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During the 58th Venice Biennale, Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen heralded the birth of the Human Rights Pavilion, an evolving artwork that will take shape over the course of three years, as it travels the world, visiting almost every continent on earth. In 2024, Vanmechelen will present his completed OPUS at the next Venice Biennale, as an appeal to the world, and possibly as the start of a recurring international human rights pavilion.


Vanmechelen launched the Human Rights Pavilion in collaboration with international partners: the Global Campus of Human Rights, the biggest academic network for human rights; Fondazione Berengo, a Venetian institution; and the MOUTH Foundation, an organization bringing together art, science and society on the theme of diversity. The ambitious project kicks off soon, at the 58th Venice Biennale.

Over the next three years, the Pavilion will gain momentum via the dialogues, travels, correspondences, explorations and creations that Vanmechelen will set up with various local partners worldwide. Roaming the planet, the pavilion-to-be will take shape through contact with persons and organisations involved with or interested in human rights, from the Mapuche tribe in Chile to the United Nations in New York. The starting point is Vanmechelen's conviction that the global level can only exist thanks to the generosity of the local one.

COSMOCAFE At various locations, unexpected encounters and conversations will be encouraged via so-called SoTO (Survival of The Other) dialogues, in pop-up Cosmocafes. These local meeting hubs will become hotbeds for new ideas. Central to these dialogues is the content and potential of creating a universal corpus of human rights, to which all people - and by extension our planet’s entire natural environment – are inherently entitled. A global system that, like biodiversity, is seriously threatened today.

Manfred Nowak, Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights: “Bringing people together in Cosmocafes at various locations around the world gives rise to a new movement. Meetings and dialogue entail the possibility of creating something new. For Koen Vanmechelen, art is not just a product, but also a process that spreads a message as it develops. Art as a virus.” Wherever in the world, Cosmocafes will always bring together a mix of local and global players; people from different disciplines. Koen Vanmechelen: “By my years of work on children's and nature rights, I have learned that connecting people is of vital importance. The foundation of the philosophy that unites my work is the adage: ‘Every organism needs another organism to survive’.”


The project will be initiated during the GLASSTRESS exhibition in Venice and then go on a world tour. Cosmocafes and SoTO dialogues are planned in Mexico, Chile and Finland, at the UN assembly in Geneva and at LABIOMISTA, the artist’s home base. “Various partners are invited to contribute, both to the artistic research and to the development of the artwork. The aim is to include as many disciplines, perspectives and cultures as possible in the creative process," says the artist.

At the end of 2021, all input will be reassembled into a unifying OPUS. This work will be submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission and the president and curator of the 59th Venice Biennale. Accompanying it will be a call for the creation of a recurring supranational human rights pavilion as part of the Venice Biennale.

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