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Newtopia: The State of Human Rights
Be it the right to life, liberty, security and education; be it the right to free thought, conscience and opinion; be it the right not to be tortured, not to be treated inhumanely or in a degrading manner – whether in Syria, China or North Korea, hardly any subject influences public discourse as firmly and as permanently as human rights.
More than 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the question of human rights is constantly gaining in importance. Newtopia: The State of Human Rights is a major international contemporary art exhibition dedicated to human rights. The exhibition, curated by Athens-born, Brussels-based Katerina Gregos, builds on the long relationship between art and human rights. It charts the development of the human rights movement and its evolving discourse since the post-war era. Newtopia will take place from September 1 to December 10 in various cultural institutions and in the urban context of the historic city of Mechelen – a city whose roots go back to the humanistic tradition of Erasmus and Thomas More, thus providing an apt context for the exhibition.
The exhibition is divided into distinct chapters that trace the development of human rights and their rise, particularly since the 1970s. It will negotiate the complex facets of human rights: from civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights, to the right to sustainable development, to peace and to a healthy environment, while emphasising the interdependent nature of these rights.
Trans-national and trans-generational
Newtopia, whose partners include Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, features works by more than 70 artists from different generations, working in diverse media and examining a rich variety of artistic responses in relation to the basic tenets of human rights. Many of these artists come from countries and regions where human rights have been or still are a particularly contested issue, such as China, Latin America, the Arab world and the former Soviet Republics (half the artists come from non-Western countries).
"Towards Childhood, Since Childhood" by Cengiz Çekil (© Reha Arcan)
The Newtopia line-up brings together internationally acclaimed artists such as Yael Bartana (Israel), David Goldblatt (South Africa), Mona Hatoum (Lebanon/UK), Hans Haacke (Germany/USA), Alfredo Jaar (Chile), Taryn Simon (USA) and Krzysztof Wodiczko (Poland) as well as emerging voices such as Kader Attia (France/Algeria), Ziyah Gafiç (Bosnia/Herzegovina), Diango Hernandez (Cuba), Cengiz Çekil (Turkey), Hayv Kahraman (Iraq), MadeIn (China) and Boniface Mwangi (Kenya). It also includes artists whose work and engagement with human rights issues have captured significant media attention, such as the Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, a staunch critic of the Assad regime, the Egyptian street artist Ganzeer, whose murals visually fuelled the Revolution, Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar and Belarusian artist-activist Marina Naprushkina.
Newtopia takes place from September 1 until December 10 in various locations in Mechelen.
There is a satellite exhibition of works by Alfredo Jaar at the ING Cultural Centre in Brussels.