Jonas Staal, New World Embassy

Can we reimagine our fundamental practice of democracy? New World Summit offers a mobile embassy for stateless actors to give voice to democratic inclusion through art

The New World Embassy recently traveled to the Oslo Architecture Triennale to represent the Kurdish communities of the autonomous region of Rojava, northern-Syria. In collaboration with the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava, it hosted assemblies and public debate to engage a large public in the unique cultural and political ideals being developed in this war-torn region.

Founded by visual artist, Jonas Staal in 2012, The New World Summit is an arts based organization that offers mobile “alternative parliaments” for hosting population groups who currently find themselves excluded from democracy. Often shut out of democratic processes, either due to local political suppression or suppression by the West through the mechanism of a “terrorist” designation, The New World Embassy is dedicated to letting these organizations speak freely, without interruption, about their organization, their struggle, and the consequences of being excluded from peaceful political participation.

Unfortunately, such essential political issues cannot be discussed freely in the political realm, because “speaking to terrorists or non-state actors” is seen as tantamount to legitimating them, which a no-go area in current politics, or even in think tanks and academia. Yet the exclusion from the political debate often pushes organizations into clandestine postures and violence, or perpetuates massive migrations of people fleeing oppression.

Staal hopes to use the language of the arts to help steer conversations into territories where politics and academia cannot or will not go. He hopes art can be seen as a realm where open and discussions can take place, beyond othering and labeling to unearth our foundational and common desires for deeper self-actualization and connection to place.

As Staal explains, “The New World Summit springs from a wish to contribute, through the radical imagination of art, to an international democratization movement, collectively aiming for the deconstruction of the monopolies of power that want us to believe that democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech are the exclusive domain of the self-proclaimed “enlightened” Western world.”

Under the canopy of The New World Embassy in Oslo, lawyers, political analysts, journalists, artists and activists freely engaged the political and legal representatives of the non-state organizations in deep and even heart felt debate. Through truly democratic engagement in a safe “non-representative” space, The New World Embassy hopes to fashion dialogue among unlikely actors and form a democracy that remains under any circumstance, in the hands of the people. Until we’re all ready to put aside our political othering, artistic experiments like these are necessary to humanize the democratic gap.

Photo Credit: Oslo Architecture Trienniale, New World Summit, Lidia Rossner