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Mechelen and Brussels, Belgium

01.09. — 10.12.12

Participating artists include: Ravi Agarwal (India), Kader Attia (France/Algeria), Yael Bartana (Israel), Sammy Baloji (DR Congo), Taysir Batniji (Palestine), Ali Ferzat (Syria), Ziyah Gafiç (Bosnia/Herzegovina), David Goldblatt (South Africa), Hans Haacke (Germany/USA), Mona Hatoum (Lebanon/UK), Diango Hernandez (Cuba), Alfredo Jaar (Chile), Hayv Kahraman (Iraq), Nikita Kadan (Ukraine), Thomas Locher (Germany), MadeIn (China), Boniface Mwangi (Kenya), Marina Naprushkina (Belarus), Taryn Simon (USA). 

More than sixty years after the Declaration of Human Rights, the protection of human rights is still an urgent global issue. NEWTOPIA: The State of Human Rights was a major international contemporary art exhibition dedicated to human rights. It charted the development of the human rights movement and its evolving discourse since the post-war era. NEWTOPIA explored the numerous, complex, and multi-faceted issues pertaining to human rights. The exhibition was divided into several thematic chapters that traced the development of human rights and their rise, particularly since the 1970s. It negotiated the different and complex facets of human rights: from civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights, to the right to sustainable development, to peace, and to a healthy environment, while emphasizing the indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent nature of these rights.

NEWTOPIA was on view in Mechelen, Belgium, from 1 September to 10 December 2012, and featured a satellite exhibition in Brussels. NEWTOPIA presented more than 70 acclaimed and emerging artists working in diverse media. Many of them came from countries and regions where human rights have been or still are a particularly contested issue such as the Arab World, China, Latin America, and the former Soviet Republics. Half of the artists came from non-Western countries.

There were two new commissions in public space, a large-scale video installation by the internationally renowned Polish artist Krysztof Wodiczko and a mural by the Egyptian artist Ganzeer, who has been the driving force behind the visuals in public space for the Egyptian revolution. Finally, there was also a curated exhibition within the exhibition itself; South African, Brussels-based artist Kendell Geers decided to open up his solo invitation to NEWTOPIA and invite guests and friends to share their personal visions and interpretations of the complex subject of human rights. His project included, among others, Marina Abramovic, Barbara Kruger, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Nedko Solakov, and Zapiro. 

NEWTOPIA coincided with the opening of the new Kazerne Dossin Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre for the Holocaust and Human Rights and was configured as a parcours in various cultural institutions in the city-centre of the historic Flemish city of Mechelen—only 20 minutes from Brussels.

NEWTOPIA also featured a satellite exhibition at ING Cultural Centre in the heart of Brussels—a solo exhibition of the internationally renowned artist Alfredo Jaar (Chile).

NEWTOPIA was part of the exhibition cluster Visual Arts Flanders 2012, which comprised five international exhibitions in the region of Flanders


Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were both partners of the project.

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Installation views: Cultuurcentrum, Mechelen


Installation views: De Vleeshal

Installation views: Museum Hof van Busleyden

Installation views: LAMOT Brewery

Top: Ganzeer / Bottom: Krysztof Wodiczko, video projection on the facade of the city town hall

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