Earlier this year UNRISD launched Visions of Change, a call for submissions of artwork
, which encouraged artists worldwide to contribute to the Institute’s 50th anniversary celebrations
. This initiative is part of the "UNRISD Classics" project, which will culminate in the online publication of a three-volume series that compiles a selection of UNRISD’s most influential and ground-breaking research pieces from the last 50 years (some of them as yet unavailable in digital format) which continue to be relevant to today’s development challenges. The goal of the call was that these "visions of change", illustrating key themes of Inclusive Social Policy, Sustainability and Gender, would be used as cover images for each one of the volumes. UNRISD received more than 150 submissions
from all five continents.
The three artists whose artwork will grace the covers of the UNRISD Classics are Ima Montoya (Inclusive Social Policy), Kuros Zahedi (Sustainability) and Sana Jamlaney (Gender).
Ima Montoya (Spain, 1963) submitted "De paso" ("Passing"), a painting representing migratory movements, capturing the similarities and differences of individuals within society. "This work has a positive message. It fearlessly emphasizes change, the driver that, for generations, has moved us across oceans, to advance in adverse circumstances in search of a future; the force that moves us to a more dignified and better life."
Kuros Zahedi (Iran, 1973) contributed "Human Nature", a 3-D collage that reflects his particular artistic language, addressing "the human being's connection to the natural world". According to Zahedi, "we are simultaneously one with nature and separate from it. We apprehend, quantify and classify the world and thereby gain mastery over it, but in a very real way, we are nature."
Zahedi’s piece consists of a circular disposition of nature elements with a human element in the middle, representing the equilibrium between them. It represents, in his own words, "a tension between the organic elegance of the natural elements and the ordered arrangement of the grid - culture, civilization, a city or agriculture from above - the intellect, empiricism, and categorization."
Finally, "The Silent One" comes from a series of four paintings submitted by Dubai-based artist Sana Jamlaney (India, 1984). "I paint portraits of the society I live in," she says, "it is impossible not to be affected by and respond to it. The topics highlighted by UNRISD resonated with me. They evoked many themes and issues I grapple with on a regular basis, in both my daily life and my artwork."
With each painting in this series the artist has aimed to portray a segment of society in contemporary India, a multifaceted perspective of women with a strong voice, but one which may be silenced by social structures. Says Jamlaney: "This series doesn’t just discuss the circumstances that befall these women, but also articulates the fact that these women’s plight often falls on deaf ears; in their own homes, in the government, and in institutions constructed by their own society." UNRISD has selected this vibrant, energetic, powerful work to convey the importance of giving expression to the unheard, ignored, excluded voices.
When asked about the way art can contribute to social development, Montoya answers: "Art and society go hand in hand and I do not think they necessarily affect each other, but rather that one reflects the other." Kuros Zahedi adds: "What does a socially just, ecologically balanced, humane and peaceful world look like? What is the correct balance of human, nature, culture and spirit? These are important questions which artists are well positioned to address."
The three volumes of UNRISD classics will be released digitally in autumn 2013.
Click here to know more about UNRISD past and present work on Inclusive Social Policy, Gender and Sustainability.