Coinciding with the 58th Venice Biennial, Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen has launched the evolving artwork Human Rights Pavilion. In 2021, he will present his completed Opus to the Venice Biennial authorities with a request for a recurring, international human rights pavilion.
Koen Vanmechelen firmly believes that art has a role to play in the current debate about human rights, a controversial issue highlighted by globalisation. 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 Is the existing Universal Declaration on Human Rights outdated and Western- centered, as some claim?
To answer these questions, together with international partners Global Campus of Human Rights, Fondazione Berengo and the MOUTH Foundation, the internationally acclaimed Belgian artist launches the Human Rights Pavilion. This ambitious project was initiated on the island of Murano, in parallel with the 58th Venice Biennial. 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. Roaming about, the evolving pavilion-to-be will gain form through contact with people and organizations involved or interested in human rights. The focal point is Vanmechelen’s adage ‘the global only exists through the generosity of the local.’
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, cafe?’s, and accidental encounters. Debate will be stimulated in all locations, through so- called SoTO dialogues in Cosmocafes. Those are local hubs to debate the conditions for sustainable coexistence of individuals and human cultures with each other, and with other
species on the planet. The focus is on the existence of a body of human rights to which humans, and by extension nature on our planet are inherently entitled. A concept that is in fierce decline worldwide, much like biocultural diversity is in decline.
‘Through my longstanding work around children’s and nature rights, I learned that connecting to others is vital. Underlying the philosophy that unifies my work is ‘every organism needs another organism to survive.’ Survival depends on the survival of the other or SoTO. The Human Rights Pavilion comes together in three chapters: SoTO Dialogues, SoTO Environment and SoTO Legacy. Different partners are invited to contribute to both the artistic research and the development of the artwork, aiming to include as many disciplines, perspectives, and cultures in the creation.
At the end of 2020, all inputs will be reworked into a unifying OPUS. This collective memory of our moment in time and space, will be presented to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission and the President and Curator of the 59th Venice Biennale of Art. It will be accompanied by a call to establish a recurrent supra-national Human Rights Pavilion as part of the structure of the Venice Biennial.
The Human Rights Pavilion Fondazione Berengo Art Space Campiello Della Pescheria Murano, Venice (IT) May 2019 – May 2021