Artists at Risk (AR) - Perpetuum Mobile
Artists at Risk (AR) is an institution initiated and curated by Perpetuum Mobile that aims to provide support to threatened artists and art-practitioners from all corners of the globe. While established with a focus on the visual arts, AR has since extended its programs to at-risk practitioners in the performing arts, film, music and other non-literary arts. Through this wide scope, the program directly fills prominent gaps in institutional assistance for creative professionals at risk. Centered in Europe, AR achieves this by providing professional support and artist-in-residency programs through a dense network of co-hosting partners, ensuring that artists are able 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.” Since then, Perpetuum Mobile’s work has focused on building thematic projects, programs and institutions that bring together “fields which often exist in disparate institutional frames and territories.” Perpetuum Mobile (PM) has hosted and collaborated with artists at risk from across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. This includes figures such as Ramy Essam, the “singer of Tahrir Square,” who was imprisoned for his leading role in the 2011 Egyptian revolution. As Perpetuum Mobile continued to work with artists who were threatened for their work, they became aware of a lack of human rights programs that offer help to artists specifically, and residency programs in particular. PM founded Artists at Risk (AR) in 2013 to serve this need for practical emergency solutions. As a result, AR is dedicated to mapping the field of persecuted visual art practitioners, facilitating their safe passage from their countries of origin, hosting them at “AR-Residencies” and curating related projects, including the “AR Pavilion.” In this highly practical way, as well as through campaigns, AR is a recognized advocate for artistic freedom.
AR creates and coordinates specialized AR-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. Working together with co-hosting institutions in Helsinki, Berlin, Cambridge, Athens, Barcelona, Malmö, Oslo, Sofia, Abidjan, Karlsruhe, Tangiers, Tunis and Rome, among others, AR has established an expanding network of AR-Safe Haven Residencies. Artists’ residencies last anywhere from 3 months to a year or longer. Some AR-Residencies are able to host entire families, others 3-4 residents at the same time. Art-practitioners at risk receive a monthly grant, housing, travel, visa, insurance, a production budget, as well as curatorial and administrative support. All AR residencies are open to art-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 calls “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 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 under development.
Konvent Puntzero is a 19th century convent reconverted into a multidisciplinary art center. It aims at cultural mediation via artistic creation and dissemination rooted in the local territory, yet is open to collaborators and visitors from all backgrounds and disciplines. AR-Catalonia at Konvent Puntzero received its first resident in the summer of 2019.
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. It is co-funded by a Nordic Network grant as part of the AR-Network.
AR is hosting its first resident at ZKM-Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in mid-2019 in cooperation with AR-Berlin, supported by a German funder. ZKM will continue within the AR-Network as part of AR-ENSH (a 3-year EU Creative Europe funding tool).
All AR-Residencies are supported by the AR-Secretariat, funded by Kone Foundation. AR is in the process of organizing, funding, and planning further AR-Safe Haven residencies in Tunis, Abidjan, Rome, Barcelona, Krakow, Gnesta, Malmö and Tangiers.
AR collaborates on a number of high profile campaigns advocating for the release of imprisoned arts practitioners. AR has contributed greatly to the “#FreeGalal” 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 Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen also curate events, such as the AR-Pavilion exhibition format. 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.
In October 2016, Perpetuum Mobile / Artists at Risk was honoured with the CIVI EUROPAEO PRAEMIUM (“European Citizen’s Prize”) by the European Parliament. More recently, The Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) awarded its Theme-Year Prize to the Artists at Risk (AR) program of Perpetuum Mobile.
AR is one of ARC’s core partners, and the two organizations have worked closely together since ARC’s inception. When artists-at-risk who contact ARC need relocation or safe passage, AR’s residencies have been a critical resource. ARC fully recognizes the integral role organizations like AR play in protecting artistic freedom by providing safe, supportive environments for persecuted artists to work.
By Bridget Duggan, September 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.