The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Otávio Roth

Otávio Roth speaking at the vernissage of the exhibition “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (1981) by Author unknownInstituto Vladimir Herzog

INTRODUCTION

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was the international community's response to the atrocities committed during World War II. Far more than a position on the past, the document proclaims universal moral principles that transcend the field of law and inspire us in the quest for a dignified future for all.

This year, while the world faces the greatest health crisis of the last hundred years, characterized by the loss of human lives, the deepening of inequalities, of socioeconomic exclusion and of discrimination in its various forms, we celebrate the Declaration’s anniversary with the certainty that human rights are the indisputable horizon of the 21st century.

We will only be able to rebuild a post-COVID-19 world that is more resilient, fair and sustainable - for us and for future generations - through firm measures to combat human rights violations and by strengthening the spirit of solidarity and dialogue.

December 10th is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in the reconstruction of the world we want, the need for global solidarity, and our interconnection and shared humanity as human beings.

It is based on this understanding that the Otávio Roth Collection and the Vladimir Herzog Institute are coming together, with the support of the Consulate General of Canada in São Paulo, to launch the exhibition “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Otávio Roth”, presenting the artist’s view of the Charter in an accessible and sensitive manner.

A multimedia artist, Roth realized at a young age that human rights were the synthesis of humanity's noblest aspirations. Political engagement and the interest in providing people with space for expression and dialogue inspired the conception of participatory art installations in the early 1980s.

Roth believed that culture should be geared toward everyone and be emanated from everyone's expression. This vision, present in all his work, can be perceived here by his commitment to expand access to the Declaration, transforming the articles’ content into graphic works that invite a plural audience to read them.

His work gradually takes effect, making it possible for human rights to be strengthened as a common denominator of the aspirations of the most diverse individuals. It is therefore from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ content and the generous and open manner in which Roth portrays the Articles that we express our sincere wishes for a more welcoming and just future for all people everywhere.

“To Breathe Freedom” Exhibition (2019) by Isabel Lorch RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

HUMAN RIGHTS IN BRAZIL TODAY

Rogério Sottili, executive director of the Vladimir Herzog Institute

In promoting this exhibition, the Vladimir Herzog Institute (Instituto Vladimir Herzog, IVH) celebrates the 72nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and reaffirms its commitment to the struggle through dialogue and through the appreciation of Brazilian culture. We believe that art has the potential to raise awareness about the exercise of citizenship, given that access to culture itself is a human right. In the last decades, Brazil has achieved fundamental rights that increasingly encompass the principles guided by the UDHR, of which our country is a signatory.

In the Institute’s view, however, our democracy today is undergoing a process that breaks with these achievements through the escalation of violence, threats to freedom of expression, apology for torturers, the criminalization of social movements and the rise of hate speech. It is a challenge that we, as an organized civil society, must resist as we forge ahead in the guarantee of human rights.

It is to defend and re-signify these rights that we share this unprecedented artistic and educational content, which sensitively disseminates the importance of the Declaration’s articles, in our profile of the Arts&Culture platform. The woodcut collection by the artist Otávio Roth that is exhibited here is able to inspire understanding of the UDHR's precious content in audiences of all ages. The illustrations of the 30 articles have been on permanent display at UN headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna since 1981 and can now be seen by individuals around the globe. This exhibition is thus also a means to mobilize us to continue making our way toward democracy’s compass, where human rights are the north for which we aim.

The Vladimir Herzog Institute is grateful for the longstanding partnership with the Otávio Roth Collection, which has dedicated itself with distinction to bringing the renowned work of this Brazilian artist to the world as a way to promote the debate on human rights. We also publicly thank the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, for her historic salute at this exhibition’s inauguration, a distinguished milestone for all those who fight for human rights in Brazil. And finally, we thank Google for its constant support to our mission and for making essential channels available for us to reflect upon human rights in the world.

This exhibition is therefore an invitation from the Vladimir Herzog Institute for us to reflect collectively on the cycles of historical violence in our country and to strive for a culture of peace. It is also an invitation to remember our commitment to democratic values, to reaffirm our tireless struggle in the face of injustice, and to mobilize for the continuous defense of the human rights established in the Declaration.

Apresentação curatorial (2020) by Isabel Roth // Acervo Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 1 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (series in English) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

To find out more about the Declaration’s history and importance, click on the thumbnail of the piece to access information.

