I’ve been in Stockholm the last week for our final editorial meeting in the planning of the 2017 biennial update on the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (you can see the 2015 report, here). And, tomorrow I’ll offer a talk at KTH Architecture School that I originally entitled Using Art Terms to Refer to Community Organizing: Artistic Research, Durational, Platform, Site-Specificity. This opportunity came about after working with some Swedish architecture students/professors in São Paulo through the Lanchonete.org project.
For the first two weeks in December I had the honor of weaving through a range of important meetings at the intersection of arts and human rights. In Brussels, I attended the Protect Defenders meeting, Defenders are not criminals – Countering criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders. Then I went to the Malmo Safe Havens meeting and presented some of the new projects of ArtistSafety.net. After which, my colleague Sidd Joag and I made a presentation on the expanded field of artist residency in Hildesheim (Germany) and I taught a class at the University of Hildesheim later in stay. I passed through Paris to attend the 10th Intergovernmental Committee on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions where the Dakar-based collective, Ker Thiossane provided a video mapping at the end of the session. Lastly, I ended up in Amsterdam to attend the 20th Anniversary Prince Claus Award for Culture & Development.
Building Alliances through the Arts was the title of the panel I moderated at the IETM Beirut Satellite last week, a meeting that also occasioned an online Campaign for Freedom of Expression during which we launched the Artist [safe] Spaces initiative (by ArtistSafety.net) in partnership with Al Mawred and the Association for Freedom of Thought & Expression (Egypt); the overall initiative is called Kon Ma3a El Fann (which loosely translates in English to Be with Art). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on the road working similarly. In Vienna, I met with my co-authors for the biennial report (2017) to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions for which I’ll be writing the chapter on Artistic Freedom. In between Vienna and Beirut I visited Ramallah, Palestine for Qalandiya International, a multi-site biennial evoking the words of Mahmoud Darwish in its title, This Sea is Mine.
So happy to be back in Woody Point, Newfoundland for a mini-residency and the Liminus Institute. Last year was great, and this year, I get to bring along a pal from Residency Unlimited. Together, we’re gonna co-design an artist residency approach with the community. Should be big fun!
What is Liminus? Part sustainable community development initiative, part international think tank … this project brings together international leaders and thinkers, regional researchers, communities, students, artists, and the general public all in pursuit of a world we’d love to live in.
I’ve helped to organize and will present at Artists Against All Odds on May 4/5 in Beirut. The meeting is a part of the Spring Festival, an annual event in Cairo, Tunis and Beirut by El Mawred Culture Resource. Since parts of the meeting are closed, I’ll paste only the public session here:
Artists Against All Odds – Open Panel discussion
Increasing numbers of artists are, through their artistic expression, supporting human rights and social justice objectives for their communities. In return they can face varying degrees and forms of risk. Several initiatives have seen light to ensure the safety of those professionals and the continuation of the important work they do. What are these initiatives and what challenges are they facing today?
Speakers: Todd Lanier Lester (ArtistSafety.net), Helge Lund (ICORN), Ossama Rifai (AFAC), Rana Yazagi (Mawred), Ferdinand Richard (Roberto Cimetta fund), Laila Hourani (Ford Foundation) — Moderated by Alma Salem (Syria/Canada)
ROUNDTABLES AND PUBLIC DISCUSSIONS: ARTISTS AGAINST ALL ODDS:
Increasing numbers of artists and culture workers are using art as a form of expression to support human rights and social justice objectives for their communities. In return, often they face physical violence, persecution, imprisonment and, at times, death. It has become crucial that organizations focusing on human rights, freedom of expression and culture collectively work together to ensure the safety of artists and cultural managers at risk, and the continuation of the important work they do for society. For the first time in the Arab region, Culture Resource, in consultation with Artistsafety.net, is creating a platform within the Spring Festival program to bring together regional and international stakeholders concerned with the safety of artists and cultural professionals for a two-day closed,consultation meeting. Taking place in Beirut, Artists Against All Odds is an initiative that invites a wide range of arts and non-arts actors from Lebanon (as a starting focal point) and the Arab region with international actors, to share perspectives, information and resources necessary to create a local/regional safety net for artists and cultural communicators facing repression, persecution and human rights violations as a result of their work. In tandem with the closed meetings, two public sessions have been organized to open the conversations to the general audience. The first is a panel discussion, Artists Against All Odds, on the challenges facing artists today and the initiatives available to help ensure their safety. The second event, Sound Syria, is a public talk with Tania el Khoury (LB), Lama Kabbanji (LB) and Sana Yazigi (SY) and which focuses on the telling of stories as a political act. The speakers, whether as artists or activists, use art to challenge the grand narratives imposed on people by oppressive regimes, counterrevolutionary forces and mainstream media.
Today, I’m leading a special walk as a VIP offering to the SP-arte (art fair) … but since we are all VIPs, anyone is welcome! We’re meeting in the downstairs area of PIVO at 2:30 this afternoon. Please join myself and other members who will share and discuss the framing of Lanchonete.org as a durational, site-specific project to São Paulo’s Centro …
I’m so happy to be on my way to a residency within the framework of Free Home University at the Ammirato Culture House (Lecce) after really compelling/stimulating meetings in Amsterdam, Hildesheim, and Malmö. Maybe I should just let the description of We Wear the Mask, one of this week’s events say it all:
First everballroom in Lecce curated by legendary Pony Zion ( Vogue Evolution, NYC) with Free Home University and friends of Ammirato Culture House
Postcards from Now/here: Bring a message or become a messenger from any place, any time, anywhere in the world or in the cosmos to this present moment in Lecce, Italy, this very night at the We Wear the Mask Ball. Presentation must include an image, a note, and two addresses (one from the sender and one to the receiver).
