Human Rights

The Pergamon Project

Alfredo Jaar: The way it is. An Aesthetics of Resistance

The Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (New Society for Visual Arts) presents an exhibition by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar simultaneously at three Berlin institutions. The monographic show offers a retrospective survey of an artistic production spanning close to four decades.

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Art & Agenda: Political Art and Activism

R. Klanten (Author, Editor), M. Hubner (Editor), A. Bieber (Editor)

This book examines the interplay between the forms of protest used by environmental and civil rights activists and the techniques used by artists, which are of interest since both groups often address the same topics. It looks at how art and the media are not only reflecting a political agenda, but also how they are influencing political reaction. Consequently, Art & Agenda is not only an insightful documentation of current artwork, but also points to future forms of political discourse and decision-making.

Art & Agenda explores the impact of political activism on contemporary art. The book introduces a variety of artists who are advocating political and social reform on a local or a global scale. Some are influenced by the traditions of Agitprop and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and work with posters, urban interventions, or graphic design. Others prefer established art forms such as painting, sculpture, or performance.

The personalities and approaches of the featured artists are as diverse as their subject matter the artists goals, techniques, and degrees of radicalness depend on the cultures to which they belong as well as the social and political circles in which they move. Some of the younger artists featured in the book are fighting against poverty and for women s rights. Others are working to rebuild Haitian communities in the wake of that country s devastating earthquake. Still others are using mass communication to criticize transnational oil companies.

While Latin American artists are expressing their powerlessness in the face of totalitarian governments, Chinese artists are commenting on the radical changes taking place in their country, calling for human rights and freedom, and an end to cronyism and environmental destruction.

Selected Artists from the Book:

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Filippo Minelli, Contradictions, 2010, Brescia, Italy

Life has become significantly more political in the new millennium, especially in the aftermath of the worldwide banking crisis. Art is both driving and documenting this upheaval. Initially, it was mostly young artists and activists who were raising their voices to protest globalization and the pollution of our environment, but increasingly the work of established artists is also becoming dominated by political topics.

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Roland Roos, Free Repair

During two years, Roland Roos repaired broken, displaced or damaged things he encountered in public space. He took before and after photos of the unsolicited repairs and sold them for 320CHF each which is the average amount of money that is spent for one repair (materials and labor).

 

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Superflex, GUARANA POWER

GUARANA POWER is a soft drink developed by a farming cooperative in Maues, Brazil in collaboration with the Superflex collective. The drink contains guarana, a plant native to the Amazon whose fruit has long been harvested by indigenous communities for its medicinal and invigorating properties. The farmers have had to organize themselves against a cartel of corporation whose monopoly on purchase of the raw material has driven the price paid for guaraná seeds down by 80% while the cost of their products to the consumer has risen. Besides, the beverage these companies sells is only a sugary, diluted energy drink. GUARANÁ POWER attempts to use the strategies of global brands as raw material for a counter-economic position, to preserve local economy and the livelihoods of the farmers and to reclaim the original use of the Maués guaraná plant as a powerful natural tonic.

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Gregor Schneider, Bondi Beach, 21 Beach Cells, 2007

Gregor Schneider’s cells on Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach questions “the ideal of a casual, egalitarian leisure-loving society”, while evoking strongly another famous location by the ocean: Guantanamo Bay.

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Helmut Smits, Photo Tip, 2004

The artist pushed the provocation even further with Photo Tip, an installation which allows people to be portrayed as a hostage flanked by threatening terrorists.

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Ai Weiwei, self-portrait with aGrass Mud Horse

Political Contemporary Art From Iran

Ghadirian was inspired to make work reflecting what she saw as the duality and contradiction of life. Her Qajar Series (1998-2001) consists of small studio portraits of women dressed in the nineteenth-century Qajar style. Many of the women photographed are Ghadirian’s friends and family. The backgrounds of these portraits resemble those found in photographic studios of that period. However, the artist has added some modern anomalies or dissonances, such as a mountain bike, a newspaper, or a Pepsi-Cola can. Ghadirian plays with these juxtapositions and contrasts, thus expressing the difficulties women face in Iran today – torn between tradition and the modernity of globalization. These composed portraits depict women unsure to which era they belong.

Shadi Ghadirian qajar
Shadi Ghadirian
Qajar #42
2001, black & white digital prints, 60 x 90 cm.

Ghadirian made her Like Every Day Series after her marriage to fellow photographer, Peyman Hooshmand-zadeh. In this body of work, Ghadirian comments upon the daily repetitive routine to which many women find themselves consigned and by which many women are defined. Each of these color photographs depicts a figure draped in patterned fabric in place of the typical Iranian chador. However, instead of a face, each figure has a common household item such as an iron, a tea cup, a broom, a pot or a pan.

