‘Human Rights Human Wrongs’ exhibit shines light on Civil Rights Movement


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Charles Moore, Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America, May 3, 1963. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection, Ryerson University. Courtesy of the Ryerson Image Centre.

Visually powerful and historically significant, the new Human Rights Human Wrongs multimedia exhibit is designed to stimulate both the senses and debate around human rights in the modern age.

Held at the new Image Centre (RIC) at Toronto’s Ryerson University, Human Rights Human Wrongs is part of a public gallery comprised of four multimedia exhibitions (including Alfredo Jaar: The Politics of Images; Clive Holden: UNAMERICAN UNFAMOUS; and Dominic Nahr: Captive State) depicting vibrant images and depictions of political struggle, violence and racial oppression.

Using the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a launching point, the curated installations include historical photography touch points such as U.S. Civil Rights Movement events such Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, portraits of Nobel Peace Prize winners Lester B. Pearson, Yasser Arafat and Ren_ Cassin and dramatic mages of protests in locations such as Berkeley, Chile and Argentina.

Featuring more than 300 original photographs — from the prestigious Black Star Collection — Human Rights Human Wrongs and the other exhibits are collectively intended to inspire critical thinking and a deeper understanding when it comes to the case for human and civil rights, says director and curator Doina Popescu.

Bob Fitch, Martin L. King (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America, December 1965. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection, Ryerson University. Courtesy of the Ryerson Image Centre.

Bob Fitch, Martin L. King (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America, December 1965. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection, Ryerson University. Courtesy of the Ryerson Image Centre.

Human Rights Human Wrongs curator Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph ABP in London, England, and named a 2012 Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), notes that the exhibit challenges conventional thinking about the international and U.S. Civil Rights movement in particular.

“It was a deliberate act in trying to unpack those moments in history that people feel connected to,” Sealy told Canada Arts Connect. “I just get tired of seeing chapters of the civil rights movement through the prism of  “it starts with Rosa Parks,” as if it begins and ends with those moments. And I think we’re all kind of guilty of that.”

Creating the exhibit was born of thinking of the best way to show that the global civil rights movement shouldn’t be romanticized or thought of as something that only happened in the past, but rather as an interrelated movement that continues to impact the present day, he added.

“Obviously Rose Parks and Martin Luther King play significant roles in people’s lives… it’s about creating a mosaic of ideas across those spaces. I’m attracted to the pedagogic nature of what images can do,” says Sealy. “So if they can have a transformative relationship on people both old and young — people who (previously) might not have thought about things like this — that’s the work that the show will hopefully do.”

HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS will be on view in the Ryerson Image Centre Main Gallery January 23 – April 14, 2013.