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Faces, text and voices affirm human rights

Feb 05,2007
Renato Jordan stands in front of one of his text paintings.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” ― Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
More than half a century after the 1948 adoption of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the planet, more than ever, still faces violence, prejudice and hunger.

Two art exhibits at the Korea Cultural Foundation, “etre ― The Face of Human Rights” and “Renato Jordan: Human Rights on 10 Panels,” hope to bring human rights to the forefront of people’s minds in a way that politics cannot.
“Where words fail, maybe paintings and photographs can facilitate a better understanding of human rights,” said Christian Hauswirth, the Swiss ambassador to Korea.

a triptych on the theme of health.Chris Steele-Perkins, 1992
The embassy of Switzerland in Seoul organized the exhibit with support from the Korea Foundation Cultural Center and Laurence Geoffrey’s Ltd.
“etre ― The Face of Human Rights” is a collection of 39 photos on 13 triptychs. Each triptych, which is an assembly of three panels, addresses a basic human rights issues. One shows photos of a skeletal Somalian woman breast-feeding her tiny child (by Chris Steele-Perkins, 1992) and a French woman holding a Champagne glass and smoking a cigarette (Martin Parr, 2001). A headline reads “The Right to Health ― Must a woman’s life in some African countries be so much shorter than in Western Europe?”
“The umbrella idea is to make an exhibition covering all aspects of human rights starting with the charter of human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Roland Viotti, the culture and commerce counsellor at the Swiss Embassy.

Bruno Barbey, 1966
“Human Rights on Ten Panels,” by Swiss artist Renato Jordan, features text-paintings, which the artist began creating in 1984. On 10 panels, the artist hand-drew the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in grey, then painted the names of the countries that signed the declaration. On either side of the painting, there are two speakers. From one, comes the voice of someone reading the names of the countries that signed the declaration, while from the other, 10 people overlap in their recitation of the declaration.
“I wanted to express the fact that even though we see and hear the declaration all the time, almost nobody really understands the full meaning behind the articles. We are all confused,” said Mr. Jordan. “The human rights declaration is not a law. Therefore it is not forcefully binding. Although these 30 articles are a crucial part of how we should live, a number of the 129 countries which signed this declaration are not abiding by the statements.”

Martin Parr, 2001. Provided by the embassy of Switzerland in Korea
Both exhibits are at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center, Gallery Nuri, Jung district, central Seoul, from Feb. 1 to 21. The nearest subway station is City Hall, lines No. 1 and 2, exit 9. For more information, use (02) 3789-5600 or www.ktcenter.or.kr.


by Cho Jae-un [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]


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