The Body Politic - Toward A Visual Declaration Of Human Rights
The point of departure of this project is a study of the monumental photography exhibition The Family of Man, which opened at the MOMA in 1955. In this exhibition I am seeking a first visual draft of a Universal Declaration of the Human Rights; in nearly every one of the five hundred photographs shown in this exhibition one might reconstruct that which should not be violated. Researching The Family of Man, the combined and comparative reading of the photographs and the textual corpus of human rights, my aim is not only to document the historic moment, in which the exhibition was created, but also to rethink the concept of universal-rights and expand its repertoire. In my work I’m trying to turn this exhibition into the first layer of a new visual declaration of rights that should be protected universally, while enhancing the concrete geographical, historical, gender and comparative contexts of the photographs’ different provenances. I see such an archive as the basis for re-writing a new, post-liberal civil contract.
My interest in The Family of Man grew as I constructed two photography archives – one dedicated to forty years of the Israeli Regime of Occupation in the Palestinian Territories (1967-2007), and the other dedicated to the four constitutive years that shaped the Israeli regime (1947-1950). These archives have consolidated a new platform for organizing historical knowledge and intellectual interference under conditions of “regime-made disaster”. Here, as in my other archival projects, the archive is conceptualized and designed (materially, spatially and visually) not only as a form of documentation and organization of knowledge, but as an apparatus for producing new knowledge that could not have been conceived without the archival template. More specifically, the archive serves as a basis for writing “potential history”.
Edward Steichen editing the Family of Man exhibition, 1954, New York