Runway Garden: European versus All-American style of runway (your choice, and choose only one). Bring a runway effect that is inspired by the garden and its elements.
Call for Justice (As a House): This category is open for Houses who are part of the two houses formed as part of Free Home University (House of Attention and House Viola). Create a social justice campaign that responds to the query: how do we want to live? What are the most pressing urgencies, concerns or issues of our times? ?
Virgin Vogue: Open to those of vogue for the first time ( or as if it was your first time) What is your story?
Best Dressed Spectator (Only for Spectators): This category is open for audience’s members. Come to the ball dressed up. This is the night to confirm to the world that Italian style still reigns supreme.
We wear the mask that grins and lies
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties. (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
Explore the different function of the mask: theatrical, protective, commemorative…
A. Setting up a brand new artist run short term residency for visual artists at risk – the case of Unicorn.
B. Introducing the Hildesheim Arts Rights Justice – Summer Academy (w/ Daniel Gad, and Mary Ann DeVlieg).
And, below is a nice note of welcome from the city of Malmö:
I wish to welcome you to the Safe Havens 2015 conference in Malmö. The first of three planned annual gatherings of activists, organizations, artists, cities, writers, journalists – or artivists, which is one of the terms we will discuss in this meeting. In Sweden and the Nordic countries the Cities of Refuge move- ment has grown rapidly over the last few years through the ICORN-system in collaboration with individ- uals and organizations, of which several are represented at this meeting. Now this movement is growing all over Europe and at last reaching out and connecting with cities in Africa, Asia, North- and South America.
Philosopher Jacques Derrida, in a meeting which is sometimes referred to as the birth of the network of Cities of Refuge, spoke for the International Parliament of Writers on the topic of cosmopolitanism and the concept of hospitality,
“In committing ourselves thus, in asking that metropolises and modest cities commit themselves in this way, in choosing for them the name of ‘cities of refuge’, we have doubtless meant more than one thing, (…) we have been eager to propose simultaneously, beyond the old word, an original concept of hospi- tality, of the duty (devoir) of hospitality, and of the right (droit) to hospitality. What then would such a con- cept be? How might it be adapted to the pressing urgencies which summon and overwhelm us? How might it respond to unprecedented tragedies and injunctions which serve to constrain and hinder it?” (On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness by Jacques Derrida, 2001)
The city of Malmö is such a city of refuge and a member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). We have since joining ICORN tried and discussed this idea of hospitality. What does hospitality really mean for the city council and its administration; can there be a starting date and an ending date to hospitality? If so, how do we secure that there is a continuation of the hospitality in the civil society and the cultural life once the time of official hospitality must end? As someone said: if you have invited a guest for dinner, you would not let the guest leave your house if you knew there were wolves in the forest. Hospitality can turn into friendship and inclusion and thus a sense of belonging, where the act of hospitality has been transcended, and instead given way for active ownership of a new context.
Yet the act of providing a long term residency; an asylum or an exile as ICORN, Scholars at Risk and others do, must be considered almost an extreme measure reserved for those who must get out from a very dangerous situation – and soon. There are also many initiatives, large and small around the world to sup- port and to protect artists, writers, musicians, journalists and academics inside the borders of the danger zone and between countries, cities and organizations. We are very pleased to see that so many of these experienced and knowledgeable activists, artists and representatives of prominent organizations and several cities of refuge have decided to take this opportunity to meet in Malmö and discuss how we can work even better together for the global artistic freedom and against oppression and censorship.
Welcome to Malmö and the conference Safe Havens 2015
Director of Culture
City of Malmö Culture Department
I haven’t posted here in a while simply because the making of Lanchonete.org (in São Paulo) has taken the wind out of me … in a good way. However, some of the last week’s encounters seem noteworthy. It started by being invited to an annual award ceremony for the Prince Claus Fund for Culture & Development, an event that always impresses me, gives me goose bumps, and all that … congrats to one of my fave filmmakers, Jean-Pierre Bekolo and all the laureates!
Then I visited Hildesheim (Germany) where I give an annual talk at the university in the framework of their UNESCO chair on freedom of expression. This time, I spoke with an ‘open space’ group of students considering the refugee situation. The relatively small town of Hildesheim has grown from hosting 400 before Summer to approximately 2000 at present. Neighboring Hannover receives 1000 Syrian refugees a day (of Germany’s 5000-7000 daily arrivals) who are ‘distributed’ throughout the north of Germany … including Hildesheim. Later the first evening, I moderated the talk-back after an impressive piece of theatre called Refugee Homecare (by the Voll Milch company) through which I learned of a one-year-plus protest camp of Sudanese refugees (also in Hannover) numbering 250+ from which three members were cast in the performance.
On the second day, I participated in a panel entitled Cultural policy for Independent Theatre for the ITI conference ‘Independent Theatre in Contemporary Europe’. And, finally, I gave the opening remarks for a town hall meeting of cultural producers, artists, politicians, church folks and heads of cultural institutions meeting to plan a unified approach to working with the evolving refugee (and thus rapidly-changing Hildesheim) community. I learned about resources such as 10 THINGS YOU NEED TO CONSIDER IF YOU ARE AN ARTIST – NOT OF THE REFUGEE AND ASYLUM SEEKER COMMUNITY- LOOKING TO WORK WITH OUR COMMUNITY and Refugees Welcome.
Deep respect for this work!! Next up is Malmö for a conference on artist residencies and cities as sites of safe haven.
Liminus: A four day interdisciplinary festival exploring the intersections of art, health, sustainability, technology, and the natural world.
I didn’t see a moose or a whale, but damn I had a good time! Thank you to the Liminus team for having me and being reminded what I like about places that aren’t exactly the big city!!