Artist Rights

ArtsEverywhere acknowledges that when artists work towards social justice and defend human rights they often face censorship, violence, imprisonment and/or displacement. The Artist Rights line of inquiry offers international perspectives on freedom of artistic expression and resources for artists at risk.
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ArtsEverywhere recently passed its six-month anniversary—a milestone that slipped past us unnoticed as we focussed intently on shaping new content and implementing projects that undergird our various lines of inquiry. In November we’re more fully launching the Artist Rights section of the ArtsEverywhere platform—something that has been in design for the past few months by Sidd Joag and Todd Lester, both artists who have years of experience advocating for and actualizing projects that expand artist rights, ensure artist safety, and promote freedom of expression globally through their work at freeDimensional. Over the next year, Artist Rights will commission a range of content bridging the arts, journalism, freedom of expression, and the human rights fields. The section will include a series of rapid response field reports from areas experiencing suppression of thought and creativity as well as the ‘Artist [safe] Spaces’ curriculum (forthcoming in September 2017), derived from a year-long process of training and sharing information among artist residencies newly offering safe haven services around the world.

About 12 years ago Todd founded freeDimensional, a New York-based organization that formed and activated a global network of artist residencies, arts administrators, legal counsel, and those who provide all forms of support for artists in distress. He was joined in this work by Sidd who developed and directed programs before stopping to attend Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Over its decade of work, freeDimensional successfully ensured safe haven for dozens of artists. In addition, it accumulated a vast knowledge on artist rights, artist safety, and freedom of expression from which Artist Rights will draw.

The Artist Rights section of ArtsEverywhere considers the critical roles artists play in society in relation to their mobility, free expression, safety and labour conditions. It includes articles, discussions, and examples of fieldwork at the intersection of arts, journalism, and human rights.

So far we have published a dozen essays and op-eds on artist rights, including the following:

As with so much of the work that ArtsEverywhere connects with, many partners are required to accomplish the full scope of work. Artist Rights on ArtsEverywhere has or will have formal and casual partnerships with many organizations and networks such as IETM, the international network for contemporary performing arts.

This week IETM is hosting the International Campaign for Freedom of Expression in support of the IETM Satellite Meeting in Beirut (6-9 October 2016). They provided the following statement, which resonates fully with the intentions of ArtsEverywhere:

Artists’ rights for freedom of expression are violated all over the world – by states, religious movements, lobbying groups, media, corporations, communities and even by artists themselves.

Censorship takes various forms, from most aggressive sanctions to most concealed constraints, including self-censorship – under fear of losing financial support or in a bid to balance between respecting and provoking political, social and religious sensibilities.

As we speak here today/tonight, more than 150 artists and cultural professionals are gathering in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in support of ongoing reforms of censorship laws in Lebanon and similar campaigns in the South-Mediterranean region.

We resort to our strongest remedy – solidarity, and join our voice to them by dedicating our event today/performance tonight to artistic freedom of expression all over the world.

ArtsEverywhere and its presenting organization, Musagetes, add their voices to this solidarity.

Todd has been an advisor and editor at ArtsEverywhere since its conception in early 2015. He brought numerous partnerships to the platform, including the World Policy Institute (see our joint Arts-Policy Nexus), Contemporary& online magazine,, multiple partners for our Queer City project in São Paulo, and various others that are still in development. Beginning in October 2016, Todd will serve as Partnerships Director and Editorial Advisor to ArtsEverywhere. In that role, he and Sidd will work closely together again to develop Artist Rights.

And, having reached its ten-year horizon, freeDimensional is in the process of closing and handing over its archive of practice to the University of Hildesheim, which holds a UNESCO chair in cultural policy, arts education and freedom of expression.

With great excitement we anticipate Sidd and Todd’s ideas for the Artist Rights line of inquiry, and how the results (e.g. ‘Artist [safe] Spaces’ curriculum) will find their way into the classrooms and learning environment of the University of Hildesheim.

