Image: Tewa Barnosa at work. Born in 1998, Tripoli, Libya, Takwa Bernosa is an emerging self taught artist and curator. She refers to herself as “Tewa” which means a bridge or a connection between two dots in Tamazight language. Foto by Rolf Schulten.

Recently, the Council of Europe published a report entitled Free to Create: Artistic Freedom in Europe, which examines the challenges European artists and cultural workers face in the practice of their right to freedom of artistic expression. These range from laws that reduce creative freedom, attacks from non-governmental groups and online threats to the “under-the-radar” pressures that contribute to self-censorship.

Artistic freedom is a core human right requiring protection and it has worsened recently under multiple challenges – crises with major impacts on human rights across society. The above mentioned report reflects the work carried out by the Council of Europe, other international intergovernmental organizations promoting freedom of expression and human rights, and non-governmental, civil society and cultural organizations concerned with artists’ and cultural rights, as well as the experiences and perspectives of artists. It concludes with recommendations on measures to protect artistic freedom, by international institutions and by the cultural sector and artists themselves.

Next to it the Council of Europe has conceived the digital exhibition “Free to Create – Create to be Free”, which is located on the website. 

.ART interviewed the Lead Curator & Scientific Advisor at “Free to Create – Create to be Free” at the Council of Europe, Dr Kata Krasznahorkai, and “Free to Create – Create to be Free” Programme manager, Culture and Heritage Division, Council of Europe, Ivana Hrdas Papadopoulos. 

The website is devoted both to the Manifesto on the Freedom of Expression of Arts and Culture in the Digital Era and to the digital exhibition “Free to Create – Create to be Free”, is it correct? 

Kata Krasznahorkai: hosts the „Free to Create – Create to be Free“ project by the Council of Europe, which is centered around three main pillars: the digital exhibition, the Manifesto, and since April this year, a Report on the State of Artistic Freedom in Europe.

The digital exhibition is an ever growing archive that shows as a living archive through artworks submitted by member states how artistic freedom is seen from artists’ perspectives in Europe today. All member states of the Council of Europe are invited to provide up to two artworks referring to the Manifesto and the overall topic of artistic freedom – these artworks  are continuously entering the digital exhibition, so it is an ongoing project with new insights and perspectives on the overall topic of artistic freedom and human rights.

The Manifesto makes strong statements on the importance of artistic and cultural freedom for our democratic societies facing cultural, political and technological challenges. 

The Report, authored by Sara Whyatt is the backbone of the forthcoming activities of the F2C-project, aiming to empower artists, citizens and policy makers to recognise and uphold the importance of artists’ rights in democracies.

dystopian circles / fragments…all along by Armand Quetsch. Collection CNA – Centre national de l’audiovisuel, Dudelange / © Armand Quetsch

When was the project launched and was the main factor, which inspired you to initiate it in the first place? 

Kata Krasznahorkai: The project “Free to Create – Create to be Free” was initiated by the Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP) of the Council of Europe to mark the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 2020. The digital exhibition was first presented in Kristiansand  in May 2021 at the European Conference and was launched at the Plenary meeting of the CDCPP in June 2021. It has been featured at the latest, 3rd European Conference on democracy and human rights in Kristiansand on 5 May 2022 as a part of the European Democracy Week and will tour across Europe at several occasions in 2023.

Artistic freedom is thus a soft law instrument based on hard law.

F2C follows the long tradition of the Council of Europe’s art exhibitions first presented 1954. For 50 years, Council of Europe Art Exhibitions have been illustrating the major historical movements, figures and events that have marked the history of European art: their main message being Human Rights, Freedom and Peace as core European values rooted in culture. Now the “Free to Create” project presents this issue in fresh and new formats, adjusted to the needs and potentials of the 21st century. Previously, art exhibitions have been shown in museums touring across Europe. To reach out to a wider public, “Free to Create” uses different artistic means and make optimal use of mobile, interactive and digital technology, in order to allow large participation by publics of all ages worldwide.

What is the mission and vision of the “Free to Create – Create to be Free?

Kata Krasznahorkai: The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe identified in her 2021 “Report on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law” that “Freedom of expression is facing growing pressure.”  It is for this “growing pressure,” the Council of Europe now addresses freedom of expression in Europe in the Free to Create- project by means of a Digital Exhibition, a Manifesto and a Report. 

Today, we have to recall again that culture has been defined in the founding documents of the Council of Europe as an instrument that has the power to reconcile the wounded continent after WWII. Until recently, no one would have expected that this eminent role of culture would be as burning and urgent as it is today.

