Artists at Risk (AR) - Perpetuum Mobile
Artists at Risk (AR) is a program curated by Perpetuum Mobile that aims to provide support to threatened artists and arts practitioners from all corners of the globe. While mainly focused on visual artists, AR extends its programs to writers, critics and scholars as well. Through this wide scope, the program directly fills the prominent gap in assistance offered to creative professionals at risk. Centered in Europe, AR achieves this by providing legal and professional support, hosting residency programs through a network of co-hosting spaces, and ensuring that artists have the right to continue their creative activity safely and free from threat.
In 2007, Marita Muukkonen and Ivor Stodolsky founded Perpetuum Mobile as “a curatorial vehicle which brings together art, practice and enquiry” in the greater Nordic and European region. Since then, Perpetuum Mobile’s work has focused on themes that intersect with threatened artists and the specific issues they face, including displacement, lack of agency, and threatened subjectivity. Since then, PM has hosted and collaborated with artists at risk from across Europe Asia and Africa, including Ramy Essam, who was imprisoned for performing a song encouraging the 2011 Tahrir Square uprisings in Egypt. As Perpetuum Mobile continued to work with artists who were threatened for their work, they became aware of a lack of direct human rights programs that offer help to artists specifically, especially in terms of residency programs. PM founded Artists at Risk (AR) in 2013 to serve this need, and to advocate for artistic freedom.
AR hosts specialized Safe Haven Residencies in multiple locations throughout Europe and Africa. In doing so, AR offers artists at risk of torture, imprisonment, or other forms of persecution short- or long-term temporary relocation. Current or future AR-Safe Haven Residencies operate or will operate in Helsinki, Berlin, Cambridge, Athens, Barcelona, Malmö, Oslo, Sofia, Abidjan, and Rome, among others. AR residencies last anywhere from 3-18 months, and host 3-4 residents at the same time. They include a monthly grant, housing, travel, visa, and insurance costs, a production budget, as well as curatorial and administrative support. All AR residencies are open to arts practitioners from across the globe, and have differing capacities and focal points, which can be found on their website.
Currently, there are twelve active residencies, which include, among others:
AR-Safe Haven Helsinki is curated by Artists at Risk/Perpetuum Mobile and co-hosted by Perpetuum Mobile, Eläintarha Villa and Helsinki International Artists Program. It is funded by Helsinki’s Department of Culture, and was the first of Artists at Risk’s Safe Haven programs to launch. Helsinki acts as the anchor to all AR-Safe Haven Residencies, which all follow what AR call “The Helsinki Model.” In 2016, AR-Safe Haven Helsinki was honored with The Annual Art Act award, which rewards organizations that promote contemporary art, challenge norms, and foster the appreciation of art both in Finland and abroad.
AR-Safe Haven Athens launched in 2017 with the support of “Re-Build Refuge Europe,” a Creative Europe EU project undertaken in cooperation with European Alternatives. AR-Athens has developed in parallel with several local partners, and was part of the programme of the Athens Biennale “Omonia” in 2015-2016. Additionally, the first AR-Pavillion was a part of AR-Athens. This residency is currently awaiting further funding.
AR-Safe Haven Berlin was launched in 2017, also funded by EC Creative Europe as part of the “Re-Build Refugee Europe” network. The program welcomed its first AR-Resident in early 2018 and a longer-term residency was initiated with the support of the Cosmopolitan Berlin program in 2018-2019. In Berlin, Perpetuum Mobile works with organizations including the leading Institute for Art in Context (UdK, Berlin) of the Berlin University of the Arts, SAVVY Contemporary, n.b.k. (Neuer Berliner Kunstverein), Apartment Project, coculture and other independent spaces.
Saari Residence is an artist-in-residence center run by Kone Foundation on the western coast of Finland. This AR-Residency includes two months at the Saari Residence in Finland, funded by Kone Foundation, followed by one month in Helsinki funded by Saastamoinen Foundation. The AR-Saari Residence has had 1-2 residents a year since 2018.
AR-Safe Haven Provence, also known as the “Resistance Residency” is located at the Villa Chêne Vert on the Mediterranean littoral in the French countryside. Its location belongs to the family of Lisa Fittko, who is celebrated for saving the life of Jewish German philosopher Walter Benjamin before his untimely death. AR – Safe Haven Provence aims to continue this legacy of resistance against fascism in its programming, and is currently awaiting further funding.
Wysing Arts Centre hosts a dedicated three-month AR-Safe Haven Residency at a farmhouse in the English countryside outside of Cambridge and works together with other artists-in-residence at this diversity-oriented program. The first AR-Resident at the Wysing Art Centre, Tito Valery in 2018, participated in events at the Tate Modern and held an exhibition in the space of Yinka Shonibare. This residency is currently in a phase of project planning.
AR-Radar Sofia is run in cooperation with RADAR Sofia, an independent art hub located in Bulgaria's capital, which joined the Artists at Risk (AR) network of AR-Safe Haven Residencies in May 2019. As part of the AR-Network, it is supported by the AR-Secretariat, funded by Kone Foundation
AR is hosting its first resident at ZKM-Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in 2019 in cooperation with AR-Berlin, funded from within Germany. ZKM will continue within the AR-Network as part of AR-ENSH.
AR is also in the process of organizing, funding, and planning further AR-Safe Haven residencies in Tunis, Abidjan, Rome, Iceland, Stockholm, Malmö, Oslo, and Catalonia.
AR collaborates on a number of high profile campaigns advocating for the release of imprisoned arts practitioners. AR has contributed greatly to the Free Galal campaign, advocating for the release of imprisoned Egyptian poet and songwriter Galal Al-Behairy, through the publication of an open letter alongside partner organizations, including PEN America, Safemuse, Freemuse, and ARC, calling for all charges against El-Behairy to be dropped in both the Military Court and the High State Security Court, and by spearheading a petition calling for his release. AR has also advocated for asylum for at-risk artists. In February of 2019, The Stockholm Migration Court was set to return Lusine Dzjanyan, of the Russian feminist resistance band Pussy Riot, and her partner Alexey Knedlyakovsky to Russia, where they have previously faced imprisonment and violence. In response, AR wrote a letter addressed to The Minister of Justice of the Government of Sweden and The Stockholm Migration Court, which was co-signed by partners including ARC, Safemuse, and PEN America. The following April, Swedish authorities overturned their original decision, granting Lusine Djanyan, Alexey Knedlyakovsky and their children the right to asylum in Sweden.
In addition to campaigning, providing assistance, and hosting residencies, AR founders Muukkonen and Stodolsky also curate events through the AR-Pavilion program. In late 2018, AR presented AR-Pavilion Berlin: mutatis mutandis, which featured works exploring human rights violations in the context of art production under repressive regimes. It featured works by artists Babi Badalov, Chto Delat, Lusine Djanyan, Fatoş İrwen, Damian Le Bas and Delaine Le Bas and AR-Safe Haven residents Baran Çağinli, Issa Touma, and Tito Valery. AR’s Pavilion events always feature the work of threatened artists, and have also been held in Athens, Istanbul, and Madrid.
By Bridget Duggan, July 2019. Bridget is currently pursuing a B.A. in Sociology with minors in English and Sustainability at George Washington University. She is an aspiring storyteller, and passionate about the pursuit of social change through the arts.