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These pop-up sculptures reclaim public space for women

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

On Wednesday morning Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, woke to a surprise – seven sculptures have popped up across its center. The sculptures are a result of an art intervention protesting the lack of women’s monuments in the city.

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

MONUMENT #1 is a series of sculptures by the Bulgarian artist and designer Erka, created in collaboration with Fine Acts. The work seeks to raise awareness about the lack of monuments honouring notable women in Bulgaria - a EU member state.

According to official data from the Sofia municipality, there are no monuments of women historical figures in the city, and less than 6% of all memorials (most of which plaques) are dedicated to women. None of Sofia's existing memorials commemorate important events for the women's rights movement at the beginning of the 20th century.

The brightly-coloured busts were placed at some of the most central locations across Sofia during a covert early-morning action on Wednesday, March 22.

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

For this art intervention Fine Acts teamed up with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), the country’s leading human rights group, and got the support of the ad agency Tribal Worldwide Sofia.

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

The key point of the intervention is to reclaim public space. Public space, much like history, belongs to women too - this is why we want to assert our rightful place. In Bulgaria’s past there are many incredible, inspiring women, but their accomplishments are erased from public memory.

“The sculptures are a portrait of me. I wanted to take a strong personal, public stance as a contemporary woman and artist and say - enough. However, they are also anonymous, as they do not bear my name, just a sign: “The first monument of a woman in Sofia”. In these sculptures I am every woman. With this work I want to give women what they are entitled to but have been denied for decades - a place, visibility and recognition”, says the artist.

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

“Our mission is to bring together activists and artists from across the globe to work on collaborative art projects that instigate social change. What we observed in Sofia for just a couple of days was an art intervention that shone a spotlight on a problem that somehow remained unquestioned for decades, stirring up a huge public debate and getting thousands of people engaged”, says Fine Acts’ Co-founder and Director Yana Buhrer Tavanier.  

The problem with women-free public space is not reserved to Bulgaria.

Currently UK’s Invisible Women campaign aims to challenge the staggering inequality in numbers of civic statues of women and men.

A recent campaign in New York protests the fact that presently there are no statues honoring real women in Central Park. Women are only represented in the park by statues of Alice in Wonderland or Mother Goose, as well as by angels, nymphs and allegorical figures. The campaign advocates placing a statue of women’s rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the park.

An edict passed by the Kreuzberg district in Berlin, Germany, requires that streets and public places be named for women until parity is reached with men, part of a longstanding debate over official efforts to undo entrenched gender roles in German society.

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

“The lack of monuments, honouring historic women, enhances the wrong perception that women have no valuable accomplishments or that they have not contributed to the development of society”, says Svetla Baeva, Campaign Director at the BHC.

The seven sculptures are to be exhibited at a prominent Sofia gallery in April, and later auctioned. All proceeds will go towards funding the placing of the first monument dedicated to a woman in Sofia.  

Citizens are invited to sign a petition, addressed to the Sofia municipality, demanding the adoption of a strategy for closing the gender gap in public sculpture in the city. Hundreds have already supported the call to honor women who have contributed to development of the city and country. An ongoing poll is collecting information on the public’s favourite for the first monument.

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

Photo: Mihail Novakov

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Our work got selected as finalist in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards

  Photo: John Wadsworth

 

Photo: John Wadsworth

Our project The Future just got selected as finalist in Fast Company’s premiere World Changing Ideas Awards!

The awards honor projects and concepts that offer innovative solutions to the issues facing humanity. A panel of 25 expert judges combed through more than 1,200 entries from around the world to find the most innovative ideas to make the world better.

The Future is an ongoing work by Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem, commissioned by and created in collaboration with Fine Acts. It is a series of data-driven sculptures that illuminate critical human rights issues affecting people around the world.

Our work is one of ten finalists in the Photography/Visualization category of the World Changing Ideas Awards, and is also highlighted in the April issue of the print Fast Company magazine.

Yay!

See more about the work here and here.

- Yana

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Fine Acts selected as one of 50 ideas for Europe, by the European Cultural Foundation

We are super excited that Fine Acts was selected as one of 50 ideas for Europe, by the European Cultural Foundation.

With its focus on “Moving Communities”, the 2017 Idea Camp follows an open call for "daring ideas to build societies with greater equality, sustainability and solidarity, and a stronger sense of social justice". 

