NEW YORK (June 30, 2021) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts proudly announce the launch of the Art in Protest Residency program. This residency is an opportunity for artists whose art is dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights globally, to explore and expand their digital practices. The inaugural cohort includes Chinese-Australian political cartoonist Badiucao, Belarusian illustrator and graphic designer Lilia Kvatsabaya, and Cuban performance artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
“Art in Protest supports dissident artists by giving them a platform to use their art to expose the abuses of authoritarian regimes,” said Holly Baxter, Executive Director of Art in Protest at HRF. “This residency will allow artists-in-residence to improve their digital skills and work with other artists to reach even wider audiences.”
For a period of three months, participants will develop projects that use art and technology to create social and civic impact. In addition, they will receive mentorship and personalized feedback on their work from interdisciplinary artists and technologists as part of Gray Area’s Incubator space, as well as be presented with workshop opportunities that build on the mentorship they will be receiving.
“Art is one of the most important and impactful forms of protest because it engages and enthralls the viewer,” said HRF’s Chief Program Officer Céline Boustani. “Through the power of their work alone, artists can connect and unify democracy movements around the world. We are thrilled to launch this unique program that will support dissident artists in their work to advance freedom and make an impact in the global struggle against authoritarianism.”
The residency will run from July 6 to October 4, 2021 and will take on a hybrid form, with both online sessions and in-person meetings at Gray Area’s headquarters in San Francisco, California. It will culminate in an exhibit at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, to be held in Oslo, Norway, which will showcase the artwork produced during the residency.
“The most active front in the battle for democracy and human rights is the internet,” said Barry Threw, Gray Area’s Executive Director. “At Gray Area we recognize that artists serve a necessary role for not only raising awareness, but also in revealing the power structures perpetuated in digital technologies as well as realizing the opportunities they present to envision a more free and equitable world. We have found an ideal partner in the Human Rights Foundation to promote democracy and human rights in our digital society through the Art in Protest Residency.”
Badiucao is an exiled Chinese dissident artist based in Australia whose work has taken on a wide variety of forms, including political cartoons, installations, street art, and performances. His art is renowned for denouncing human rights abuses and the suppression of free speech in China. After years of using a pseudonym, he decided to step out and accept media interviews on camera after several of his family members started receiving threats from the government. Today, his artwork is at the forefront of raising awareness about human rights abuses in mainland China, as well as Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Burma. Badiucao was a 2020 HRF Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Laureate.
Lilia Kvatsabaya is a Belarusian illustrator and graphic designer based in Hawaii. Lilia was a student at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts when she was forced to relocate to the United States due to the political unrest in Belarus, following rigged elections in August 2020. In her work, Lilia portrays the injustices felt by the Belarusian people, and mass violence perpetrated by the police. She draws on her own experiences participating in peaceful protests and chains of solidarity in Minsk. Lilia’s posters and illustrations depicting the Belarusian democracy movement have been exhibited internationally in Germany, Japan, and Lithuania, and at HRF’s Art in Protest digital gallery.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is a performance artist and human rights defender from Cuba, known for his public performances that openly criticize the state of censorship and repression by the Cuban state security apparatus. He is a co-founder of the Museum of Dissidence, an online website and public art project celebrating dissent, for which he won the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award. He is also the founding member and leader of the San Isidro Movement, a group of artists and activists who promote freedom of expression and cultural rights in Cuba.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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Art In Protest
The Art in Protest program is HRF’s answer to the repression of creativity that authoritarian regimes impose. By promoting artists who embody the spirit of creativity and dissent, Art in Protest opens a dialogue about human rights and free expression, and aims to bring to a diverse audience the work of artists who are making an impact in the global struggle against authoritarianism.
Gray Area is 21st-century countercultural hub catalyzing creative action for social transformation. Our mission is to cultivate, sustain, and amplify a community of creative practitioners who apply antidisciplinary practice — including art, technology, science, and the humanities — towards engaging with the complex challenges facing our world. Through public events, education, and incubation we maintain a platform that enables creators of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to transcend boundaries within deep artistic collaboration and gain agency to impact the world through category-defying work.