Interventions in the public sphere

Institute – Cooperation museums/theaters – Art & human rights

How do we bring about social change? Since its inception, ECCHR has always attempted to find new answers to this question. Most often, we take the legal route – and attempt to draw attention to both past and existing injustice through specifically selected cases. Yet, this cannot be enough, which is why ECCHR continues to collaborate with cultural institutions such as museums and theaters.

These interventions in the public sphere serve to bring human rights work closer to the people. Here, the focus is not on legal questions but, rather, on the necessity of bringing serious crimes and their underlying power structures to light.


We aim to have a lasting impact on societal debates and to change the discourse around the law, which often reproduces inequality instead of preventing it. This also means winning people over to our approach in order to tackle concrete social and political issues. This is why we believe in the power of art and culture to make the discrepancy between law and justice visible.

The nature of our individual collaborations with artistic and cultural institutions depends on the problem at hand: one can reach different people at museum exhibitions than one can at theater performances. The projects that we have realized and supported in this context are described below.


We see the collaboration with artists as an opportunity to reach people, as well as to sharpen their understanding of human rights violations and change their perspectives. We believe that art can also provide a platform for those affected by injustice to be heard and to address conflicts collectively (including those that have been forgotten).


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The following projects are collaborations between ECCHR and art and cultural institutions:

The House of World Cultures (HKW) in Berlin has supported the newly founded Investigative Commons in 2021-2022 with exhibitions and conferences. Our interdisciplinary collaboration with the HKW and Forensic Architecture aims to expose state and corporate violence. In the process, the Investigative Commons combines the situated knowledge of groups on the frontlines of political struggles with the methods of investigative reporters, whistleblowers, artists, architects and cultural producers. They all work on cases that have a societal urgency: border systems, cyber-surveillance, environmental devastation and the continuation of colonial violence.

In her exhibition Traces of Violence, which was held from November to December 2021 in the ARTCO gallery, Hildgard Titus (a Namibian artist) and Marcelo Brodsky (an Argentine artist) addressed the German genocide in Namibia. The exhibition was accompanied by a panel discussion where ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck also spoke. In addition to representatives from the Herero and Nama, academics, art historians and lawyers also contributed to the debate. During the course of the exhibition and discussions, a catalog of the same name was produced.

Up in Arms was an exhibition and research project at Kunstraum Bethanien in Kreuzberg that explored the structures of the local and international arms industry in Berlin. In addition to the exhibition, which featured artistic perspectives on and critical engagements with the arms industry, these artworks in the public sphere were intended to draw attention to the actors within the arms industry in Berlin. The interactive map that was created in the process is still available. In collaboration with activists and NGOs – including ECCHR – the 2019 project aimed to create a platform for a critical and urgently needed discussion about the arms industry’s position of political and social power.

Milo Rau is a Swiss director and playwright who has also collaborated with ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck and Legal Director Miriam Saage-Maaß on several of his projects.

In the absence of an actually existing world parliament, Rau filled this void by convening the General Assembly, which gathered 60 delegates from around the world in Berlin. In five plenary sessions, the General Assembly delegates sought answers to questions such as where the global community stands and what still needs to be done – for social, environmental, technological and political change.

In May 2020, Milo Rau founded the globally networked School of Resistance as a livestream debate series to contribute to the search for strategies of resistance. Here, the central question is: how can struggles for global justice be dealt with through aesthetic means, as well as politically and legally.

With his Congo Tribunals in 2015, Rau succeeded for the first time in the history of the war in the DR Congo in initiating the process of addressing past crimes – on an artistic level.

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