Year Award. In 2020, her art exhibit called Abarzanan—Superwomen—which celebrates pioneering Afghan women, was featured in the New York Times, and in 2021 she received the Prince Claus Seed Award, MujerHoy awards and BBC 100 Women.


Barbara Pollack headshotBarbara Pollack is the co-founder of Art at a Time Like This Inc., a platform for free expression for artists at times of crises. An independent curator and writer, Pollack will be lead curator for the exhibition, Mirror Image: A Transformation of Chinese Identity, opening at the Asia Society Museum in June. In 2021, she organized Lu Yang: DOKU—Digital Alaya at Jane Lombard Gallery. Since 1994,  Pollack has written extensively for  a broad range of arts publications and catalogues and monographs and is also a professor at the School of Visual Arts. 


Headshot of Julie TrebaultJulie Trébault is the director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a project of PEN America. ARC safeguards the right to artistic freedom by connecting threatened artists to support, building a global network of resources for artists at risk, and forging ties between arts and human rights organizations. She has nearly two decades of experience in international arts programming and network-building, including at the Museum of the City of New York, the Center for Architecture, the National Museum of Ethnology in The Netherlands, and the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. Trébault holds a Master’s Degree in Arts Management from Sorbonne University, a Master’s Degree in Archeology and Cultural Heritage from the University of Strasbourg, and taught at Fordham University. She is co-author of Freedom of Artistic Expression Through the Lens of the Sustainable Development Goals (Springer, 2021) and A Safety Guide for Artists (ARC, 2021), and has been instrumental in the creation of numerous reports on the state of artistic freedom of expression. These include but are not limited to Arresting Art: Repression, Censorship, and Artistic Freedom in Asia and Art under Pressure: Decree 349 Restricts Creative Freedom in Cuba. Julie and ARC have also been featured in numerous media outlets such as Hyperallergic, The Art Newspaper, Artnet, BBC News, The Financial Times, Al Jazeera, Diario de Cuba, NPR, among others.

Headshot of Anne VerhallenAnne Verhallen is the co-founder of Art At A Time Like This, launched in 2020 in response to the global health crisis. The non-profit arts organization supports artists working in response to crisis and current events by presenting their work online and in the public space.

Verhallen is also an agent for visual artists and is currently the director of partnership at 291 Agency. She has worked on projects for many leading artists, including Kehinde Wiley, Robert Wilson, Friedrich Kunath, DRIFT, and Lily Kwong.  In this capacity, Verhallen has overseen large-scale activations and installations in collaboration with brands in the luxury industry. Prior to 291 Agency, Verhallen was the director of the fine art division at CXA for 4 consecutive years. 

Born in the Netherlands, Verhallen brings a global perspective to her projects and seeks to cultivate the intersection between technology, design, art, and health.


Images: Photograph by Morteza Herati, courtesy of the artist; all headshots provided by the speakers.

Thank you to Art at a Time Like This for organizing this program.


March 24, 2022
5:00 pm
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