“RED ZONE – FREE THE ARTS”
International celebration of freedom of expression in art and culture
Art has a power that many authorities fear. It is often much more on target in its description of reality than other forms of expression, reaching hearts more directly than the well-worn approaches of the news media. This is why many artistic forms of expression are controlled, censored and prohibited in today’s world. Classical examples are dictatorships that for a variety of reasons, including power politics, and religious or cultural concerns, monitor artists and censor their expressive endeavours. But more subtle methods are also used to suppress artists: in Western democracies controversial and penetrating observations and expressions are marginalized and unacknowledged because they “don’t sell”, or “don’t appeal to common interests”.
Art is like the air we breathe and the water we drink. It must move freely if we are to survive. In all countries and among all groups of people art is crucial when we shape our identities, and form and develop our nations. In significant historical and contemporary movements and change processes, art, including the written word, theatre, music and song, has motivated and mobilized people to maintain hope and the will to resist oppression and persecution. We have seen the mobilizing force of artists in today’s Egypt, and we know the significance of songs in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, against slavery in the US, and in the civil rights movement in the US. In the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Vysotskij’s songs functioned as “living bandages” for the soul of the Russian folk, contributing to the growth of Glasnost and Perestroika. It is not hard to imagine what Nora in “A Doll’s House” and Pippi Longstockings have meant to equality and women’s liberation in and outside Scandinavia. From the world of films we know that today’s Iranian filmmakers are able to show the world a different Iran than what the authorities want us to see, which in turn reduces the stigmatization of this country in the West.
Freedom of speech and religious freedom at times surface as sub-topics at festivals and concerts in Norway. Some artists are more specifically interested in this topic, while cultivating an art form, such as literature or film.
“Red Zone” is a broad annual cultural festival involving most forms of art. It will focus on creative artists, groups and areas where:
- Free artistic expressions challenge written and unwritten laws and regulations in the country or environment where the art is performed or shown
- The right to perform art is in itself violated or controlled for political, religious, cultural, ethnic, financial or other reasons
- The right of women to participate in culture and society is impeded or suppressed
- There are links between violations of the right to freedom of expression in dictatorships and suppression of art in democracies for commercial and political reasons
The intentions of the festival are
- To be an arena for music, dance, drama, poetry, film and visual art
- To have its primary focus on artistic manifestation; action rather than discussion
- To feature concerts, performances, exhibitions, and also some seminars and debates
- To be a Norwegian celebration of the international “Music Freedom Day”, http://musicfreedomday.org/
- Strengthen the right to freedom of expression in the form of free creative activity and participation in art and culture
- Help art and artists to expand their efforts, i.e. their opportunity to create and express themselves freely without reprisal, internationally and in their own country
In this way we wish to create a new arena to present suppressed, unknown and under-communicated art and culture in a Western context. The festival will nourish the debate on culture and identity, cultural forms of expression and the right to art in a Norwegian context and should receive attention in the media and amongst the general public, as well as in Norwegian environments especially focused on culture and international aid.
We also intend to contribute to a more constructive dialogue with regimes and environments where freedom of expression is threatened and suppressed and to exert pressure on them, and to improve dialogues with and build bridges to the minority environments in Norway.
This festival targets several groups:
- Artists who are living and working under oppressive regimes, that is to say to help these artists to gain more freedom of expression and a greater degree of personal security in their artistic endeavours.
- The audience these artists are reaching out to, whether by way of CD, digital media, video/youtube or concerts/performances.
- Media, decision-makers and activists, i.e. those who can help to get the word out and raise awareness in relevant forums where power is maintained and decisions are made.
- The following will be the target groups for concerts and events during the festival/symposium:
- The general public in the Oslo region and Norway when it is arranged in Norway, and in partner cities when arranged in another country (see below).
- People from the diaspora or immigrant environments
- Other people working with culture and cultural administration
- The international discourse on culture, identity and development
Fundamentalism of any kind will be an overriding and continuing theme in the future. We will reflect on contemporary global situations and issues, but also relate our work to Norwegian historical traditions and relations, from Ibsen to the present. We will do this by including cultural freedom and expression in newer Norwegian environments and relate this to dialogue and attempts at oppression, conflicts and terrorism, also in a Norwegian context.
Walid Al Kubaisi, author
Nina Witoszek, professor
Nina Zandjani, translator
Kate Pendry, actor and director
Sigbjørn Nedland, programme director
Cato Litangen, general manager
John Peder Egenæs, general secretary
Erik Hillestad, general manager and producer
Morten Eriksen, consultant
We want to alternate festival arenas between Oslo and partners in other countries, i.e. arranging the festival every second year in Oslo and every second year abroad. This will have a number of advantages and positive side effects:
- Focus on themes and artists in the arranging country
- It will challenge authorities in the arranging countries and regions
- Competence transfer and sharing of experiences
- Network building
For more information, contacts us.