Help Create A Global Human Rights Logo

© humanrightslogo.net

AN INITIATIVE TO CREATE A GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS LOGO is now open to all submissions: A Human Rights Logo is an international campaign created by ten partner states to find that symbol that says “human rights.”

The people behind the challenge created this contest because there is currently no logo for human rights, like the universally recognized “peace sign.” A crowdsourced contest was the next step to finding the perfect single image.

Anyone can submit their logo and the contest is open until July 31st. Although this is a nonprofit initiative, there are cash prizes offered for the top three designs. An international jury of experts and activists, including Aung San Sun Kyi and Somaly Mam, will work with designers to choose the winning entries.

The contest’s been open for one day only, but there’s already over one hundred submissions posted on the site. Learn more on how to submit your own.

The Border Crossed Us

THE FENCE THAT WENT UP ALONG THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER IN 2007 touches on more than immigration and politics. It also divides the Tohono O’odham nation in southern Arizona, the second largest Native American reservation in the United States.

The Border Crossed Us is a temporary public art installation which transplants the US-Mexico border fence in southern Arizona to the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The Boston-based Institute for Infinitely Small Things, a group that stages public art and performance to investigate social justice issues, created the installation to highlight how this community is affected.

A blog about the project highlights performance video, images, and reflections by the student body on the meaning of the fence. The latest posting is a blessing sung by Ofelia Rivas of the Tohono O’odham over the sounds of helicopters and construction. It’s interesting to note the students’ reactions as they notice the singing on their way to-and-from class.

Find out more here.

Did This Artist Go Too Far?

HOW MUCH RIGHT DOES AN ARTIST HAVE TO QUESTION the meaning of historical monuments and symbols, such as “eternal flames”? Anna Sin’kova is a Ukrainian artist who fried eggs and sausages over the eternal flame monument in Kiev. She was arrested and faces up to five years in prison.

Sin’kova is charged with desecrating a grave, but she says, “The eternal flame is not a grave, it’s a propaganda memorial for a totalitarian communist regime.” [Source].

Artists do and say a lot of things to make their political points. A good piece of political art must be clear and bring a forceful message, and one that’s clearly understood by those viewing it. First, as a piece of art, does Sin’kova’s form and action get her point across? What meaning does cooking over this flame bring?

Critics of Sin’kova’s actions cried “blasphemy,” and “disrespect,” for the World War II soldiers who are honored by the monument. The artist defends her actions by saying the monument is a propaganda tool invented by the Kremlin. One could argue that all such monuments are propaganda created by governments.

Most importantly, however, did Sin’kova break any laws? And does she deserve to be arrested, and have her free speech curtailed, for a piece of [possibly] bad art?

Here’s a video of Sin’kova’s performance art piece:

A Rebel Artist Executed for His Work

© The Australian

HIS SATIRICAL ART RIDICULED THE GADDAFI REGIME and ultimately cost political cartoonist Kais Ahmed Al-Hilali his life. Al-Hilali was shot and killed in Benghazi late last month, soon after finishing an anti-Gaddafi caricature. The urban street artist was in the vanguard of young protestors in Libya who looked to Egypt and Tunisia’s peaceful revolutions for inspiration in their own pro-democracy movement.

Cartoonists around the world paid tribute to him with their own sketches.

This CNN report shows more examples of graffiti and wall murals drawn by Kais Ahmed Al-Hilali.

The Link Between Art and Injustice

© Daniel Bolick

CAN WE ALWAYS RELY ON EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY AND MEMORY as part of our criminal justice system? The number of wrongfully convicted persons says otherwise.

The people who serve time for crimes they did not commit demonstrates how mistaken identification hinders justice and forever alters the lives of those convicted.

Two artists who document the exonerated form part of a new exhibition, Resurrected: The Innocence Portraits, opening at the The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The exhibit coincides with the first international Innocence Network Conference on wrongful conviction.

Included in the exhibition are the portraits of exonerees by Daniel Bolick and the photographs of Taryn Simon.

The men in Bolick’s portraits served 203 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Bolick’s paintings humanize what would otherwise be another statistic.

© Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon’s project from 2003, The Innocents examines the role of photography as a misused tool for meting out justice. Simon photographs subjects at the “scene of the crime” or the places where they were arrested.

See Daniel Bolick’s portraits at his official site. You can view Taryn Simon’s work here.

Why Supporting Freedom of Speech is More Important Than Ever

ARTISTS AND ACTIVISTS ARE STEPPING UP their actions for detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. His enforced disappearance, rather than bringing silence and acquiescence, has instead galvanized his supporters:

Arts institutions like LACMA, the Tate Modern, and MOMA have signed a petition calling for his release (you can add your name here).

In Hong Kong on Sunday, the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China held a demonstration demanding the artist’s release:

And as this piece in the Wall Street Journal shows, if China hoped to silence its critics with these enforced disappearances and thuggery, well, it isn’t working: activists continue to speak out.

People inside China who speak publicly risk their lives. That isn’t the case of all of us lucky enough to be able to say and write whatever we like without fear of reprisal, detention, or disappearance. Supporting freedom of speech is more important than ever.

“Speaking out” can take many forms—if the media brouhaha around one particular artist is any indication.

