Though being a big (and rather complicated) topic, the Arts Rights Justice Forum 2017 felt very intimate and well catered to an audience focussed within the worlds of art and culture. Housed at Vertretung des Landes Niedersachsen beim Bund, it was a slick affair wholly in line with the assumptions one would expect from such a well-known venue.
The presenters, representing exalted businesses and NGOs such as UNESCO, ICORN, IARA and Index of Censorship (just to mention a few), all put forward poignant points of view which left me with a lot to think of and a lot of food for thought.
One in particular that stood out for me was the short speech on relocation (Relocation – Escaping as a strategy?) by the independent expert and artist Todd Lanier Lester, where he raised the question that, if relocation is not a sustainable option in the future then what are the viable alternatives?
This question was raised by several other speakers, with some even arguing that it’s a question of dislocation rather than relocation. It is indeed very important to remember that relocation does in many cases mean dislocation as well, as the person most likely has been forced to leave home, family, and community for a new place where everything has to be started from scratch.
The keynote speech by Farida Shaheed (Former UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights) raised several interesting points on the cultural right, cultural diversity and what that means today.
In her speech (Enabling cultural rights and freedom of expression: usability of UN reports for practical action) Shaheed mentioned that it is important to be able to “freely participate in cultural life” – referring the rights to access and practise your own culture, but also be able to access and participate in all communities and culture. This statement is something which echoes with what Hangar 1 believe in: making sure that there is the right for everyone to participate and exercise their own culture, as well as participate, if wanted, in the culture of the communities around them.
Further to this Shaheed expressed her belief that “art is not a luxury. It’s a necessity”, which hit home as I believe it’s a motto we should all ascribe towards. This is exactly what we at Hangar 1 believe in and it is at the very core of what we are doing.
With much food for thought, I left feeling incredibly inspired by all the speakers, organizations, companies and people at the event. Early at the start of the event someone said “we’re all in this together” and I think that this is very important to remember – We are, indeed, all in this together!