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Monica Ross: a celebration


Monica Ross: a celebration

13-14 June 2015 Beaconsfield | The British Library

60 Acts–Monica Ross and co-recitors 2008-13
The first complete screening of all 60 acts of memory by Monica Ross
13 June Beaconsfield
11am-8pm with drinks gathering from 5pm

Monica Ross–An Act of Memory
Andrew Michelson and co-reciters
14 June The British Library
2pm Entrance Hall

'A small woman, dressed in black, steps up softly. She turns and pulls back her thick silver grey mane of hair into a ponytail. It is time to start. She turns back to face the crowd and, clasping her hands in front of her, she looks, pauses and then in a soft clear voice, she begins

On the 7th of December 2008 my Mother, the artist, Monica Ross took part in a British Library event celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was Act 01 the first of sixty solo, collective and multi-lingual recitations from memory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Monica undertook and named Anniversary—an act of memory. She set out in 2008 to do an act for each year since the UDHR was ratified.

On the 14 June 2013, the day of the sixtieth and concluding act of Anniversary—an act of memory at the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Monica Ross died of cancer.

Monica always hoped that others may be encouraged and inspired to continue the endeavour to promote human rights throughout the world and if using Anniversary—an act of memory as a model or template, she would be only too delighted.

The first sixty performances may have concluded but the work will continue. We have collated footage and text of Monica so that anyone may do their own recitation should they so choose.

'The British Institute of Human Rights welcomes and endorses Anniversary — an act of memory as a significant contribution to advocating the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a truly exemplary commitment from the cultural sector that responds itself with dignity to the continued demands of the Declaration for justice for all of us. We have responded to its call for alliances and allegiances towards collectively realising its aims for Monica Ross to perform her work 60 times across the whole of the UK and urge you to do the same.’ Ceri Goddard, Acting Director, British Institute of Human Rights

Amnesty International defends freedom of expression and offers an international platform for artists such as Monica Ross and the performances of Anniversary – an act of memory. More than ever we need creative ways to report human rights violations, acknowledge human stories, to tell the world the truth.’
Chloe Baird-Murray, Creative Relationships Manager, Amnesty International UK

As we plan the final recitation on the second anniversary of the completion of the first sixty Acts and the anniversary of her death, her work has come full circle as this recitation will be held in the Entrance Hall of the British Library, just where it started out.

Monica loved and respected what the British Library stands for. The Entrance Hall is a public open space, exactly where Monica always fearlessly placed herself and her practice. It couldn't be more perfect then that Monica's archive is now held, digitally, at the British Library.

So as Monica had responded to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menenzes by performing the very first iteration of this performance, rights repeated — an act of memory, in Chronic Epoch Beaconsfield, 2005, we now respond to the imminent replacement of the Human Rights Act with this recitation where we hope you will join us along with members of the British Library Youth Forum, many of the co-recitors from the first sixty, Natalie Bennet – Leader of the Green Party, Chickenshed Theatre Chelsea & Kensington who have developed part of the recitation with a class of young people from the Kensington Aldridge Academy and Monica's friends and family.

Here are some of the wonderful accounts and accolades of being a co-recitor and working with Monica that we have begun to collate. We look forward to you generating your own as you join us on the 14th June 2pm at the British Library or tell us about your recitations you have gone on to organise.

Contact Alice Ross and the Monica Ross Action Group:

'It was a project that represented everything that Live Art can do and can achieve – the strategies artists can use to effect social, cultural, and political change, to create new relationships between art and activism, and to test the role art can play in the understanding and enactment of human rights.

Acts of Memory was not art about politics, but was in itself an act of politics.'

Lois Keidan, co-founder and Director of the Live Art Development Agency in London, and a member of the Advisory Board of Contemporary Theatre.

Article by Alice Ross

Participants Accounts:

Act 47 Southwark Cathedral ,with Children from the Cathedral School, presented by Beaconsfield 13.11.2012

Class 4 of The Cathedral Primary School of St Savious and St Mary Overy. The Children of Class 4 were between 8 and 9 years old. They used the Plain English version on the UDHR. These are some of their reflections on taking part.

The Cathedral Primary School has a Rights Respecting School Award from UNICEF


Act 35 Scarborough Library and Information Centre

I cannot stress how sincerely MONICA ROSS's participatory performance ANNIVERSARY: ACTS OF MEMORY changed my life.