We are spending the week in Madrid with a group of inspiring individuals, aiming to challenge anti-democratic practices and amplify voices excluded from the public debate.

Yana

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Sign up to be alerted when Migration Watch begins

 

You can now sign up to be alerted when Migration Watch begins.

Alison Killing’s Migration Watch tells the story of the refugees’ and migrants’ journeys and takes a closer look at the issues behind events that are still unfolding.

Bringing together real human stories, new writing, immersive data visualisations, and academic research, Migration Watch is a '10-day real-time' interactive documentary, following the fortunes of ten refugees travelling to and through Europe, in search of a better life.

Migration Watch allows you to:

  • Trace the routes travelled by millions.
  • Accompany one of ten characters on their journey, written exclusively for the project by writers from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Libya.
  • Listen to a daily podcast to hear the experiences of migrants and refugees in their own words; plus insights from aid workers, volunteers, local government officials and policy makers, and analysis of the deeper causes of this ‘crisis’.

Yana

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Fine Acts recognized by the Royal Society of Arts

Photo: C. G. P. Grey

Photo: C. G. P. Grey

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) recognized Fine Acts by just naming Yana as Fellow!

Being awarded a Fellowship is considered an honour, as fellows must have demonstrated “a high level of achievement related to the arts, manufactures and commerce.”

The RSA is a British organisation committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges. Founded back in 1754, it was granted a Royal Charter in 1847. Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee are some of the most notable past and present Fellows. 

Julie

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The Future goes to Dallas Aurora

Photo: Dallas Aurora

Photo: Dallas Aurora

The Future, a series of data-driven sculptures by Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem, in collaboration with Fine Acts, is currently on display at the glorious Dallas Aurora. For the first time, there we are showing three sculptures that illuminate the overall state of peace, death penalty and marriage equality around the world.

The word "future" is written in Mandarin, Hindi and English using lightbulbs representing every sovereign state. The lights are lit for countries at peace, who allow same sex marriage and who have dropped the death penalty. The number of light bulbs suspended in the air corresponds to the total number of bulbs that remain unlit on all three signs, representing the potential for a brighter and more peaceful future.

Go and see the work if you are around!

Yana

Photo: Mike Fleming

Photo: Mike Fleming

Photo: Mike Fleming

Photo: Mike Fleming

Photo: Mike Fleming

Photo: Mike Fleming

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Building The Future

The Future in Hindi, with a chop saw for scale. Photo: Alicia Eggert

The Future in Hindi, with a chop saw for scale. Photo: Alicia Eggert

With Dallas Aurora approaching fast, Alicia is busy building The Future.

In Texas we are exhibiting not one, not two, but three sculptures! The Future #1 that premiered at TED2015 was focusing on conflicts around the world. The works we are showing in a little over a week illuminate the overall state of peace, death penalty and marriage equality around the world.

Yana

Alicia: “I am so so grateful for my two assistants, Michelle and Brandon, who have been working overtime for me the past few weeks, and to everyone else who's volunteered their time to make The Future a reality. It looks like I might actually get everything done for @dallasaurora next weekend”. Photo: Alicia Eggert

Alicia: “I am so so grateful for my two assistants, Michelle and Brandon, who have been working overtime for me the past few weeks, and to everyone else who's volunteered their time to make The Future a reality. It looks like I might actually get everything done for @dallasaurora next weekend”. Photo: Alicia Eggert

One of three light bulb signs for @dallasaurora, with Brandon and Michelle for scale. You can see it at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas this weekend. Private tour on Saturday at 7pm. Photo: Alicia Eggert

One of three light bulb signs for @dallasaurora, with Brandon and Michelle for scale. You can see it at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas this weekend. Private tour on Saturday at 7pm. Photo: Alicia Eggert

Over a mile of wire and counting… Photo: Alicia Eggert

Over a mile of wire and counting… Photo: Alicia Eggert

Electricity is a beautiful thing. Photo: Alicia Eggert

Electricity is a beautiful thing. Photo: Alicia Eggert

The Future is bright. Photo: Alicia Eggert

The Future is bright. Photo: Alicia Eggert

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Fine Acts awarded Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant

We are thrilled to announce that Fine Acts was awarded a Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant.

