Artists are Challenging the SXSW Deportation Clause
On March 2, Felix Walworth of band Told Slant, tweeted a photo of the artist contract for South by Southwest festival (SXSW) held in Austin, Texas. The contract outlined that any international band that performs in unofficial or not-SXSW related events could be deported, have their passport revoked, or be denied entry by US Customs and Border Patrol. Essentially, instead of supporting and fostering bands who could benefit from performing inside the US, the festival is limiting artists' actions, monopolizing their time and ensuring that SXSW is the only institution able to benefit from their performances.
In response to this portion of the contract, Downtown Boys have written an open-letter to SXSW with the support of several artists, including Helado Negro, Taleb Kwali, Immortal Technique, Kimya Dawson, Hari Kondabolu, and Aye Nako, in which they call on SXSW to completely drop the deportation clause. You can read their letter here.
A statement by SXSW’s co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson has been released in which he clarified that clause has been used in the SXSW artist contract in past years and that they have never referred any international artist to immigration officials. He called the disagreement a “misunderstanding” of their policies.
However, this still does not change the fact that the festival's contract outlines that a referral to Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a possibility and that they are indeed willing to work with immigration officials.
In times of increased restrictions on travel, especially to places like the US, artists and art lovers need to be aware of the events they are participating in and how their participation affects others. Felix Walworth later tweeted that artists need to set up alternatives to large institutions and that turning down SXSW can be the first step towards building a coalition of artists with radical politics.
With that being said, if you are in the US, you can call this number to demand that SXSW drop the deportation clause.
Until then, check out the playlist below, showcasing several songs by artists who have signed the open letter. Support artists who are not only creating music, art, and content, but who are also challenging injustices in the institutions that dominate the art world and that seek to profit from their work.
Downtown Boys - Slumlord Sal
Told Slant - Tsunami
Malportado Kids - Mi Concha
Helado Negro - Invisible Heartbeat
Kominas - 4 White Guys
This video also features Maher Khalil, a man who was unjustly removed from a flight because of the suspicions of another passenger, telling the story of the airplane removal incident.
And finally for some laughs (and possibly cries), stand-up comedian Hari Kondabolu.
*Article photo from Paper Mag