I wake up in the morning and dress my self in the spirits of Katherine Hepburn, Amy Winehouse and MONICA ROSS. Monica Ross valued, celebrated collectivity and ANNIVERSARY is testimony to that fact.

Crescent Arts and Scarborough Library invited people from across the Borough of Scarborough to take part and 35 people responded with memorably individual and vital contributions in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Doric, English, French, Flemish, Hindi and Italian—not forgetting Neill Warhurst on the harmonica, or Councillor Eric Broadbent’s considered preface to the recitation.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the world's most translated document and can be downloaded in over 360 languages HERE

Jade Montserrat – Artist

Act 41 Grounds of Birmingham Cathedral, Fierce Festival, presented by VIVID 31.03.2012

Fierce festival has a reputation for bringing live art to Birmingham that challenges, breaks boundaries and often in radical and strong ways. It was through a call from Fierce that i found out about Monica Ross's Acts Of Memory. It completely struck a chord and i just had to take part. There was a preliminary meeting, we all chose our articles, then we met on the day in a cafe before the recitals. Monica was a very warm person, free of arrogance and everything about her exuded the essence of the articles we were to recite. I became very aware that i too am responsible for upholding these human rights, that they aren't just for someone else to do. I became aware of rights i didn't even know i had. It was a very emotional day for me but i felt that it was very peaceful, quiet and strong in the performance/recitals. We all had a chance to talk about why we picked the articles we had chosen to recite, Monica re-iterated that if at any time we felt we couldn't continue with our recitation then she would step in for us.

I truly dislike public speaking, I chose a short article,

Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Acts of Memory was a transformative event for me. Art can be quite self indulgent, this was anything but.

During our recitations by the Cathedral, a group of teenagers who hang out there started to watch and became interested in what we were doing. They really liked it and i think wanted to recite articles too. I love how this work reveals to people their own human rights, it is inclusive, gentle, respectful and strong.

I will be at the event at the British Library on the 14th.

Kate Spence – Artist

Act 50 FEM_2012, 9th Trobada Internacional de Dones Artistes d’Art d’Accio i Performance, Placa del Vi, Girona World Aids Day 01.12.2012

After 45 minutes, the performance comes to an end. Ross unties her hair – a red ribbon flash as it comes loose. As it is World AIDS Day, Ross has asked that all the participants, at the end of the piece, walk backwards to a stall by the river, run by the local AIDS organisation. They said that not many people visit them on Saturday. Around the corner, past the busy stalls selling toys and chocolates and flowers and fruit, the entire group of recitors plus assembled friends and helpers walked backwards until they reached the stall. Then, in the winter sunshine everyone mingled, talking and laughing for a while and then eventually dissipated, drifting off into the narrow streets of Girona [...…] To turn up and listen and maybe to remember that you are entitled to all of these rights, as is every single other person in this world. Remembering and reiterating human rights is possibly the most radical and useful thing you can do in the name of art.

‘Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.’

Thank you Monica. It was a privilege.

Anita Ponton – Artist 9th July 2013

Act 60Human Rights Council, United Nations, Geneva: collective 14.06.2013

I have engaged with the project which then became a series of collective and multilingual recitations titled as a witness, a co-recitor, and a collaborative curator for a recitation in a programme of art works in Galway. In her bittersweet absence, I proudly led the recitations at the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva in 2013, which culminated in the final Acts of the 60 that Monica pledged to undertake, which poignantly coincided with the day that Monica passed away.

Monica is missed by many, but the legacy of the project she has left behind allows me to return to her time and time again. It will be through revisiting the text on 14th June as I lead an in a recitation of the UNDHR as part of the British Library’s Magna Carta exhibition, that I can join those inspired by Monica’s visionary work to remember, recall and publicly proclaim our Human Rights. For it is through being collectively ignited by Monica’s project, there is potential to continue to uphold basic rights despite the current climate. Further, it will always be my own personal testament to Monica’s legacy – one of unstoppable strength, conviction and belief in the equality of Human Rights for all. I feel lucky to have got to know Monica through this project and that the Declaration, as a fundamental blueprint for society, now holds such a powerful and ever more urgent place in both my heart and mind.

Andrew Mitchelson – Artist

Recitation in memory of the first anniversary of Monica's death and the culmination of Anniversary—an act of memory. Live Art Development Agency, London 14 June 2014

It's scary when you're doing it because you're in front of loads of people but once you've done it you feel proud of yourself.

Leon Ross, 9yrs old, Monica's Grandson

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