This 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, propose new ways of communicating/dealing with them which will be presented in a separate exhibition during a celebration held in Amsterdam in April 2018. Working together with me, Yeon Sung and Mariam Darchiashvilli, chose to work on Raif Badawi’s case that is well known not only in Saudi Arabia but all around the world. Raif, who founded an online world. 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. He was charged with violating Saudi Arabia’s information technology law and insulting Islamic religious figures by creating and managing an online forum. We dig a bit deeper in search of similar cases on a span of the 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. We came to the conclusion one of the most probable ways is to attract international attention to problems of Freedom of Expression in Saudi Arabia by exposing international companies having a 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 the paradox and make a connection between the selected cases of Freedom of Speech violation and the western companies that are gaining profit from business with Saudi Arabia at the same time while promoting their care for human rights. This could 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 realize 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 the creation of a big-scale monumental installation we created a material body for these so-called “crimes” that online activists in Saudi committed. Physical is always more relatable for humans than virtual.
June 1, 2019