Our worlds are becoming increasingly interconnected, with new technologies changing the way we communicate and who we communicate with. In the Human Rights Art and Film Festival’s (HRAFF) annual art show – entitled Echoes of Others – artists explore the impact this has on global human rights. Are new technologies bringing human rights issues closer to our lives, through television, the internet and the wide range of resources at our fingertips? Or is it widening the gap between those who have access to this new world and those who don’t?
Lex Randolph is one of the artists who explores this connection. Through his work “Tree of Rights”, Randolph connects himself to Burmese human rights advocate Myo Min Zaw, who has been jailed as a prisoner of conscience. Though roughly the same age – and both working in human rights – the two men have lived drastically different lives. Through his work, Randolph explores the degrees of separation that divide and, at the same time, connect the two of them.
As viewers enter the exhibition they are confronted with the giant black and white words “Democracy is a Good Idea”. Instantly, the work provokes the viewer. On the one hand, the statement suggests some form of a challenge yet, at the same time, it is in itself an exercise in democracy. Entitled “Irritation is the Greatest Form of Flattery” it represents the tension between ideals and reality by presenting in black and white an ideology that is fundamentally about compromise.
The strength of the exhibition lies in its diversity. The range of artists, approaches and techniques allow the issue to be well explored from a variety of viewpoints. Some works are hopeful; some are saddening.
The tapestry created by the Keiskamma Trust is an example of both. It examines the different opportunities offered to rich and poor women when faced by the same problems. It tells the story of two women, both of whom were infected with a sexually transmitted infection by their male partner. The rich woman was able to sue her partner and received compensation; the poorer woman did not have the same fortune and ended up passing on the disease to her child. Yet at the same time the Keiskamma Trust is an exercise in hope. Operating in the Pedi South District of South Africa, they have a strong history of developing income for the 130 men and women they work with.
Minela Krupic’s beautiful etchings are one of the exhibition’s many highlights. Tiny, delicate and displayed in a circle, their depth of detail draws you in. Born in Bosnia, Krupic’s work explores the Eastern European themes of memory, displacement and the hope that comes with relocation. She combines Australian content with Bosnian images and icons, demonstrating her personal connection to the world and the human rights issues it faces.
Echoes of Others is on exhibition at No Vacancy Gallery from 16 to 27 May. Centrally located, this show is well worth checking out.