Graphic Design x Amnesty

Models for Humanity is an exhibition of 21 projects 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 opened by King Willem-Alexander.

Each project investigates a critical case of human rights abuse and reflects on how digital technologies are shaping our current intrinsic privileges or what the future of our civic society will be. Specific cases of human rights breaches were selected from a list of priority countries determined by the Amsterdam bureau of Amnesty International. Countries in focus were Russia, China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and, of course, the Netherlands. Each of these nations are held responsible for violating global law standards in different ways.

Project descriptions - Country cases: Russia

Armands Freibergs, Christina Kordunian and Rhodé Tavenier

multi-screen video installation, 27:23 min

Voices of VPN is a series of interviews with digital rights advocates, defending access to Virtual Private Networks. With their short videos, Armands Freibergs, Christina Kordunian and Rhodé Tavenier express their concerns about the growing lack of privacy protection in Russia – but also increasingly in Western democracies. Interviewees include representatives from Bits of Freedom, Amnesty International and Greenhost, as well as individuals like the initiators of the recent Dutch referendum on the so-called “Dragnet Bill”.

Sophia de Jong and Rossi Yotova

video, 1:47 min

SaveNet is a spoof advertisement for a fictional browser extension that allows its users to experience what it could be like to navigate the Internet as a Russian citizen in the future, after the implementation of the VPN ban. Based on personal parameters, the software plug-in censors unwanted imagery and keeps it literally under lock and key. According to Sophia de Jong and Rossi Yotova, the question remains open as to who benefits more from the impending censorship of online activity: the state, the merchant or the consumer.

Rebecca Joly, Risto Kujanpää and Theresa Scherrer

videos, 3:50 min each and 3D printed figurines, 50 to 100 mm height each

Models of Opinion by Rebecca Joly, Risto Kujanpää and Theresa Scherrer is a collection of 3D printed figurines which embody gestures of civil protest. By presenting a rich variety of body postures and categorising them based upon their political message, the students reflect critically on the legal implications of Article 212.1, which criminalises peaceful protest in Russia. The presentation of an army of figurines refers to historical miniatures that display scenes of war rather than acts of humanity.

Carmen Dusmet Carrasco and Zuzanna Zgierska

video and installation made of steel, 150 x 180 cm

The installation Discipline Objects by Carmen Dusmet Carrasco and Zuzanna Zgierska presents instruments of torture that look like sterile gym equipment. The shapes and functions of the devices have been developed based upon torture techniques described by Ildar Dadin during his imprisonment. The average human dimensions in the equipment are carefully exaggerated in order to create body postures of pain.

Project descriptions - Country cases: China

Dana Doorenbos and Evy van Schelt

video, 9:11 min and publication

The mini-documentary 251209_12:36PM puts key events of the Liu Xiaobo case in a timeline and maps related locations by means of geotagging. During their research, Dana Doorenbos and Evy van Schelt gathered large amounts of visual evidence available publicly on social media and international news pages in order to draw an accurate picture of the circumstances of the Chinese human rights activist’s death. Unfortunately, the current whereabouts of his wife, Liu Xia, remain unknown.

Katsiaryna Banar, Kin Mun Chong and Wietske Nutma

publication and fabric

Solidarity in the Face of Tyranny is a publication comparing Liu Xiaobo’s Charter 08 manifesto with passages of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and excerpts from the verdict in the human rights activist’s 2009 trial. Katsiaryna Banar, Kin Mun Chong and Wietske Nutma manage to lay bare ideological similarities and oppositions by means of language analysis and cross-referencing. It is surprising to see how many of the texts use almost identical wording and yet intend different meanings.

Louis Braddock Clarke, Manon Féval and Alfonso Yordi Martinez


Ouroboros is a digital collage by Louis Braddock Clarke, Manon Féval and Alfonso Yordi Martinez, made from a collection of symbols of online activism used in China. The fabric maps the comprehensive language of political meme culture in order to determine the rising volume of creative protest against internet censorship. A dedicated index allows visitors to understand the historical background and context of related memes.

Project descriptions - Country cases: Indonesia

Roderick Cornelissen

installation made of wood, 180 x 120 cm

Roderick Cornelissen’s The Convolution of the Maluku Archipelago is a wooden relief map of the Maluku (Molucca) 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. With his project, Cornelissen aims to make the local reasons for ethnic and economic struggles transparent and relatable.

Rully Irawan and Bohwa Jang

video, 8:37 min

The Missing Final Report is a short video document about the only official report on the Munir killing published by the Indonesian government. Additional reflections by Suciwati Munir (the activist’s wife) and Usman Hamid (head of Amnesty Indonesia) allow the makers to establish a sequence of events as they have occurred after Munir’s fatal flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on 7 September 2004. In their video, Rully Irawan and Bohwa Jang dissect passages from the official document to detect controversial statements and claims.

