Humanos Derechos focuses on the human aspects of people directly involved in conflicts and wars. It also looks at how our social environment and the circumstances within which we are raised lead to hatred and intolerance.
Humanos Derechos Colombia involves one member from the frontline of each group involved: the army, the guerrilla, the paramilitaries and land workers. "I filmed each person stripping off their uniforms and firearms, to show that beneath it all we are humans. This might sound superficial at first, but for these young adults to reveal themselves naked was a difficult test of self-confrontation. For me, it was an enduring task of persuasion. Getting these individuals to 'act' out in front of the camera involves certain levels of risk.
"The process involved interacting with every participant. Each provokes extreme hatred from one side in the conflict or another. By making each side perform the same task created a unifying level. It has also been a challenging opportunity to be intimate with the layers of this reality that seem so impossible to unveil. Instead I physically reveal their bodies that symbolise oppression.
"Each person was filmed individually but is seen to undress at the same time as I set the timing for each step. A metaphor for the different steps - in reverse order, that people have taken to liberate themselves by force through the creation of militias and ideologies or by being recruited with or without choice. In the case of civilians forced to abandon their land and belongings, the metaphor acts in the same order as the removal of their clothes.
In 2006 Colombia's first Presidential re-elections took place. The popular right-wing president Alvaro Uribe initiated constitutional changes that allowed him to stand for a second term, despite human rights groups accusing him of being linked to paramilitary operations.
On May 28th Colombians living in the United Kingdom could cast their votes at their consulate. To coincide with this historic moment, Arias arranged for a group of four friends to stand outside the consulate holding placards with the silhouette of a crouching armed man and the word RE-ERRECCION emerging from his groin. An armband with the initials AUV identified him as the President. AUC are the initials of the country's paramilitary and most Colombians could make an association.
Arias invited voters to comment on the poster and recorded their responses. However, one of the Uribe supporters reported the group to the police, saying she was frightened of these people and that they supported armed groups in Colombia. Without asking who they were, the police officers swooped on the group and arrested one of them for causing public disorder.
The rest of the day was spent talking to the police, explaining who the artists were until the Chief Superintendent offered a formal apology, alongside the arresting officer. He concluded that the woman who had reported the group to the police had influenced the police officer to believe her views and that the police officer had failed in his duties by not asking the group any questions. Ignorance and fear lay at the heart of these events, issues that concern many Colombians living in their home country.
A Prince Claus Fund award enabled Arias to travel to Israel and Palestine in March 2009. His aim was to produce a work based on the same principles as Humanos Derechos in Colombia. The three-week visit led to complex and unsettling findings, challenging Arias' initial aim to reveal each side's common humanity. On this visit he interviewed people involved in the conflict and also intervened in Israel using graffiti, documenting it and producing a series of photographs that question the idea of state and territory.
FOR LOVE AND MONEY was a radio project for Frieze Art Fair 2006. Artists and cultural workers at the thin end of the financial wedge were invited to react to the notion of an art fair, moving the agenda away from profit and towards a greater sympathy concerning the purpose of art in society. The shows were broadcast from the Resonance FM booth at the Frieze Art Fair 2006.
My contribution looked at the art market through the eyes and experiences of people far removed from the glitz of one of the world's most profitable art fairs.
Enriching and enabling the commercial art world to exist, the average artist's income in London in 2005 was below the minimum wage. However the 2005 Freeze Art Fair had a turnover of £33 million. Arias recorded the views of various people to create an audio piece.