The funds we received in May contribute to:

  • seeding the production of new work;

  • travel to meet existing and potential collaborators and partners;

  • rebuilding and redesigning the website;

  • web hosting;

  • legal services.  

The Shuttleworth Foundation’s Flash Grants are awarded to a collection of social change agents, no strings attached, in support of their work. Each award is worth 5000$.

We are extremely grateful for the support that further fuelled our mission - to bridge human rights and art to catalyze social change.

Yana

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Proud to be featured as one of “12 Women Breaking New Ground in the Arts”

Photo: Bret Hartman

Photo: Bret Hartman

Proud to be featured as one of “12 women breaking new ground in the arts”, together with a bunch of brave and inspirational artists we are happy to call friends.

Meet 12 women breaking new ground in the arts on the TEDFellows blog -- photographed by Bret Hartman during TEDSummit in Banff, Canada; with words by Karen Eng. Thank you, two insanely talented people.

From the article:

"I believe it is time for an empathy revolution. A global movement calling for respect, equality, dignity, and justice, with art as a catalyst,” says Buhrer Tavanier. “Many human rights workers today struggle to translate formidable issues into a language that makes people care, and compels them to act. Mere facts and statistics don’t do the trick, neither do reports or statements on their own. Art, however, can create a visceral response. Art can make the distant feel personal."

Yana

Photo: Bret Hartman

Photo: Bret Hartman

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The deadly legacy of cluster bombs - Laura Boushnak’s new TED talk

We are so proud: Fine Acts collaborator Laura Boushnak's powerful talk about the horrid aftermath of cluster bombs is live on TED.com.

In this talk, Laura shares haunting photos of cluster bomb survivors and asks those who still produce and condone the use of these weapons, including the United States, to abandon them.

One photo from Laura’s featured Survivor series is part of Fine Acts' first collection, PEACE: Mohammed’s prosthetic legs lay on the sofa at his home in the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh, in Tyre, southern Lebanon.

Survivor is a photographic exhibition that focuses on cluster bombs a world problem, as these munitions keep destroying and hurting whole communities for generations to come. Laura Boushnak has been photographing Mohammed for 10 years, following his transition from a child to a young man, his life increasingly becoming harder. 

Mohammed lost both legs when he was sitting behind his father on a motorbike and drove over a cluster bomb near Tyre in the last week of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Handicap International says children make up 24% of casualties, and Mohammed is one of many cluster bomb survivor children across the world.

Yana

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Helping those seeking safety

We are committed to taking action to help those seeking safety. Our Fine Acts projects are still in development, but in the meantime here are some links to action and charity groups working to provide aid. You can support their work through donations, fundraising and volunteering. And do let us know if you have links we can add. 

  • CalAid
    The CalAid group collects donations for those living in the Calais refugee camps.
  • STAR
    STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is a national charity of 12,000 students welcoming refugees to the UK through volunteering, campaigning, fundraising and education.
  • Refugee Action
    Refugee Action runs various fundraising events to support their activities including providing legal advice to migrants forced into homelessness, finding accommodation for asylum seekers living on the streets and giving advice on the possibilities for returning home.
  • Refugee Council
    The Refugee Council offers practical support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers throughout their journey in the UK.
  • Oxfam
    Oxfam has launched an appeal to help the millions of people fleeing their homes around the world.
  • Save the Children
    Save the Children has a dedicated Syria appeal to help the many children affected there and across the Middle East by the war in Syria.
  • Migrant Offshore Aid Station
    MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station) is a registered foundation dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing professional search and rescue assistance to people who find themselves in distress on high sea or trapped on unsafe vessels.
  • #HelpCalais Amazon wish list
    The #HelpCalais campaign is a trans-European project seeking to provide temporary shelter, clothing and support to refugees making the journey to western Europe. The Amazon wishlist provides an opportunity for supporters to buy the goods that refugees and charities need.

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Tech Insider features Fine Acts: “This Bulgarian human rights activist gave one of the most chilling TED Talks of all time”

Yana recently gave a talk at the 2016 TED Fellows Retreat in California. Photo: TED

Yana recently gave a talk at the 2016 TED Fellows Retreat in California. Photo: TED

Tech Insider just published a great article about Yana, her story and what we at Fine Acts are trying to do.

