Models of Humanity

Installation Art

The cause of the project is the celebration of 50th anniversary of Amnesty Netherlands, for which 3d year students of The Royal Academy of Art were asked to select one of 12 unresolved cases of Amnesty International. The task was to research them and propose new ways of communicating/dealing with them which will be presented in a separate exhibition during celebration held in Amsterdam on April 2018.

Working together - me, Yeon Sung and Dominika Fojtikova, chose to work on Raif Badawi’s case that is well known not only in Saudi Arabia but all around the world. Raif Badawi, who founded an online forum for political and social debate, called “Saudi Arabian Liberals”, was arrested on 17 June 2012 and has been detained since then in a prison in Briman, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah. He was charged with violating Saudi Arabia’s information technology law and insulting Islamic religious figures by creating and managing an online forum. And for us, as artists and designers, the question of freedom of expression is very important. But after all these years of appealing to humanity and seeing no result, what could we come up with to raise awareness and propagate change? 

We decided to dig a bit deeper in search of similar cases on a span of last 10-11 years. This gave us a variety of material to cling to and also a bigger outlook on the issues of self-censorship specifically in Saudi Arabia. Other than that we looked into the events of the Arab Spring which, we believe, had a huge influence on freedom of expression in the internet in Gulf countries. Thus, our main research questions arose : What disturbs SA’s government more than critical online activism? Which field of Saudi Arabian interest could potentially become a tool of change for Saudi society? As a result we came to conclusion that one of the most probable ways to help this situation was - attracting international attention to problematics of Freedom of Expression in Saudi Arabia by exposing international companies having business relationship with SA. If you can not appeal to someone's humanity - you can always appeal to their wallet. The main idea became to expose this paradox and make a strong connection between the selected cases of Freedom of Speech violation and the western companies that are gaining profit from business with Saudi Arabia in the same time, while promoting their care for human rights. This could potentially be the most effective way of influencing SA, since those companies, caring about their image, could stop partnerships with the Kingdom.

The goal of the project is to make people realise the connection between these two disconnected topics and to highlight the paradox of two contrasting fields influencing each other. By involving people in the act of physically moving information and by creation of a big-scale monumental installation we want to create a material body for the so-called “crimes” that online activists in Saudi committed. Physical is always more relatable for human than virtual.