Her work is intimately linked to her identity as a Muslim woman living in Iran. Nonetheless, her art also deals with issues relevant to women living in other parts of the world. She questions the role of women in society and explores ideas of censorship, religion, modernity, and the status of women.

Shadi Ghadirian's "Nil Nil," 2008.

Shadi Ghadirian
“Nil Nil”
2008. Digital print, 30 x 30 in.

Amir Mobed

Amir Mobed
“Come Caress Me”
September 2010 performance at Azad Art Gallery, Tehran

Shocking performance at Art Gallery, inspired by Chris Burden, in which he stood in front of a target, wearing a bodysuit with a protective metal box over his head, and invited gallery visitors to shoot at him with a pellet gun. It was, he says, a symbolic execution with a message about freedom of speech and the hopes of artists of his generation being silenced.

Amir Mobed Come Caress Me

Amir Mobed
“Come Caress Me”
September 2010 performance at Azad Art Gallery, Tehran

Amitis Motevalli Portrait of the Artist as a Rebel
Amitis Motevalli
“Portrait of the Artist as a Rebel”
2005. Digital C-print, 20 x 13 1/2 in.

Politics in Contemporary Art: Alfredo Jaar

Offical Website: www.alfredojaar.net

Through installations, photographs, and community-based projects, Jaar explores the public’s desensitization to images and the limitations of art to represent events such as genocides, epidemics, and famines. Jaar’s work bears witness to military conflicts, political corruption, and imbalances of power between industrialized and developing nations.

“I strongly believe in the power of a single idea,” says Alfredo Jaar. “My imagination starts working based on research, based on a real life event, most of the time a tragedy that I’m just starting to analyze, to reflect on…this real life event to which I’m trying to respond.”

1. Gold in the Morning, 1997

In 1985 Alfredo Jaar went to Serra Palada, an open cast gold mine in north-eastern Brazil. There he photographed and filmed the astonishing working conditions of the self-employed miners. An insistence on the importance of context to the subsequent interpretation and distribution of his work has been central to Jaar’s practice; and the Serra Palada material was initially installed on a New York subway station alongside indicators of fluctuations in world gold prices.

“I always describe myself as a project artist. I’m not a studio artist. I do not create works in my studio. I wouldn’t know what to do. I do not stare at the blank page of paper and start inventing a world coming from my imagination. Every work is a response to a real-life event, a real-life situation.”

Gold in the MorningGold in the Morning

2.  A logo for America, 1987

logo for america

The representation of geography and the intricacies of global relations influence Jaar’s every thought and action.

In more recent projects, this obsession has led to critical investigations of cartography. A logo for America was an explicit demonstration of the significance of the images and language of geography – its representation and articulation. It also appropriated an amendable technology that utilized Jaar’s interest in texts, words, film processes, and graphic design. Part of a six – year program sponsored by the Public Art Fund, Inc. in New York, Jaar was one of thirty artists invited to produce a 45 – second computer animation / intervention on the Spectacolor lightboard in the heart of Times Square.

3.  One Million Finnish Passports, 1995

passports

Finland has a historically stringent immigration policy, staunch nationalists they accept only a tiny fraction of the citizenship applications they receive, far less than any of their neighboring countries. Observing this, Jaar somehow managed to get 1 million Finnish passports printed up to represent the number of people who should have been nationalized as Finnish citizens but weren’t.  Now obviously this poses somewhat of a security risk, so the passports were housed behind a fortress of bullet-proof glass and the passports would be burned after the exhibit ended.passports

One million replicated Finnish passports, glass, 800 x 800 x 80 cm.

“I could say that everything I know about art, I learned as an architect. As an architect, I give myself a program, taking into account a specific space. Space is not just physical. It’s also social, cultural, political. Studying the space, I try to reach what we call the essence of the space. Then I combine that with the essence of what I am trying to say. All these elements are incorporated in the program, in which I have an objective.”

4. Infinite Cell, 2004

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Iron bars, painted wood, mirrors. 145 5/8 x 177 1/8 x 102 3/8 inches.

“A mirror is a simple object of daily life, and the perfect articulation of the narcissism of our society- a society that only cares for itself. In ‘Infinite Cell’, it’s about seeing ourselves in infinite projection and thinking about what we want to do as artists, as intellectuals. What do we want to say as producers of culture? And to whom are we speaking? Am I my public, or is it someone else? It also has to do with the horrors of the twenty-first century. This piece is probably one of my most emotionally charged works. Unfortunately, it has a universal life: all countries have histories of horror. And so, in a way, this piece asks, ‘How do we make art in the world, the way it is now? How do we make art today?’”

