The 6th annual Passion for Freedom Art Festival takes place in London from 5th -15th November in the Embassy Tea Gallery (close to Tate Modern) in London. The annual festival is a rare collection of works of “courageous artists” who have answered three pivotal questions: What is freedom? How easy is it to lose it? How difficult is it to get it back?
This year at the festival there will be collection of 15 films, 10 books, 10 journalists and 51 artworks from all over the world: Peru, Venezuela, Iran, Israel, Syria, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Greece, United Kingdom, USA & Australia. The youngest artist is 18 years old, the oldest – 64. Some of the artists use pseudonyms because of threats imposed on them, some of them can’t come because they are imprisoned, cannot leave their country or cannot give interviews.
The founding body comprises of a group of friends of different nationalities, predominantly Polish, Hungarian, Russian and Danish, who for the last 6 years have been saying, “We are checking the status of freedom of speech and artistic expression in Europe”. They have clear message – promotion and protection of human rights using the means of aesthetic expression. The festival itself, which is in direct contrast with the political correctness so prevalent within our society, is growing in recognition and prestige. The PFF Festival is supported by world-famous artists such as Ai Weiwei, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou and Iranian director Jafar Panahi.
Ai Weiwei as we all know is a Chinese artist and performer who posted a blog report exposing the corruption within the Chinese Communist Party and challenging the government over the poor construction of schools in Sichuan, which led to death of more than 5 thousands pupils. In 2011 he was kept imprisoned for 81 days without any official charges and beaten by the police officers. Even today he can’t travel or give interviews as a result of alleged business fraud.
29 years old Mehdi-Georges Lahlou of French and Moroccan origin in one of his artworks presents fragments of the Quran and the Bible depicted on a naked body. In many Muslim countries and in Morocco itself his art hailed a storm of protests and death threats, even though his works have not been shown there.
Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director, has been imprisoned more than once for promoting women’s freedom and for his anti-Iranian activities and convicted for the films he made. Since the trial he can only make his movies in his own apartment and he solely can be his own protagonist. Everyone who has worked with him has been harassed and now has restrictions on leaving Iran.
This year 3 general awards as well as Freedom Film Award will be given for art and film productions. Also during the Private View the audience will have a chance to choose their favourite piece of art and give People’s Choice Freedom Award. The jury panel comprises of: Gary Hill – one of the most prominent American artists in video art, Sarah Maple – a provocative young British artist, Deeyah Khan – Iranian pop star and activist anointed by the media as the “Muslim Madonna”, Lee Weinberg – curator, art researcher and lecturer at Goldsmith University
For the first time this year along with films, sculpture, painting, photography and installations there will be 10 books and 10 journalists recognised (3 British, 2 Russian, 2 Canadian, 1 Danish, 1 Polish and 1 Indian) during the Festival.
In 2003 an Islamist disguised as a postman tried to kill Lars Hedegaard in his home. He did not succeed and the assailant fled. Danish Prime Minister condemned the attack saying that the attempt to assassinate a journalist was highly serious as its motive was aimed not only at Hedegaard, but also at damaging his work defending freedom of speech.
Special Guest Artists include: Miriam Elia – is a visual artist and Sony nominated surreal comedy writer. After graduation from the Royal College of Art her diverse work has included illustrated books such as ‘We go to the gallery’ and ‘The Diary of Edward the Hamster,’ as well as prints, drawings, short films, radio comedy and animations.
Daniel Arzola – coming out as a gay in Turmero, Venezuela, was a nightmare. Daniel’s graduation project consisted of series of posters sending out strong messages against homophobic bullying. With his country hit by deep political, economic and social crisis, Daniel is considering moving to Argentina. His life is in danger in Venezuela. Being a human rights activist in Venezuela equals being a public enemy.
Image Right: Johan Wahlstrom “Don´t Die As A Virgin” Painting shortlisted in Visual Arts/Paintings.