Free Dimensional: operating on the cutting edge between art and human rights

January 2009 -

"The Rory Peck Foundation, a human rights organisation for free-lance journalists, asked us whether we could offer a safe haven to the journalist Lamin Fatty. He was being persecuted for his reports on the former Minister of the Interior in Gambia, who was involved in plans for a coup. His publications in the Gambian newspaper The Independent got him into serious trouble. Thanks to our network, we were quickly able to offer refuge on Goree, the island before the Dakar coast."

Todd Lester is the director of Free Dimensional, an organisation that mediates between human rights organisations and art residencies. "Our international network devotes particular effort to promoting social justice by offering activists facilities in art residencies. We cooperate with some fifty human rights organisations. Already we have established knowledge centres in The Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, the Casa das Caldeiras in Sao Paulo, the International Forum for InterMedia Art in Kuala Lumpur, the UfaFabrik in Berlin and the Center for International Art in Community in New York. As a result, we can adequately respond to situations in which the work of artists or journalists has caused them serious problems."

Free Dimensional often organises campaigns and supports a variety of centres on the cutting edge of human rights and art. How tangible are its efforts? "We have learned that there is always a need for places where individuals can peacefully recover and resume their work. Experience has shown that an artistic environment is extremely healing for the individuals to whom we offer refuge, and also for the people in these environments. This often results in new initiatives. That convinced us to develop a toolkit for community art projects focusing on vulnerable groups in society. The toolkit is already being used in Cairo and in Sudan."