Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out

Founded in 2001, the Gage Gallery was founded after Roosevelt University moved into the new historical Gage building on Michigan Avenue.  Newcity art described the new gallery as “Chicago’s premier space for showcasting critical social photo-documentary”.  The intent of the gallery is to exhibit national and international photographers and artists while also hosting public lectures, panel discussions and symposia.  Their website states that the gallery is committed to showing contemporary work that addresses the important social issues of the time.

Exhibitions are sponsored by Gage Gallery in addition to multiple departments within Roosevelt University, depending on the exhibition.  One such department is the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project, out of the College of Arts and Science.   This project is a program unique in the US where students conduct comparative research on the promotion of human rights in the US and abroad. 

Previous exhibitions include titles such as “Juvenile-in-Justice”, “Prison”, and “The Innocents: Headshots”.

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Guant 1

(Photographs are from Clark’s website.)

Their current exhibition is “Guantanamo: If the Lights Goes Out”.  Edmund Clark’s stunning photographs take center stage in this exhibition, running until May 4, 2013.  The photographs, along with letters and cards sent to previous detainee Omar Deghaves (now a UK resident) looks at Guantanamo as a home.  The three types of homes addressed include the naval base, the camps where detainees were held, and the new homes where former detainees now find themselves trying to rebuild their lives.  As stated on Roosevelt University’s website, “the viewer is asked to jump from prison camp detail to domestic still life, from life outside to the naval base and back again.  From light to dark.”

The “Letters to Omar” section consists of letters sent from everyone from family members, lawyers, and complete strangers to Deghaves during his imprisonment at Guantanamo.  The cards represent the process of receiving mail while in the prison.  Both within the exhibition and in real life, Omar (and thus the visitor) never saw or will ever see the original documents sent.

The exhibition runs from February 7th until May 4th.  guant 2

 Their website: Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University

Edmund Clark’s website: If the Light Goes Out 

Their ongoing project is amazing!! Keep updated with their own blog: craftivist-collective.com

Craftivist Collective

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We did it! With the help of hundreds of craftivistas we created a giant art installation made up of more than 600 stitched jigsaw puzzle pieces which was unveiled at Manchester’s People’s History Museum on Friday 1st March calling for an end to the global food crisis and child malnutrition. It was so big its really hard to even fit all of the jigsaws in one photograph!


We had over 40 members of the public and the contemporary craft scene gathered at the People’s History Museum in Manchester to see the result of the Jigsaw Project, which was launched last October on World Food Day to support Save the Children’s Race Against Hunger campaign (don’t forget to sign the petition if you haven’t already!). People stayed the whole night to take photographs of their favourite jigsaws, spot their own and have their photo taken proudly next to the installation…

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Craftivist Collective

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(Photo’s are from their main website)

“To expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art.  This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions.” (http://craftivist-collective.com)

This is the manifesto of Craftivist Collective.  Started in 2009 by Sarah Corbett, she dreamt about creating a group as “a reaction of feeling like a burnt-out activist” (http://craftivist-collective.com).  Originally based in the United Kingdom when Corbett was in school, the collective has now become worldwide.  As stated in their “about you” section on the website, the collective “encourages individuals and groups to deliver [their] projects wherever they are in the world” in addition to supplying kits, instructions and anything else one might need to start the collective in their area.  In addition to physically creating crafts, the collective also sells the products to help provoke and encourage conversations about global injustice issues for those who aren’t as handy with a needle.

Their aim is to not only show how activism can be available to every person but also, that it can be full and empowering.  Rosa Martyn, one of the collective’s craftivists stated that “a spoonful of craft helps the activism go down.” (http://craftivist-collective.com)  The aim of the project is “to challenge people’s views and reach out to those who may have no have previously accessed activism and groups for social change.”  While every social movement that is occurring in the world is not meant for every individual, the Collective believes that there is still something that every person is individually passionate for.  Once that person finds their passion, it is just a matter of figuring out how to become active within the cause.  For the Collective, they believe that for those not wishing to stand on the front lines, picketing and spending their nights in tents, such as the activists of the Occupy movement, the alternative might be through art.

Betsy Greer coined the term ‘Craftivism’ as: “A way at looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite” through the process of art.

craftivists-jigsaw

Their current project is the “Craftivist Jigsaw project”, in motion with emerging contemporary craft movement Mr. X Stitch, Deadly Knitshade and Hilary of Craftblog.  They are asking the craft community to help create a giant jigsaw to support Save the Children’s Race Against Hunger Campaign.  Via the website imapiece.fuse.ly, the project hopes to build an installation to raise awareness to children hunger and injustice.  The hope is that enough jigsaw pieces that state “I’m a piece” will bring awareness to viewer and bring about a positive change within their mind about how each visitor reacts upon walking away from the installation.

Other ongoing and past projects the Collective has been a part of can be found at their website: http://craftivist-collective.com/project-archive/.

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my blog: Social Art Activism.  The capstone project for completion of my master’s in Museum and Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, offers theory and resources, including art as an instruments of activism to combat human rights violations.  This blog is not an overview of every human right violation or social injustice movement throughout past and/or present.  Nor is this blog a testimony on all museum and activist groups on their beliefs, ideas, and goals on how to bring arts to the foreground of activism.  What this blog represents is a discussion and representation of current artists, activists and scholarly thoughts on what it means to work within a community surrounded by mass human violence.

This blog allows me to look through the rigor of the theory and practicality of exhibition making to into the real lives of activists that are creating art to make a change.  There are differences with every person, project, organization and museum but it is those differences that make this project so interesting for me.  The intent of this blog is to continue to allow individuals that have not yet found their purpose and action to maybe find some help and direction through the organizations and examples I provide.

Human rights education is a powerful framework for memorial museums and exhibitions.  It has been made depressingly clear that depictions of humanity’s vilest deeds do not diminish our capacity for future crimes.  Crimes against human kind have occurred countless times in history and continue to plague us in the present.  But while it has been made clear that despite the attempts to bring fear to the public as a hope for peace, this does not work.  So instead of showing the horrors of individuals, there is the urgency and demand to show the beauty of individuals, activists, coming together to prove to those who try and bring man down, that they stand together, and nothing will stop life.  This can be done through art activism and alternative exhibitions in the museum and public space.

Many in my generation, post-civil rights and other mass movements, may only know about activism when it comes to the idea that behind picketing and marches to bring awareness of the injustice that they hope to correct. But what most of the world might not know is that indeed, there is a different form of activism, an alternative to picketing; and that is through the arts.  Within this blog, I will offer examples of projects, museums and exhibitions that exhibit the cruelty of human deeds by showing works created by individuals to inspire the visitor to help confirm that these acts of violence against our own is not only unacceptable but will never be allowed again, through art. 

Viewers will find in each section a series of blog entries that brings together all three areas within the art and museum world I plan on spending my career within.   The theory consists of articles that present information on topics that relate directly with exhibiting difficult material to a public.  Articles include: looking at the different intentions of museums versus memorials; how the audience has a direct correlation to the exhibition due to the experiences that they bring into such a place; the institution as a public forum for both dialogue and understanding; and what violence truly means in a public eye within the institutional walls.  The second section, ‘action (projects)’, has blog entries that speak about four different organizations and projects that use art as an activist tool.  All four projects use art to bring awareness to specific human injustices that have either occurred in recent history or are ongoing.  The last section, ‘museums, memorials and exhibitions’, looks at different museums and galleries that hold exhibitions that use activism and art in their gallery space to bring awareness.  This section differs from the second due to the fact that all locations within the third section are institutions rather than organizations and projects that may range outside building walls.