Artist Safety / Safe Haven Hosting

Diana Ramarohetra, Cape Town, South Africa 
Fatemeh Ekhtesari, Lillehammer, Norway 
Laurence Cuny, Dieulefit, France / Valencia, Spain 
Nforchu Mabelle Ngum, Yaounde, Cameroon 
Sebastien Sanz Santamaria, New York City, United States 
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Norway 
David Maggs, Woody Point, Canada 
Małgorzata Różańska, Krakow, Poland 
Julie Trébault, New York City, United States 
Khaled Barakeh, Berlin, Germany 
Abazar Hamid, Harstad, Norway 
Basma El Husseiny, Beirut, Lebanon 
Manojna Yeluri, Hyderabad, India 
Ashley Tucker, New York City, United States 
Ivor Stodolsky & Marita Muukkonen, Helsinki, Finland / Berlin, Germany 

This roundtable is the second in a series of roundtables convened by Residency Unlimited. The concept and leading question were defined by Todd Lanier Lester and Lalita Salander. Lalita Salander convened the roundtable. To read the responses to the first question in the series, click here.

The Beatles of Sudan: 200 songs banished from Khartoum to Norway

Ray Mwareya, Harare, Zimbabwe 

Abazar Hamid’s soft-molded voice offers little about a man whose 200 songs has earned him brutal expulsion from the oil-rich African state of Sudan when his lyrics angered Mr. Omar Al Bashir, the world’s first sitting president to be indicted for genocide. “I’m Abazar Hamid, 44, from central Sudan, 200...

Artistic Freedom of Expression in Turkey: State of Emergency

ArtsEverywhere Report,  

This report has been translated as part of the Sivil Düşün EU Programme, with the support of the European Union. The contents of this report can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union. This report has been written with the aim of investigating and documenting...

Past Borders & Boundaries: Iranian Artist Hadi Nasiri Joins New York City Artist Community

Ashley Tucker, New York City, United States 

Banner image of Hadi Nasiri by Kourosh Sotoodeh. When he was 15, Hadi Nasiri was arrested in Iran for the first time. He had given a speech to his fellow students in the school library, addressing what the Quran says about the hijab, and raising concerns about women’s rights. “They...

Boulevard: The Early History of a Cultural Movement

Ibrahim Abougendy, Cairo, Egypt 

Port Said is a cornerstone—a small city located at the entrance of the Suez Canal that acts as a bridge between Asia and Africa. While the city of Port Said was being built, the Suez Canal was under the control of foreign authorities. This influenced Port Said, which developed a...

Open Casket

Sarah Schulman, New York City, United States 

Controversy engulfed the Whitney Biennial recently over the inclusion of Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket”, an abstract painting that depicts the violently mutilated body of Emmett Till who was murdered by two white men in Mississippi in 1955 after he was falsely accused of whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. On April 10,...

Qalandiya International — A Palestinian Biennial

Gian Spina, Athens, Greece 

the dove’s collar a star abandoned on the roof and a winding alley leading to the port This sea is mine This sea air is mine —Mahmoud Darwish1In Palestine, the impossibility of artistic freedom and the denial of freedom to move within one’s own country conspire as an everyday reality....

The Communicative Ecology of Artist Rights

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

Even as the relationship between the fields of arts, culture and human rights becomes more defined, the global community of organizations, networks and civil society initiatives working at that intersection, advocating for artists and defending free expression remains a relatively small, tight-knit group. However, despite existing connectivity, there is a...

Relocating: Emad Tayefeh

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

It cost Emad Tayefeh $10,000 to bribe Iranian border guards for safe passage to Turkey, $2,500 of which was financed by the advocacy organization Freedom House. While living as a refugee in Istanbul he paid $4,700 for rent, $3,000 for food, and $600 for local transportation over the course of...

Honduras: The Habit of Silence—A Graphic Novel

German Andino, Bilbao, Spain 

Script & Ink: German Andino Introduction Script: Alberto Arce Translation: Andrew Hart *Click on arrows or drag/swipe images to navigate. About German Andino German Andino was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in 1984. He is a man of the streets. But his story, in the streets, is not one...