5. The Cloud, 2000

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Public intervention, Valle del Matador, Tijuana, Mexico-San Diego, USA Border. October 14, 2000.

“People describe me sometimes as a conceptual artist, as a political artist, with work of a strong political connotation or social content. I always reject those labels. I’m an artist, and believe it or not I’m interested in beauty and I’m not afraid of it. It is an essential tool to attract my audience, and sometimes I use it to introduce horror because the audience has to be seduced.”

6. The Skoghall Konsthall, 2000

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Public intervention, Skoghall, Sweden.

Jaar was invited to Skoghall where he constructed a paper museum, organized a one-day exhibition, and then had the structure set on fire. The timing, temporarily, and duration of this project—as well as its denouncement—had a theatrical character.

“I was shocked to discover that a community could exist for thirty years without any visible cultural or exhibition space. How do you represent it the absence of this space for culture in an entire community? I found it hard to believe that people could live without it the intellectual and critical stimulus that visual art can provide^to question, to speculate, and to search. It blew my mind. I sought a spectacular way to deal with this lack. I created an exhibition space for twenty-four hours and then burned it away I wanted to offer a glimpse of what contemporary art is and what it can do in a community. Then by “disappearing” it in such a spectacular way, I hoped to reveal its absence”.

7. Lights in the city, 1999

In Canada Alfredo Jaar completed a project referred to as Lights in the City, in 1999.  This is a historic landmark which had burnt around five times before Jaar completed this project. The building is called Copula of the Marche Bonsecours. There were approximately a hundred thousand watts of red lights installed within the Copula so that when a button is mashed the copula lights up with a red color inside of it very brightly so that it can be seen all around the city of Montreal.

Detonating devices have been placed in multiple places such as Accueil Bonneau, la Maison Eugenie Bernier and la Maison Paul Gregoire, and homeless shelters that are located within five hundred yards of the Cupola. Each time a homeless individual enters one of these areas they are free to push the buttons located within these areas so that the Cupola will light up inside with bright red colors. The entire point of this is to allow homeless individuals to be recognized as a person within the city without humility.

“I submitted my proposal to the people at the shelters. They appreciated that I was not exposing them through photography. They liked and approved my idea. These red lights connected to the shelters were my way of sending a distress signal to the city—of making the homeless visible withcnit pointing at them directly Of course, the red hghts also recalled the fires that consumed the building many times, but metaphorically. ”

“We wanted the Cupola to become a permanent monument of .shame, and other shelters wanted to join us and get connected, but six weeks later the mayor canceled it. like all of my projects, it failed. We did not give the homeless a home. We did not resolve their problem. We gave them a brief, hopeful moment when they regained their humanity, when people started acknowledging their presence, smiled at them, when the press also contributed to the dialogue, but eventually they returned to their status as homeless. With these projects you change so little…”

Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds at TATE

Tate Modern 12 October 2010 – 2 May 2011
Official Website: www.tate.org.uk

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds challenges our first impressions: what you see is not what you see, and what you see is not what it means. The sculptural installation is made up of what appear to be millions of sunflower seed husks, apparently identical but actually unique. Although they look realistic, each seed is made out of porcelain. And far from being industrially produced, ‘readymade’ or found objects, they have been intricately hand-crafted by hundreds of skilled artisans. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape. The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative and personal content make this work a powerful commentary on the human condition.

One of China’s leading Conceptual artists, Ai is known for his social or performance-based interventions as well as object-based artworks.

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Doris Salcedo: Third World Identity

Doris Salcedo was born in 1958 in Bogotá, Colombia. Salcedo’s understated sculptures and installations embody the silenced lives of the marginalized, from individual victims of violence to the disempowered of the Third World. Although elegiac in tone, her works are not memorials: Salcedo concretizes absence, oppression, and the gap between the disempowered and powerful. While abstract in form and open to interpretation, her works serve as testimonies on behalf of both victims and perpetrators.

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Santiago Sierra: Los Penetrados

Team Gallery, NY
September 9th – October 23rd 2010
Official Website: www.teamgal.com and www.santiago-sierra.com

Los Penetrados (The Penetrated) is a 45-minute film in eight acts. The film was originally shot on October 12 2008, Día de la Raza, or the Day of the Race, which is the Spanish holiday commemorating Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. The film features a mirrored set with ten geometrically arranged blankets positioned on the floor, on which the various possible combinations of male and female and black and white, engage in anal penetration. The faces of the hired participants are digitally removed, rendering them as dehumanized, modular workers in Sierra’s imposed economy.

Santiago SIerra Acto 1
Acto 1
2008, black and white photograph, 55 x 98 inches

The eight acts are divided into the following permutations: white man/white woman, white man/white man, white man/black woman, white man/black man, black man/black woman, black man/black man, black man/white woman, black man/white man.

