Treaties as Art
I had the good fortune yesterday to spend the afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. To my great surprise, I experienced my first encounter with treaties as art. A special exhibit on display through March 26, 2012 of the work of Sanja Iveković entitled Sweet Violence focuses on the plight of women in post-Communist political systems of Eastern Europe. As a feminist artist, most of Iveković’s work challenges the status quo, and that includes countries that refuse to adopt the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Among the installations was an arresting display of bright red leaflets thrown on the ground throughout the museum reprinting Amnesty International’s campaign to promote U.S. ratification of CEDAW.
Here’s a description of Iveković’s Report on CEDAW installation:
“The artist printed the document on red paper, mounted its cover page for wall display, and crumpled the remaining sheets into irregular balls and then scattered them around the perimeter of the gallery space. Visitors to MOMA are invited to pick up a sheet, discarded as such leaflets often are, and learn about the infringement of women’s rights.”
The leaflets strewn on the museum floor—combined with her other work on display such as Double Life and Lady Rosa of Luxembourg—are surprisingly effective at evoking a subtle disregard for women’s rights.
If you pick up one of the leaflets, you can read details on “myth vs. fact” about CEDAW.
As of April 2011, 186 countries had ratified CEDAW. The United States is one of only seven countries that have yet to ratify CEDAW, including Iran and Sudan. The United States has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only industrialized democracy that has not ratified this treaty.
CEDAW: MYTH vs. FACT
MYTH #1: U.S. ratification of CEDAW would give too much power to the international community with the provisions of the Convention superseding U.S. federal and state law.
FACT: Treaties adopted in the United States are not “self-executing.” This means that legislation to implement any treaty provision would come before the House and Senate in the same way any other bill does. As with many international agreements, countries can express “reservations, understandings and declarations” in cases where there are discrepancies between the international convention or treaty and domestic law. U.S. law generally complies with the requirements of CEDAW and the Treaty is compatible with the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Where any differences do exist, the Treaty calls on states to take appropriate measures to progressively promote the principle of nondiscrimination. Such language upholds US sovereignty and grants no enforcement authority to the United Nations….
Wow! CEDAW at the MOMA. International law terms of art have become, well, art. A human rights campaign is on display at one of the great modern art museums in the world.
If you are in New York in the next two months, I recommend you visit MOMA and check out Sanja Iveković.