Rejecting the Tragedy of Violence

Arahmaiani, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia 

That afternoon, surrounding the Tugu monument in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, a group of people could be seen carrying banners, chanting in a loud and menacing tone. They wore masculine-looking clothes: army camouflage jackets and Middle Eastern headwear. This group of young men had an unfriendly appearance, and looked as if they...

Embed in Egypt

Jakob Sergei Weitz, New York City, United States 

Emine Gozde Sevim is a Turkish photographer who lived in Egypt from 2011 to 2013, during the revolution to overthrow former President Hosni Mubarak and the tumultuous years that followed. Her photos capture the personal stories and memories that make up the complex lives of the people that lived through...

The Cost of Telling the Truth

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

After living in hiding for six years in the United States, journalist C.M. Rien Kuntari is ready to go home. “I don’t want to live the rest of my life as a prisoner or as a political asylee. I want to go home as a free person,” she says. Since...

Art, Ethnography, and Exorcism in El Barrio

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

This past July, I traveled with a journalist, German Andino, and the subject of his new graphic novel, Pastor Daniel Pacheco. We visited Rivera Hernandez, a colony of 59 barrios located on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula and, statistically, one of the most violent urban areas in the world....

‘Beirut Mutations’

Samer Mohdad, Beirut, Lebanon 

When popular uprisings were taking place in the countries bordering Lebanon, my book and subsequent exhibition project Beirut Mutations were only just starting to take shape. While many around the world were observing the unfolding developments with hope, I had the feeling that what other Arab countries were experiencing had...

Forced to Flee

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

The summer of 2007 was the first time I visited Ruili City, a dusty port town located in a tight corner on the China-Burma border in Yunnan province. At the time, Ruili was China’s dirty little secret. Colloquially referred to as the ‘Las Vegas of China,’ it was the primary...

The “Depths:” Visual Culture in the Murder Capital of the World

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

It is widely held that Honduras acquired its name from Christopher Columbus, who upon surviving a tropical storm off the Caribbean coast allegedly commented, “Gracia a Dios que hemos salido de estas Honduras,” or “Thank God we survived those treacherous depths.” Strategically located on the Caribbean between the Mosquito Coast...

Looking Back on Charlie Hebdo

Todd Lanier Lester, São Paulo, Brazil 

The day following the Charlie Hebdo attack, I was in line at a public notary office in São Paulo. The local news televised footage of the massacre, relayed on a flat screen meant to placate those of us waiting for an official stamp on this or that official document. My...

Analyzing the Art of Resistance

Mary Ann DeVlieg, New York City, United States 

A theatre director is beaten and stabbed to death in front of his apartment. Another is shot to death in front of his wife and child. A filmmaker is kidnapped, his fingers cut off, and he’s left to bleed along the roadside. A radio DJ wakes to see his car...

Street Art Illuminates Egypt’s Lingering Problems

Sarah Lipkis, New York City, United States 

Under former President Hosni Mubarak, street art in Egypt was heavily monitored. The threat of punishment, prison sentences, and fines, coupled with ubiquitous police presence, made it nearly impossible for artists to carry out their craft as forbidden by the regime. The January 2011 protests in Tahrir Square, however, gave...

Human Rights, Development, and Democracy in Africa: What Role for the Arts?

Mike Van Graan, Cape Town, South Africa 

This is a repost of an article that first appeared on African Futures  In the past 10 to 15 years, a number of African countries have seen sustained and high economic growth, yet this has not lifted the continent’s inhabitants out of poverty. While poverty has been massively reduced in...

The Gezi Park Experience

Pelin Tan, Istanbul, Turkey 

GEZI PARK—Before the Turkish government brutally invaded Taksim Square and Gezi Park with water cannons and tear gas last Saturday, protesters held forums to discuss sustainable action that would continue the resistance beyond the park’s occupation. The Gezi Park experience is about collaboration, solidarity despite differences, voluntary shared labor, an...

Dissident Artists Matter, Regardless of Their Fame

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

Often when I explain what we do at freeDimensional, I am met with some version of, “So like that Chinese artist, what was his name…yes, Ai Weiwei. So like him, you work with artists like him?” To which I often want to respond, “NO! Not Ai Weiwei, every other artist...