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- Graphic Design

Models for Humanity

The year 2018 marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and fifty years of the Dutch branch of Amnesty International. In celebration of a continued connection between upholding social and political ideals and the arts, the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague together with Amnesty International Amsterdam joined forces to create an exhibition of 20 projects investigating critical cases of human rights abuse.

KABK Graphic Design student Marc van den Berg presents the project Saudi Arabia 2030, When the Oil Runs Out to King Willem-Alexander. Photo by Marieke Wijntjes


The goal of this undertaking was to make globalised rights violations understandable to a young generation of designers and to deal with cases of sensitive nature, taking place both near and far. The participants have learnt about complex environments of political crisis, which include different actors and multiple interests, but even more importantly they have become aware of the huge implications of these cases for their own lives.

Exhibition overview with a wall displaying key moments in the history of Amnesty NL


Models for Humanity is an exhibition developed during a semester-long collaboration with the Dutch section of Amnesty International. The exhibition was on display during the 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award festivities at Theater Amsterdam and was opened by King Willem-Alexander on the 21st of April 2018. Featured projects explore individual violations of human rights and reflect on how digital technologies are shaping our current intrinsic privileges or what the future of our civic society will be. Specific cases were selected from a list of priority countries provided by the Amsterdam office of Amnesty International. Countries in focus were Russia, China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and, of course, the Netherlands. Each of these nations is held responsible for violating global legal standards in some way.


Models for Humanity was supervised by Lauren Alexander, Vit Ruller and Niels Schrader from the Department of Graphic Design at the Royal Academy of Arts (KABK), and greatly supported by Maarten Beckers from Amnesty International. His regular attendance guaranteed the accuracy, legality and availability of case-related information. During the course, students were challenged to examine contemporary violations of human rights, to scrutinise facts and scenarios and then to present their results in a comprehensive manner. By using investigative techniques of forensics, they were able to recognise, document, collect, preserve and interpret visual evidence. The resulting works on show include video stories, imaginary game worlds and fictional sports teams to name a few, which offer an uplifting alternative to oppression and violence.


Armands Freibergs, Christina Kordunian and Rhodé Tavenier, for example, focused on the lack of digital privacy protection in Russia and created a multi-screen video installation which features a series of astute interviews with digital rights advocates defending access to Virtual Private Networks. Rebecca Joly, Risto Kujanpää and Theresa Scherrer explored the legal implications of Article 212.1 that criminalises peaceful protest in Russia. They identified and categorised the gestures of civil protest by subverting the tradition of using miniatures to display scenes of war, they created a set of 3D-printed figurines each conveying through its stance and gesture a political message. Wannes Vrijs researched the Turkish media purge following the coup d’état attempt in 2016, extracted and chronologically arranged data on the government-influenced media outlet closures and acquisitions, and giving each data type its own sound, translated the situation into a spatial sound experience — a veritable symphony of censorship. Roderick Cornelissen, on the other hand, assembled a wooden relief map of the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, which connects geographical characteristics with statistical data on the area. Since its colonial occupation by Portugal and then the Netherlands, Maluku province has continued to undergo phases of separatism and religious conflict. Linsey Dolleman took on an issue that is closer to home. Her intricate video mapping projection reveals the mechanisms, and likely risks and side effects of algorithmic crime prevention, based on the example of the central district of The Hague.

Artúr Andrási and Greta Radzevičiūtė; Twitter2drive; publication


The Department of Graphic Design at the KABK was very happy to collaborate with Amnesty International and to witness their students engage with problems of international humanitarian law. Encouraging them to think independently and to undertake analytical reasoning was crucial to the educational approach of the project. Students were trained not only to examine and interpret complex problems, but also to become responsible citizens by questioning the current state of affairs in the political realm.

Wannes Vrijs; The Sound of Silence; audio installation with Arduino components


Project participants were Artúr Andrási, Katsiaryna Banar, Leith Benkhedda, Marc van den Berg, Kylièn Bergh, Louis Braddock Clarke, Martijn Brakenhoff, Roderick Cornelissen, Kiki Coster, Mariam Darchiashvili, Linsey Dolleman, Dana Doorenbos, Hugo Dumont, Carmen Dusmet Carrasco, Manon Féval, Dominika Fojtíková, Armands Freibergs, Verena Hahn, Frank Hemmekam, Jan Husstedt, Rully Irawan, Bohwa Jang, Denise Jansen, Rebecca Joly, Sophia de Jong, Pien Kars, Christina Kordunian, Risto Kujanpää, Peter van Langen, Auke Lansink, Fien Leeflang, Kin Mun Chong, Wietske Nutma, Greta Radzevičiūtė, Samantha van Roosenbeek, Evy van Schelt, Theresa Scherrer, Tyrone Schorrer, Samuel Snyder, Cato Stigter, Yeon Sung, Rhodé Tavenier, Nina van Tuikwerd, Carolina Valente Pinto, Esther Vane, Wannes Vrijs, Alfonso Yordi Martinez, Rossi Yotova and Zuzanna Zgierska.

Authors: Lauren Alexander and Niels Schrader