What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights? is a multi-day summit hosted by the University of Chicago and composed of a group of distinguished international artists who will propose, examine, and challenge the ways in which creative cultural resistance can broaden our collective understanding of human rights.
Through artist performances and presentations on April 29 and a public forum on May 1, the summit will delve deeply into how artists are utilizing creative expression to frame conversations and advance action around myriad human rights issues, from criminal justice to LGBTQ rights, youth violence to poverty, immigration rights to refugee crises, and other areas where the personal intersects the political. Co-presented by the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, the Logan Center for the Arts, and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights.
Artists: Lola Arias, Jelili Atiku, Tania Bruguera, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti of Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Carlos Javier Ortiz, and Laurie Jo Reynolds
SATURDAY APRIL 29 / 9:30am - 5pm / Artists' Presentations
Join us in the Logan Center Penthouse at 9:30am for coffee and an introduction to the day's presentations, performances, talks, and events.
Tania Bruguera / 10:30-11:15am
Tania Bruguera’s practice and research investigates ways in which art can be applied to everyday political life, focusing on the transformation of social affect into political effectiveness. Her long-term projects have been intensive interventions on the institutional structure of collective memory, education, and politics. Bruguera’s work often responds to social and political issues unfolding in real time, and in that spirit, her lecture demonstration at the summit will be informed by timely, crucial dialogues happening in the public sphere. Working with what she terms ‘Useful Art,’ Bruguera will include participants in creating work that moves beyond the symbolic gesture to manifest change in our political reality. Bruguera discusses ‘Surplus Value,’ a part of her on-going Immigrant Movement International project here. When asked to describe her contribution to the summit, Bruguera responded with the following:
"To resist is not enough. Streets filled with crowds can evoke the idea of a battleground or the building-up of an election. Use chants as if they were drums in order to spread the waves of commitment and slogans in order to highlight all the things that are wrong. But the streets are not enough. Be an active individual: it shows them you are not afraid. Learn the language of power, use the verbs they are scared of, publicly unveil their worst nightmare – act for them, not for us. Behave on a one-to-one scale with those you consider responsible. Laugh intelligently but never laugh before you begin. Laugh after your goal is achieved, after your opposition is tricked, conflicted and incoherent because you took their power away with a simple human gesture. Don’t laugh about what they do, laugh about what you were able to do to them. What we know is not enough. Be persistent without tiring others. Use forms and actions that are legible for the resistance but new to the repressors. The time you have is the time they are using to figure out how to respond. Feeling good is not enough: create a political moment."
Lola Arias / 11:15-12pm
Argentinian artist Lola Aria's work explores the boundaries between reality and fiction, using biographies and documentation in surreal or poetic ways. For the summit she will be discussing her work in the field of theater, urban interventions and visual arts. She will share the creative process of My Life After, a play about the generation born during the military dictatorship in Argentina; Maids, an urban intervention made in Ibis hotels all over the world; and Minefield, a project with English and Argentine veterans of the Malvinas/Falklands war).
Laurie Jo Reynolds / 1:00-1:45pm
A practitioner of what she terms “legislative art,” artist, policy advocate, and professor, Laurie Jo Reynolds, is most well-known for the Tamms Year Ten project, a grassroots legislative campaign that spurred the closure of the supermax prison Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois. Reynolds’ current project focuses on public crime registries—questioning state responses to sexual abuse and violence by examining public registration and notification laws, and related restrictions. In this presentation, the artist will bring together people directly affected by violence, imprisonment, and registration laws, including previously incarcerated individuals currently on public crime registries. The participants will illuminate how current policies expand the carceral state and lessen the responsibility of lawmakers to pass evidence-based policies while ultimately failing to address sexual abuse and assault, recognize structural patterns of crime and victimization, or promote true public safety. Reynolds presents her work on the Honey Bun Comedy Hour here.
Carlos Javier Ortiz / 2:00-2:45pm
Carlos Javier Ortiz will screen his two short documentaries, A Thousand Midnights and We All We Got. In A Thousand Midnights, Ortiz explores the contemporary Black experience through the story of the Great Migration. Like thousands of other Black people, his mother in law Bette Parks-Sacks came to Chicago in the 1950s and lived on the city’s Southside. The story explores the relationship between past and present forms of racial and economic exploitation. We All We Got is an elegy of urban America. The film is an intimate portrait of people affected by violence: including community activists, kids, and cops. The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session moderated by Jacqueline Stewart, Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Studies. More on the work of Ortiz here.
Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency: Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti / 3:00-3:45pm
Permanent Temporariness: Claiming Rights from within Refugee Camps
This talk will explore how Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, in exploring the paradoxes and the potentialities of the contemporary condition of “Permanent Temporariness” of refugee camps, aims to cultivate a practice based on the strengths instead of the weaknesses of the refugee condition. This prospective provides the intellectual and practical terrain for the reconceptualization in refugee camps not only as humanitarian spaces, but also as sites where new claims can be made or, more fundamentally, where the right to politics can be reclaimed. The principles and practices infusing the work of Decolonizing Architecture emerge in this brief video.
Jelili Atiku / 4:00-5:00pm
Ajembete (performance/talk) is a critical performative dialogue about the world’s sincerity in upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The discussion makes reference to alarming but prevalent violent intolerance against groups—such as shooting rampages and homicides targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community—and identifies how unchecked attacks on civil, political, social, economic, religious, and cultural rights and freedoms are mounting in our modern era. The Ajembete reasons that, despite global affirmations of the UDHR, the world has colluded in oppression by passively accepting hypocritical and deceitful behaviors that undermine the doctrines of inviolable human rights. Atiku’s work is profiled here.
Please note: this performance involves a walking procession through surrounding streets. The artist will lead attendees on this procession.
MONDAY MAY 1 / Panels and Public Forum / 6 - 9pm
Join the summit artists in the Logan Center Performance Hall for an open forum. The forum includes panel conversations with the artists, moderated by Jacqueline Stewart and Mark Philip Bradley. The panels will be followed by a Q&A session with the artists and the opportunity for attendees to engage in dialogue with one another.
Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL
Curated by Mark Bradley, Zachary Cahill, Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, Leigh Fagin, Susan Gzesh, David Levin, Steven Rings, Jacqueline Stewart, Sonali Thakkar and Yesomi Umolu (University of Chicago) and Thomas Keenan (Bard College).
What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights? is presented alongside the Weinberg/Newton Gallery exhibition In Acts, featuring works by each of the summit artists. The exhibition runs April 7-June 10. More on the exhibition here.