Can rights offer true liberation when structural and institutional issues of racism and injustice are so prevalent in our society? Is a rights-based agenda ever radical enough? Participants of Autograph's artist course, PILOT, share their work in response to these provocations.
The last year of the coronavirus pandemic has brought the issue of human rights into the forefront of our minds and our conversations. An unprecedented health crisis, government lockdowns, challenges to civil liberties, restricted movements. With the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and POC communities, questions are being raised and actions taken to the streets, challenging the structures of marginalisation, inequality and racism in our society today.
Rights became the first theme of our new artist course, PILOT, and we had the pleasure of being joined by guest speakers Phoebe Boswell and Lola Olufemi, who provided rich inspiration and provocations to unpack this urgent issue. We were also challenged to think critically about whether a rights-based agenda is ever radical enough; can rights offer true liberation when structural and institutional issues of racism and injustice are so prevalent in our society? Are rights too aligned with Western ideals of universality that don’t materialise in our lived experiences of difference and marginalisation? Should we focus our energy and spirit towards a politics of abolition? It was a truly inspiring 3 hours that animated our online space with a shared desire, commitment and energy to think deeply about the politics of our work and how it might demand or inspire change.
Each participant took to the challenge of making a creative response with rights in mind, taking their own practice and finding something new within it or a different way of seeing and sharing it. The art works, ideas and research transformed our conversation about rights into personal, sensitive and embodied experiences. We had readings, manifestos, paintings, music, film scripts, video essays, prints, audio and written texts. A rich array of visual and sensory material that reflected on diverse rights issues such as detention and asylum, identity and migration, race and philosophy, missing histories and archive, art activism, speculative futures, play, power and participation.
We are delighted to be sharing a selection of the artists’ work here, with more coming soon in further blog posts exploring themes of Care and Future. Stay tuned!
I make music and sound to help me hold emotional, intellectual, energetic vibrations I don’t feel able to carry alone because they seem too intense for my body to hold. This soundscape is about the embodied work and conversations it takes to de-construct the idea that there is a unique and 'better' way of being human that we all need to gain access to. What it takes to uproot that lie from the inside out, because we are so much more magical and vast. It’s about refusing to weave our struggles for liberation into a fabric that may well never be colourful enough.
There was never just one way of ‘going forward’, yet that is what centuries of western colonialism and capitalism tricked us into thinking. Done Begging is a heartfelt cry, calling for the truth that liberation from power structures is a liberation for all of us, including those who've been conditioned to believe that their privilege and access to institutions makes them better or more desirable and lovable people.
You can follow Lauriem on Instagram and sign up to their soundletter for monthly updates here.
"I started considering the places that are houses of detention, spaces for inmates to be incarcerated and have their rights removed. And then I wondered who was being kept in order."
"Living in London, I do not feel the fear of being myself [...] and that strength was given to me by London."
A film work made up of conversations, unravelling the nuances of what a metropolitan city does to or for an individual and asking: how do you define a Londoner? Who is afforded that title?
Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world can be enriching and difficult at the same time. While the city is constantly changing with new developments centred around regeneration, the politics and polarity of the city are visible, triggering conversations and making privilege apparent.
We recommend using headphones for the best experience when watching.
When I look at my photos, made during art workshops with refugee children in Greece, I see children who refuse to stop, who create opportunities for fun and play everywhere. I also feel a personal weight and pull to do better for them.
My own personal connection to the European ‘refugee crisis’ is through the knowledge that my ancestors were brought to America through trafficking and enslavement while both my grandparents were immigrants. I was left with this feeling of "Why are we here. Why are we still trying to come here?"
I’ve always thought of rights as basic needs, which really translates into the bare minimum and this is never enough. To think of those given rights as an option, something malleable, something you can prioritise was a refreshing angle and it made me want to explore what children and young people would say and what rights they would choose for themselves.
Children have the right to childhood, and we have a collective responsibility to ensure this. But making these photographs also raised issues of privacy and ethics. I find myself questioning whether we should document traumatic experiences at all. Is my urge to document voyeuristic? What does my unease in sharing the images mean?
Can you spare a few moments? Autograph is carrying out a survey to better understand who our digital audiences are.
The survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete.
Anything you tell us will be kept confidential, is anonymous and will only be used for research purposes.
The information you provide will be held by Autograph and The Audience Agency, who are running the survey on our behalf. In compliance with GDPR, your data will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes it was given.
You can take the survey here. Thank you!
Banner image: Detail from Molly Daniel's Photo Archive Greece, 2015 - 2019, © and courtesy the artist.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list