Choosing to film on Día de la Raza, Sierra makes an allegorical connection between the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish, and the penetration that occurs in his film. The subject matter of anal sex invites an examination of cultural psychologies of domination and submission as they relate to labor, race, gender, and class. Though conceived upon a mathematical formula, the film’s acts arrive at a succession of fluctuating outcomes, which yield an analysis of contemporary social structures in Spain. For instance, in Act III, seven of the ten blankets are left without performers, due to police pressure against females taking part in the labor. Or in Act V, where the number of passive black male subjects is diminished by cultural insecurities, perhaps born from experiences of racial inequality.

santiago sierra tattoo
160 CM LINE TATTOOED ON 4 PEOPLE
El Gallo Arte Contemporáneo. Salamanca, España. Diciembre de 2000

Sierra’s projects often employ underprivileged individuals who function as laborers in useless and demeaning activities. These acts have largely been seen as a commentary on the social ramifications of capitalist models. Procedures such as tattooing a continuous line across the backs of his “workers” foreground the artists’ concerns with exploitation.

Santiago Sierra
Santiago Sierra
12 WORKERS PAID TO REMAIN INSIDE CARDBOARD BOXES
ACE Gallery New York. New York, United States. March 2000

He is well known outside of the United States as an agent who challenges notions of the “politically correct” in order to illuminate social incongruities. Stemming from minimal and conceptual practices of the 60’s and 70’s, Sierra’s controversial actions and performances yield evidence and/or documentation in the form of sculpture, photography, video, and installation.

Rosângela Rennó: Pharos Centre

ROSÂNGELA RENNÓ
Ring
24 November – 15 January 2010
www.pharosart.org
www.rosangelarenno.com.br/obras

The Pharos Centre for Contemporary Art is pleased to present works by artist Rosângela Rennó in an exhibition titled Ring. The exhibition is part of the Brazilian Culture Month 2009, which is organised by the Pharos Arts Foundation in cooperation with the Brazilian Embassy in Cyprus. The opening will take place on Monday 23 November at 8pm.

Rosângela Rennó’s work is predominantly photography based, although she rarely takes photographs of her subjects, instead, she recasts and transforms appropriated photographic images. In the past she has presented anonymous portraits compiled from existing photographs – photographers’ studios and even photographs of prisoners’ tattoos. Whilst she finds novel and often politically charged ways of presenting the images, her work is also profoundly humane, as the viewer finds themselves imagining other people’s lives, particularly those who are marginalized or unacknowledged.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Vol 1

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Portraits of gay men and lesbians in the military

Jeff Sheng’s series of portraits of gay men and lesbians serving in the military, all of them in uniform and with their faces obscured in some way — by a hand, a door frame or by darkness. Mr. Sheng has photographed 40 servicemen and servicewomen so far and plans to shoot 20 more. His “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” show, featuring around 30 photos, will open at the Kaycee Olsen Gallery in Culver City in September. Mr. Sheng is at work on a second volume of the book.

He described his subjects, identified only by first names that are pseudonyms, as people who “didn’t want to risk their careers, but who wanted to take some kind of stand.” Earnest and passionate about his work, Mr. Sheng said he struggles to avoid being heavy-handed as an artist. “I merge a fight for social equality with photography, but I’m always trying to figure out how to do it intelligently,” he said.

Pedro Reyes: Palas Por Pistolas

10th Biennale de Lyon: The Spectacle of the Everyday
Palas Por Pistolas (Pistols Into Spades). 2008
50 shovels made of metal from 1,527 destroyed weappons from people of Culiacán, Mexico.

The shovels are the outcome of a programme launched by the Mexican government – at the instigation of the artist – for “handing in” illegal weapons so as to stamp them out or at least limit their use. Reyes melted down the metal of 1,527 weapons, which was then used to make shovels for planting trees, with the help of community associations, everywhere the work goes on show.

Teresa Margolles: Biennale Di Venezia 09

53rd INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION – LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2009

Teresa Margolles
¿De qué otra cosa podríamos hablar?
(What Else Could We Talk About?)
7 June – 22 November 2009
MEXICAN PAVILION

The pavilion will host a solo show by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles titled ¿De qué otra cosa podríamos hablar? (What Else Could We Talk About?) which involves of a single and continuous intervention, with different actions and works along the pavillion. The show is curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina.

The works presented at the Mexican Pavilion are a subtle chronicle of the effects of a devilish international economy: the vicious circle of prohibition, addiction, accumulation, poverty, hatred and repression that transmogrifies the transgresive pleasures and puritan obsessions of the North into the South as Hell.

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