The vision behind the project is to highlight the role of arts and culture, especially artistic freedom as a core human right and as the ground on what sustainable democratic structures are built – and built to last. The Council of Europe has initiated this dynamic, responsive and ever growing platform that addresses the links between human rights, democratic growth, freedom of speech and artistic freedom that recalls the fact, that the protection of freedom of expression in Article 10 of the European convention on Human Rights extends to the freedom of speech, thus to artistic expression. Artistic freedom is thus a soft law instrument based on hard law.

Re_VIVE by Arman Harutyunyan. The poster conceived by Harutyunyan reflects on the artist’s role in mobilizing society against injustice and announcing new visions of possible futures.

Which partners are you collaborating with? 

Ivana Hrdas Papadopoulos: The “Free to Create – Create to be Free“ project is conceived and is further developing under the CoE Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP) strand. This CoE committee is responsible for activities related to Culture, Heritage and Landscape, ensuring a follow-up on their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. We have established wide-ranging cooperation with the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, as well as observer organizations that contribute to our committee work, including the EU, UNESCO, ICOMOS, ENCATC, Europa Nostra, Culture Action Europe, INGOs, the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Congress of the Council of Europe, among others. Inside the Council of Europe, we are also working hand in hand with the ECtHR, Commissioner for HR, and the Platform for Journalists.

As is goes for the external presence, we are participating in international conferences, exhibitions and round tables such as the Salzburg Forum, the annual HR conference in Kriastiansaand (NOR), Safe Havens Freedom talks, exchanging with ICORN, Freemuse, and of course we are planning to extend our work with Ars Electronica festival ( and Compendium association. Let’s not forget that through our workshops and cooperation with artists, we gain the essential feedback needed to continue our work. We understand that collaboration with various actors and artists is a key factor for success!

We have to recall again that culture has been defined in the founding documents of the Council of Europe as an instrument that has the power to reconcile the wounded continent after WWII.

What is the geography of the project? Why does it have this specific geographical focus (Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Serbia)? 

Kata Krasznahorkai: It is an outstanding aspect of this project that it features perspectives on artistic freedom not only from the 27 member states of the European Union, but from all 46 member states of the Council of Europe, including the countries you have mentioned. With this approach, it is a unique mapping of Europe as a wider landscape where artistic freedom has historically been and still is coined by diversity and multiperspectivity, this aspect being the main driving factor behind its unique emphasis on human rights as cultural rights.

Artwork by Tewa Barnosa

Could you tell us a bit about the future plans? Are you planning to launch the next chapter of the project? 

Kata Krasznahorkai: All three pillars of the “Free to Create” project are being developed further this year: more member states will join the digital exhibition with artworks, the Manifesto is going to be highlighted at arts and culture events throughout Europe and the Report is feeding in political and cultural decision makers’ recommendations and policy plans. Further plans include steps towards extending the implementation of Article 10 of the EDHR to include artistic freedom, to facilitate artistic freedom as a core human right by enabling debate and exchange on artistic freedom between member states, cultural and civil society organizations and artists themselves. 

Ivana Hrdas Papadopoulos: In spite of the fact that a lot is going on regarding artistic freedom at the moment, the Council of Europe is aiming to not only highlight the role of artists in sustainable democratic structures, but also tries to empower and trigger new pathways of connecting and enabling networks and cross-sectoral cooperation in this field. We plan to further guide Council of Europe member states to collaborate more closely with artists and cultural organizations. Our goal is to develop effective, complementary strategies to address artistic freedom issues, particularly protecting the fundamental human right to create.

What does it mean? It means that we have this unique possibility and a critical mass at the Council of Europe, to work transversally with different inside partners (ECtHR, Executions of the ECtHR, CommHR, Platform for safety of journalists, ECRI, also by using different HR platforms, our available instruments and educational tools and policies at hand), and with outside ones too, which are relevant and necessary for life and success of such projects, as freedom of artistic expression related are.

Could you elaborate a bit on the “kiosk-version” of the project? How is it being envisioned? 

Kata Krasznahorkai: The digital exhibition is also available and adjustable as a pop-up exhibition, that can be installed as an installation at art academies, festivals, cultural institutions etc., adjusted to the space and including special highlights from the hosting institution. The first prototype of this pop-up exhibition has been launched at the PACE-assembly at the Palais d l`Europe in Strasbourg this year. It is an interactive format, where you have a pocket-version of the Manifesto, AR-applications and the featured artworks in a modular setting, so it can be extended thematically and also structurally to the needs and focus points of the respective hosting institution.


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