This week the Western press is replete with stories about “Bob Dylan, the sell-out,” for not talking about Ai Weiwei by name at Dylan’s concert in Beijing. This is because Dylan is a symbol (though usually a reluctant one) of the American 1960′s protest movement, and his songs and lyrics, like “Masters of War,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” to name just two, are clarion calls of protest and activism.

A piece in The Atlantic makes a case that Dylan did in fact manage to comment on the rights situation in China: albeit in his usual subversive way.

Whether we are world-famous rock stars or ordinary citizens, we are at the proverbial fork in the road, a moment in history where we must speak out. This year’s pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East, which are still spinning and spiraling in revolution, prove that. We must not shrink away from this moment. Ai Weiwei, and everyone who is denied his basic human freedoms, are counting on us.

‘Bearing Witness’ for Survivors of Abu Ghraib

"The Broomstick Was Metal" 2008 © Daniel Heyman

LOOKING INTO THE FACES OF FORMER ABU GHRAIB DETAINEES is to confront pain and suffering, but also some measure of survival. It forces the viewer to see the human cost of the U.S. government’s recent history and practice of torture.

In his portrait series, “Bearing Witness,” artist Daniel Heyman looks into the face of this history directly. Heyman is a first-person witness to the aftermath of imprisonment of over 40 Iraqis held and subsequently released from Abu Ghraib.

Heyman sat in on interviews between human rights lawyers and these former Abu Ghraib detainees, sketching not only their images but adding their testimony as part of the overall work.

"They Took Me To A Dark Room," 2008 © Daniel Heyman

On his site, Heyman writes about the impact of hearing first-hand the experiences of the detainees:

I am a proud American citizen who needed to know the truth of what was happening. In 2004, when the first reports of Americans torturing Iraqis appeared, I no longer recognized my own country. My only stake in the matter was that I love my country and what it stands for in the world —civil rights, the rule of law, habeas corpus, and something as simple as the right to wear clothing in prison. I have no special access to information and no security clearance. I only have my ears and a desire to listen to what happened. I continue to be astonished and disturbed at what I’ve seen and heard. (Source)

“Bearing Witness” is currently on view at the White Box Gallery at the University of Oregon in Portland through May 14, 2011. See more of Daniel Heyman’s portraits at his official site.

How Artists Find Peace In War

© Julie Frankel, The Peace Library

CAN YOU FIND PEACE IN WAR? The San Luis-Obispo, CA based Peace Library is more art gallery than circulating book den, but the community behind it uses art and books to express their thoughts on peace, war, and politics.

Some of the book-based art featured in the Peace Library are drawn, like co-founder Julie Frankel’s “Forgiveness” (above, left), while other pieces are photographic or collage. Some are decidedly non-traditional form, like the matchbox with old-style movie tickets as the book’s “pages.” Each piece makes a deeply personal statement on war.

The Peace Library’s website currently features five galleries of work. See them at the Library’s official site.

New Artwork Challenges Immigration Policies

© SceneFour/Ravi Gosaj

WHEN IT WAS FIRST RECORDED IN THE 90′S, Public Enemy’s “By The Time I Get To Arizona” was a protest against Sen. John McCain and the state’s refusal to acknowledge the Martin Luther King holiday.

Today, the song is once again relevant as a way to speak out against the immigration policy in the state.

And there’s a visual element to it as well: Chuck D is collaborating with art collective SceneFour on a limited edition poster.

© SceneFour Ravi Gosaj

The canvas poses a future of state-mandated racial profiling at the moment of judgement: a hand holds up a color palette of the kind you get at a paint store, each stripe of color labeled “Suspect” or “Deport.”

The outdoor scene is a mashup of images related to Arizona, Guantanamo, and Mexico. The artist makes pointed historical references, too, adding a sign to the upper right reading, “Achtung: Show Us Your Papers.”

Find out more at Chuck D’s website, including how to get a copy of the piece.

A Film Festival for Social Change

THEY SAY 2011 IS THE YEAR OF THE SEQUEL (for a change), but luckily for filmgoers who want more that a retread there is a new venue for personal expression and a sense of mission.

The first Global Social Change Film Festival & Institute launches this April. The festival promotes social action filmmaking, and chose “Global Women and Film” for its inaugural theme. After its first run this year in Ubud, Bali, the festival moves on to other host cities (like New Orleans in 2012).

The festival will also honor activists and award a main prize to the film that best explores a contemporary social issue.

Watch trailers for the eight nominated films below. More info about GSCFFI.

1. Climate Refugees (Various): How extreme weather events and climate change are causing a global migration of climate refugees:

2. Deep Down (U.S.): Two friends end up on opposites sides of a debate when a proposed mountain-top coal mine comes to their community:

3. Fambul Tok (Sierra Leone): about grassroots reconciliation between the perpetrators and victims of the country’s civil war:

4. In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (U.S./Korea): a Korean adoptee who came to the US in 1966 searches for her real identity:

5. Nothing Rhymes with Ngaparjti (Australia): A Pitjantjatjara actor, Trevor Jamieson, returns to his traditional country to perform a hit theatre show to an all-Indigenous audience for the first time:

6. There Once Was an Island (South Pacific): Three residents of the Polynesian community of Takuu survive a tidal flood, but continuing climate change may force them from their homes:

7. A Village Called Versailles (U.S.): A community in New Orleans East try to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Katrina, but the city instead plans a debris disposal landfill in their community:

8. Dog Sweat (Iran): follows the lives of six young people in Tehran. Watch a clip here.