Internationally renowned Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen is launching worldwide human rights project at the Fondazione Berengo ART SPACE in Murano, Venice, on the 8th of May, in the context of the 58th Venice Biennale .
The project is called Human Rights Pavilion and is an evolving artwork organised In collaboration with international partners: the Global Campus of Human Rights, based in Venice Lido, the largest institution in the world offering post-graduate education in the field of human rights and democracy, and which is also a network of more than 100 universities worldwide; Fondazione Berengo, a Venetian cultural institution that supports artistic endeavors and disciplines with a focus on contemporary art and glass. Since 2009, in the context of the Venice Biennale, it has presented the Glasstress exhibition to show artworks created in glass in its furnace in Murano with internationally renowned contemporary artists whose work engages human rights issues, amongst whom Ai Weiwei; and the MOUTH Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation, set up by artist Koen Vanmechelen and immunologist and philanthropist Dr. Philip Remans. MOUTH’s ultimate mission is to bring art, science and communities together to convey the beauty and need of biocultural diversity. Vita International is media partner of the project.
With the Human Rights Pavilion Vanmechelen explores the complexities of human nature, the possibility of a universal concept of human rights and the role of art in its development. He presents nature as a human right and contemplates its safeguarding in the Anthropocene, the era in which the human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems reaches critical proportions. The artist and curator firmly believes that art has a role to play in the current debate about human rights, a controversial issue highlighted by globalization.
Are human rights culturally relative? Does the human rights project have limits? Is the existing Universal Declaration on Human Rights outdated and Western- centered, as some claim? These are some of the questions that the Belgian artist raises and tries to face in this project.
Vanmechelen’s tools include both living and non-living materials: wood, marble, glass, ceramics, photography, living bio-installations, as well as video messages, letters, private conversations, round table settings, academic debates, and accidental encounters.
Over the next two years, the evolving work will gain weight and momentum through the dialogues, travels, correspondence, explorations and creations of Vanmechelen during a world-tour on almost all continents. The Human Rights Pavilion will develop at different global locations, such as Belgium, Mexico, Finland, Chile, Germany, London, New York, Sydney, Geneva, Tokyo, Pretoria...Roaming about, the evolving pavilion-to-be will gain form through contact with people and organisations involved or interested in human rights. The focal point is Vanmechelen’s adage “the global only exists through the generosity of the local”.
The Human Rights Pavilion is built up of three chapters: SoTO Dialogues, SoTO Environment and SoTO legacy. SoTO, which is short for Survival of the Other, gives name to the different chapters, and weaves Vanmechelen’s fundamental philosophy through the various elements of the work: every organism needs another organism to survive.
At the end of 2020, all input will be consolidated by the artist and reworked into a unifying OPUS, a collective memory of our moment in time and space, which will be presented to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission and to the President and Curator of the 59th Venice Biennale of Art. It will accompanied by a call to establish a recurrent supra-national Human Rights Pavilion as part of the Venice Biennale of Art.
Opening picture: "Collective Memory" by Koen Vanmechelen, a marble sculpture which is the campaign image for the Human Rights Pavilion project