2018 Art Action Day - In the Words of the Artist
Artists are the lifeblood of thriving societies. They are also often the most vulnerable as they challenge stereotypes and deeply ingrained cultural taboos. When they are threatened for their work, we believe that they deserve greater support from a larger, global community. ARC seeks to help threatened artists by connecting them to the many resources and organizations that already exist with this very mission.
On this 2018 Art Action Day organized by The Federation, we want to celebrate the voices of artists all over the world and emphasize the importance of keeping cultural borders open. Over the week leading up to Art Action Day, we published StoryCorps interviews with six artists from different areas of the world, with different artistic practices and very different stories.
Mai Khoi, singer and activist
In March 2016, Mai Khoi disrupted Vietnamese politics by running as an independent candidate in protest to unjust political systems. Since then, she has been harassed, evicted from her home, and her concerts have been shut down.
“Life without art is a sort of death. Without art, people have no emotions, no soul to taste, to hear what’s going on around their lives.” Listen to her interview.
Khoi’s project for 2018
Mai Khoi and the Dissidents, her three-person band, plan to release a new album in February 2018. Khoi is also participating in an original circus performance called Bamboom! and involved in the creation of a pan Asian symphony called Seaphony that will be made up of ethnic minority musicians.
To learn more about Mai Khoi and her music, read her profile.
Khaled Barakeh, visual artist and cultural activist
Khaled Barakeh is a visual artist originally from Syria that has lived in Europe for over a decade. Originally trained as a painter, he has developed a stronger concentration on conceptual art practices. Today he works in a variety of media, focusing on the current and pertinent issues, often revolving around politics and power structures in context of identity, culture and history.
“Art is the ultimate freedom. You choose your path and you go for it. Life without art is like food without taste.” Listen to his interview.
Barakeh’s projects for 2018
Barakeh continues to add on projects to his growing studio. He will continue to expand the world of the Syria Culture Index and is preparing to launch the first Syrian biennale, which will follow the paths of Syrian refugees starting in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, the Balkan road, and finally through Europe.
Elif Refiğ, filmmaker
New York, USA
Elif Refiğ is a Turkish filmmaker who recently moved back to New York. She has taken part in resistance movements as a filmmaker and activist, has worked within city rights and feminist resistance committees and contributed to collective documentaries.
"Art is essential to democracy to fight its tendencies towards fascism." Listen to her interview.
Refiğ’s projects for 2018
Refiğ is currently working on her second feature film that will be set in Cyprus and explores the story of a mother who gambles in the context of a conservative society. She is also working on her first cartoon project.
Watch the trailers for her feature Ferahfeza (Ships) and Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater where all footage was taken by the demonstrators and transferred to an open pool. All the contributors can still use it. Look at a follow up video of the current state of the place four years later.
Jude Dibia, writer and activist
Nigerian author Jude Dibia is the author of three novels, Walking in the Shadows, Unbridled, and Blackbird, and several short stories. Featured in local and international anthologies and magazines, his work has also been recognized with the Ken-Saro Wiwa Prize for Prose in Nigeria. The popularity of Walking with Shadows, a novel that follows a gay male protagonist as he attempts to reconcile his “outing”, combined with the adoption of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in Nigeria in 2014 put him highly at risk. Jude left Nigeria in 2015 and lives now in Sweden.
“Life would be empty, blind, invisible. Art is represented in every aspect of our lives. Art lives through every individual or thing. Take that away, you might as well take away life from every form.” Listen to his interview.
Meriam Bousselmi, playwright, director and lawyer
Meriam Bousselmi is a Tunisian dramaturg, director and lecturer who writes both in French and Arabic. The recurring themes of her work are power and justice in their universal dimension. Her pieces deal with the issue of authoritative discourse, the right to say with Ce que le dictateur n'a pas dit (What The Dictator has not say), and the duty to be quiet with Mémoire en retraite (Retired Memory).
“I can be denied a visa, but no one can prevent the wanderings of my soul and spirit.” Listen to her very special take on the Art Action Day interview where she read her theatrical essay "You are not a tree".
Heny Maatar, electronic music producer, sound designer and cultural activist
Heny Maatar (also known as Fusam or 52hertzwhale) is a Tunisian music producer whose music revolved around the thematic of universal liberties and the criticisms of indoctrination and social structures. As a cultural activist, Maatar engages in the democratization of creative digital tools for youth and access to culture for disadvantaged communities.
“Life would be losing the meaning of itself. Life would be hopeless. Art works as an escape and a reality changer. It’s at the same time the most beautiful illusion and the only hope for true change.” Listen to his interview.
Maatar’s projects for 2018
Among many, he is working on a collaborative project that will take place in Tunisia.