Monday, April 4, 2016


Bernstein Symposium, April 7–8, to Focus on Art and Human Rights

The Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium will be held April 7–8, 2016. This year’s event is part of JUNCTURE: Explorations in Art and Human Rights. The symposium will feature conversations with JUNCTURE’s visiting artists, who are collaborating on creative projects with law and graduate students. It will include international artists, advocates, and curators whose work engages with human rights issues.

Poet, teacher, and activist Carolyn Forché will give a keynote address on Thursday afternoon, April 7, that will be part talk and part poetry reading. Her first book of poetry, Gathering the Tribes, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets 1975 Competition. Forché’s poems are often about violence, suffering, and memory, and she is known for coining the term “poetry of witness.” View the program here.

“This year’s Bernstein Symposium will reflect the interdisciplinary approach our initiative has taken to exploring the relationships between human rights and the arts,” said Professor James Silk, director of Yale Law School’s Schell Center for International Human Rights and of JUNCTURE. “We want to bring the perspectives of artists, scholars, and human rights practitioners to bear on such issues as the ethics of representing suffering, loss, and atrocity and the potential of the arts to foster awareness, empathy, or action.”

On Friday at 5:10 p.m., there will be a town-hall-style discussion on “The Concept of Efficacy in Art” that will include speakers from earlier panels and additional participants. The discussion will consider how—if at all—art might be effective, whether by dignifying its subjects through representation, spurring other social change, or shifting modes of thought or perception.

David Kim ’17, curator and deputy director of JUNCTURE, said, “The symposium is also a chance to reflect on what has been a year of exciting firsts: a new seminar at the Law School, a new model of collaborative research between artists and graduate students, and a new fellowship program for Yale MFAs. The initiative will continue in similar form next year, including a series of public lectures in the fall.”

The JUNCTURE visiting artists—Dipika Guha, Chitra Ganesh, Mariam Ghani, and Amalia Pica, will discuss their work, each of them in conversation with a lawyer or scholar. Three panels will spotlight current aspects of the intersection between international human rights and art: the destruction of cultural property in Syria, artistic responses by a Berlin-based artist collective to Europe’s handling of its refugee influx, and pressures on the right to freedom of expression in Cairo.

On Friday afternoon, a conversation with Sara El Adl from the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo will address the pressures of government censorship and consider the role of Egyptian artists in archiving important political events and building a healthy civil society.

The Bernstein Symposium is sponsored by the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School and the Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellowship Program. JUNCTURE is made possible by generous support from the Robina Foundation and the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School. For more information on JUNCTURE, visit the initiative’s website.