Curated by Ilaria Bernardi

As part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Geneva, Palais des Nations

Exhibition presented by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Representation of Italy to the United Nations in Geneva in collaboration with Associazione Genesi

Under the High Patronage of the President of the Italian Republic

On November 10, 1948, in the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most significant, and relevant, documents in the recent history of the world.

Seventy-five years later, from December 4 to 15, 2023, Italy is sponsoring, at the United Nations Building in Geneva, the important exhibition “Art and Human Rights,” curated by Ilaria Bernardi, promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Representation of Italy to the United Nations in Geneva in collaboration with the Milan-based Genesis Association.

The exhibition is included as part of the campaign promoted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

With the aim of highlighting how Italian art from the postwar period to the present has subtended urgent social issues, akin to those expressed by the Declaration, 16 artists, Italian by birth or naturalization, were selected, including three seniors who emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, thus after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and thirteen who emerged in the last thirty years, following the issuance of the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, which marked the beginning of a renewed effort to strengthen and develop the set of legal instruments placed to protect human rights, built since 1948 on the basis of the Universal Declaration.

Welcoming the works of the 16 selected artists will be the Gallery in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council Hall. A space will be dedicated to each artist within which one or two of his or her works will be exhibited, accompanied by an in-depth text that ideally links them to a focal theme of the Universal Declaration. The exhibition will thus outline a narrative by successive “chapters” (the spaces of the individual artists) that together will be able to retrace the key articles of the Universal Declaration.

At the center of the Gallery will be placed the works of the three great masters: the Venus of rags (1967) by Michelangelo Pistoletto, three examples of theTreccani Encyclopedia (1970) by Emilio Isgrò, and Athletes of Herculaneum (1985) by Mimmo Jodice, which, when observed today, seem to ideally refer back to very current issues such as environmental sustainability, the right to education and the protection of artistic heritage.

Around this central core, environments dedicated to artists of subsequent generations will unfold, side by side, whose works, based on their intrinsic themes, will be associated with a pivotal theme of the Universal Declaration.

Marinella Senatore ‘s video NUI SIMU [That’s Us] (2010), made through the free participation of former miners from Enna, will serve as a reminder of the right to decent work, while Danilo Correale‘s work They Will Say I Killed Them(2017-2018), by reintroducing six films that were never made because they were blocked by censorship, will allow for a deeper exploration of the theme, already inherent in Senatore’s participatory work, regarding the right to freedom of expression.

Associated instead with freedom of expression and at the same time with the theme of the right to health, will be Natura morta (2023) by Irene Dionisio, which brings back the tragedies and isolation of Covid and the supplementary role entrusted in that context to the digital dimension. 

Also useful in reminding us of the right to health will be On Walking (2017) and Alphabet (2018) Rossella Biscotti, which tell of a complex rehabilitation achieved in part thanks to advances in medical technology.

Another fundamental right is the right to a healthy and sustainable environment that allows humans direct contact with nature. Associated with this right will be the Meridiane (2020) designed by Stefano Arienti following the lights and shadows created by the sun on paper, as well as En route to the South (2015) and En route to the South, learning to be nomadic (2017) by Elena Mazzi that address the theme of sustainable agriculture with a focus on beekeeping.

Francis Offman‘s Untitled (2019-2021), by subtending the issue of diaspora, the search for roots and identity, will instead be effective in talking about the right to freedom of movement.

The issue of the condition of women, so important in today’s world, will be evoked through three works, such as Silvia Giambrone ‘s installation Mirror no.12 (2021) linked to the theme of equality, as well as Home Is Where You Leave Your Belt (2019) and Monica Bonvicini ‘s The Fire Bites (2019), which raises the issue of domestic violence of which the victims are frequently women.

Also fundamental are the rights of minors, which will be addressed through two works: the video The Picture of Ourselves (2013) by Rä di Martino, whose main subject is a little girl; and the diptych Self Portrait as my Mother on the Phone and Self Portrait as my Father on the Phone (2019) by Silvia Rosi, who, identifying with her parents, seeks to reclaim her roots.

The exhibition will conclude with a lunge on the issue of multiculturalism, with which the works of two very young artists will be associated: Observer les Ètoiles (2021) by Victor Fotso Nyie, as well asNaître au monde, c’est concevoir (vivre) enfin le monde comme relationship #1 (2022), and Paysages Corporels – elle n’est pas déracinée (2022) by Binta Diaw.

he coordination of the exhibition is entrusted to the cultural enterprise Suazes and Silvana Editoriale, which will publish an important bilingual (ita/eng) volume edited by Ilaria Bernardi.

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[Cover: © Galardi Media Network]