Article 2 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

And click as well on the thumbnail of the image to access more information about Otávio Roth.

Article 3 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 4 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 5 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Roth created icons that dialogue with the text. These images are graphic elements that lend levity while simultaneously reinforcing the essence of each article. According to the artist, “in addition to the words, there was a need for images that would better help to disseminate and memorize the (Charter’s) content”.

Article 6 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

The fingerprints, a reference to individuality, are a humorous detail that was later taken up by Roth in a work produced to celebrate the Federal Constitution (1988), with billboards in São Paulo featuring colorful fingerprints, an allusion to the plurality of Brazilian society.

Article 7 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 8 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 9 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 10 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 11 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 12 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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“The images, such as those of a house or a child, arranged next to the words assume the role of a plastic allegory, no longer mere illustrations. They complement the significance of Rights...”

Article 13 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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“The engraver's achievement goes even further; the written text invariably relates back to reasoning, making the reader think abstractly. Discerned sensorially through sight and touch, the plastic text stimulates the viewer's sensibility” - Radha Abramo (1979).

Article 14 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 15 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 16 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 17 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 18 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 19 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Roth produced artistic collections on the Declaration’s content in different languages and employing different techniques. Access our Arts&Culture profile to see the exhibition entitled “Human Rights as art - Otávio Roth's paper works”, with the series of articles in Portuguese (pulp painting technique).

Article 20 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 21 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 22 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Each engraving was made using a unique chromatic combination. Roth created unique variations from 24 colors. A peculiarity is that the color black appears only once: in the artist’s own fingerprint which forms the image of Article 6.

Article 23 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 24 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 25 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Roth created universal images that would make it easier for people from different backgrounds to understand the articles’ content Even so, adaptations were made for versions in other languages and employing other techniques - crayon, watercolor and pulp painting.

In the Japanese version, for example, the cutlery was replaced with fruit.

Article 26 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Article 27 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version) (1978) by Otávio RothInstituto Vladimir Herzog

The engravings were printed on artisanal cotton paper produced by the artist himself. Roth was a pioneer in the research and production of handmade paper in Brazil, bringing to the country techniques that he had learned on trips throughout Europe and Asia from 1970 to 1980.

Article 28 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 29 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Article 30 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English version), Otávio Roth, 1978, From the collection of: Instituto Vladimir Herzog
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Credits: Story

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Otávio Roth” Exhibition

Curatorship - Fábio Magalhães and Isabel Roth
Content search - Isabel Roth and Luciana Bruno
Production and adaptation - Carolina Vilaverde
Digitalization of the works - Fábio Praça
Image handling - Adriano Sobral
Video (Editing) - Flavia Muraro Teles and Fábio Saraiva Teles
Translations (English/ French) - Arlette Afagbegee
Communications - Carolina Vilaverde, Cristina Fernandes, Isabel Roth

PRODUCTION

Otávio Roth Collection
Ana Roth – Executive Director
Isabel Roth - Curator
Denise Machado Lorch - Museologist
Maria Helena Webster - Advisor

Vladimir Herzog Institute
Clarice Herzog - President
Ivo Herzog – President of the Advisory Board
Rogério Sottili – Executive Director
Isabel Rodrigues - Advisor to the Executive Board

Carolina Vilaverde – “72 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” Project Coordinator

Ana Rosa Abreu - Human Rights Education Coordinator
Giuliano Galli - Journalism and Freedom of Expression Coordinator
Lucas Paolo Vilalta - Memory, Truth and Justice Coordinator

Cristina Fernandes de Souza - Communications Coordinator
Sandra Faé – Administrative and Financial Coordinator

SUPPORT
Consulate General of Canada in São
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Special thanks
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Bernardo Lorga, Camila Cury, Carmen Dominguez, Cecilia Canessa, Daniel Arbix, Danilo Miranda, Fábio Saraiva Teles, Flavia Muraro Teles, Fernanda Faya, Guilherme Sanchez, Irene del Pilar Sandoval, Juliana Barreto, Juliana Braga, Juliana Nolasco, Laura Gelbert, Maria Helena Webster, Pedro Vilaverde Junior (in memoriam), Thiago Carrapatoso and Sesc SP.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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