This undertaking commemorates the 50th anniversary of Amnesty Netherlands, an initiative that engaged third-year students from The Royal Academy of Art. These students were tasked with selecting one out of twelve unresolved cases from Amnesty International.
Collaborating with Yeon Sung and Mariam Darchiashvilli, we elected to focus on the case of Raif Badawi—a well-known figure not only in Saudi Arabia but across the globe. Raif, the founder of an online platform for political and social discourse named “Saudi Arabian Liberals,” was apprehended on June 17, 2012. He has since remained incarcerated in a Saudi Arabian prison located in Briman. His charges include violating Saudi Arabia’s information technology law and disparaging Islamic religious figures through the creation and administration of an online forum. This context provided us with a wealth of materials to work with, while also affording us a more comprehensive insight into the issue of self-censorship, particularly in the Saudi Arabian context.
Our concept aimed to unveil a paradox and establish a connection between instances of Freedom of Speech infringement and Western companies profiting from their business ties with Saudi Arabia. Concurrently, these companies purport to advocate for human rights. The project’s objective was to prompt individuals to recognize the interplay between these seemingly disparate matters and to underscore the contradiction between two seemingly contradictory realms influencing one another. By engaging people in the physical transfer of information and constructing a grand-scale monumental installation, we gave tangible form to the so-called “offenses” committed by online activists in Saudi Arabia. This physical representation holds a more relatable quality for humans than the virtual realm.