From the article:

"I believe we are only alive through others," Tavanier says. [...] "We have a voice only if we help others speak, [...] and our power is measured not by how many people you crush, but by how many we are able to lift and carry on our shoulders."

Julie

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Stories of The Future from the Cartagena Data Festival

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Stories of The Future from the Cartagena Data Festival

The Future is an artwork by Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem which is part of our PEACE collection. For three days in April 2015 we displayed it in Salon Fray Tomas del Toro in the beautiful Casa 1537 in Cartagena, Columbia, as part of the Cartagena Data Festival.

The Cartagena Data Festival is a meeting of around 400 International actors in the development sector who have convened to discuss how to continue to activate the "data revolution" for good.

Everyone in the development community needs to comprehend what data do exist and what do not. It is evident that effective representation and visualisation of data will play a key role in helping to solve some of our global issues. Whether it is through direct statistic-driven provocation or more subtle techniques, the use of data in engaging people can be very powerful.

The Future comprises 206 lightbulbs, each of which represents a sovereign state. If the lightbulb is on, the country is at peace. he artists decided which countries were at peace based on data from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and warsintheworld.com

Showing The Future at Cartagena Data Festival (for international development folks) highlighted that data is disputable (surprised?). A number of people questioned why their country was not lit up, they were sure that they were at peace - one in particular, a government advisor was certain her country was not in conflict.

So, what does 'at peace' mean in this context? Many internally peaceful countries have soldiers in other countries; it turns out that Luxembourg has troops in Afghanistan.

What also became clear from the audience was that some data was not up-to-date, or was supplied by an uninformed or biased source. Our online reputations are as good as the last thing posted about us, whether we are a country or a person.

We wish to thank the Overseas Development Initiative and the Open Data Institute for enabling us to host The Future in Cartegena.

Julie

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The Future heads to Cartagena, Columbia

We are delighted to announce that one of our first commissions The Future by Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem is being shown at the opening of the Cartagena Data Festival in Columbia.

The work is being shown as part of the Open Data Institute's Data as Culture program which commissioned and exhibits art that *uses data as an art material and/or subject for artistic*research.

Supported by the Overseas Development Initiative, Alicia and I will attend the event and show her work alongside my recent work We Need Us (requires Chrome or Firefox).

We're both excited to be heading to the Carribean sea-side to talk data and art with an amazingly diverse international crowd. We've even spotted a fellow TED fellow in the mix - Jon Gosier.

Julie

 

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Stop. Think. Write. Postcards from Ferguson

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Stop. Think. Write. Postcards from Ferguson

Our first collection is called Peace. We wanted to pick a subject that resonates with all of us in many ways. We've curated existing works and new works, Postcards from Ferguson is a mix of the two.

Jon Lowenstein is a photographer that has been taking photographs to document the extreme racial inequality in Ferguson, Missouri, USA. His work depicts the frustration and anger of the community. A community not only unprotected by the police force but actively under attack.

These postcards are a call to action - a request for everyone to take a minute to think about racial issues, to write something down, and to send it to someone that matters.

Here, a memory from long ago reminds the writer that despite on-going and frequent protests over the years, we are still in the same place.

Something needs to change.

More on Postcards from Ferguson on Medium

Julie

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The Future

One of the first Fine Acts commissions debuts at TED 2015 in Vancouver! It looks great, Yana and I are delighted, although the future isn't as bright as we may think...

Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem's work examines our perception of global peace. Starting with the question "how many countries are not on conflict right now?" the artists discovered that we can't agree on the number of countries on our planet, let alone objectively determine which are at peace.

Read an interview with Alicia on the TED Fellows blog.

Read more about both artists and the work.

Many thanks the the TED Fellows team for helping to make this happen.

Julie 

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Fine Acts launches at TED 2015

Tom Rielly, TED Fellows Director, talks about the initiative on stage.

Tom Rielly, TED Fellows Director, talks about the initiative on stage.

Beginning as a series of inspired conversations at TED 2014, Fine Acts launched at TED 2015.

One year later we have brought together over 20 TED Fellow artists and activists to collaborate on thought-provoking works. We have two commissioned pieces here at TED: The Future (by Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem), and Postcards from Ferguson (by Jon Lowenstein). Seven more works are displayed on the designated Fine Acts digital screen. All this would not have been possible without the generosity and passion of the incredible TEDFellows community.

Yana

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