Martijn Brakenhoff, Auke Lansink and Samuel Snyder

video, 14:04 min

Flight GA-974 is a filmic reconstruction of the Munir Said Thalib homicide, based primarily upon interviews with case lawyer Martha Meijer and head of Amnesty Indonesia Usman Hamid. Martijn Brakenhoff, Auke Lansink and Samuel Snyder digitally rebuild parts of the original Boeing 747 aircraft by means of 3D imaging technology to create a fly-through video that reassembles the unfolding events piece by piece.

Kylièn Bergh and Frank Hemmekam

video, 5:00 min

Terror & Tourism is a short video that aims to juxtapose the global image of tourist Indonesia with its actual reputation as a human rights offender, especially with regard to the pro-independence movements in the regions of Maluku and Papua. Kylièn Bergh and Frank Hemmekam zoom in on two particular incidents documented in Amnesty International’s 2017–2018 annual report, which demonstrate how religious minorities still face harassment, intimidation and physical attacks. What remains is a stale aftertaste of an otherwise dream destination for millions of tourists.

Project descriptions - Country cases: The Netherlands

Peter van Langen, Tyrone Schorrer and Cato Stigter

miniature dioramas made of wood and paper

2027 is a series of audiovisual miniature dioramas telling the story of a fictional cyberattack on the railway network of the Netherlands. The project reflects critically on public lack of concern for the Dutch government’s massive surveillance plans, as manifested in the new Dragnet Bill. Peter van Langen, Tyrone Schorrer and Cato Stigter illustrate worst-case implications of massive volumes of confidential personal data ending up in the wrong hands.

Leith Benkhedda, Hugo Dumont and Jan Husstedt

video, 4:59 min

For their speculative video Foreign Body, Leith Benkhedda, Hugo Dumont and Jan Husstedt investigated the history of Dutch mass surveillance. Their research revealed that comprehensive population registration systems established for administrative and statistical purposes also helped the Nazis to effectively track down Jewish and Roma citizens of the Netherlands. The resulting video gives us a taste of how future man-machine interaction might function and how large quantities of information could narrow our field of vision.

Linsey Dolleman

video-mapping projection, 1:45 min

Predictive Policing is a video-mapping projection that presents the mechanisms of algorithmic crime prevention. Taking The Hague city centre as an example, Linsey Dolleman explains step by step the risks and side-effects of computer-based law enforcement and how tunnel vision is created. Current research predicts a so-called waterbed effect, whereby crime shifts away into urban areas which fall outside of predicted demarcations.

Project descriptions - Country cases: Saudi Arabia

Mariam Darchiashvili, Dominika Fojtíková and Yeon Sung

installation made of wood and fabric, 160 x 200 cm

Juxtapose and Conquer features scrolling textile timelines that bring together quotes and newspaper clippings associated with Saudi writer and activist Raif Badawi. With their project, Mariam Darchiashvili, Dominika Fojtíková and Yeon Sung reveal connections between the evolving influence of commercial businesses and the granting of human rights in Saudi Arabia. As activist Armin Navabi would put it, “You can only achieve change when you hit people’s wallets.”

Marc van den Berg, Fien Leeflang and Carolina Valente Pinto

video game

Saudi Arabia 2030, When the Oil Runs Out is an interactive video game that responds to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, a transformation programme for long-term economic success that fails to address the topic of gender equality. Following general government practice in Saudi Arabia, Marc van den Berg, Fien Leeflang and Carolina Valente Pinto have added a scoring system to their game, which treats human rights as a currency. Players determine whether winning the game is worth trading in basic human rights.

Artúr Andrási and Greta Radzevičiūtė


Twitter2drive is a tweet catalogue containing all Arabic and English Twitter messages of the past seven years attributed to the #women2drive hashtag. The book aims to provide a detailed overview of the Women to Drive movement and to illustrate how public commentary relates to the actual events leading up to the lifting of the ban on women driving in 2016. Tweets in the publication are divided into different categories of sentiment, like positive, negative and neutral.

Pien Kars, Samantha van Roosenbeek and Esther Vane

installation and video, 1:27 min

For Race of Feminism, Pien Kars, Samantha van Roosenbeek and Esther Vane designed a speculative solar-powered motor race in which Saudi Arabia is represented by an all-female team of drivers. The identity of the 2030 event includes fictional sponsorship logos from women’s rights groups throughout history, as well as new racing flags, fashionable suits and even the prototype of a desert-proof racing car. The ultimate goal of the project is to promote gender equality and provide an alternative future image of women in Saudi Arabia.

Verena Hahn and Nina van Tuikwerd

digital platform

Who Is in the War Room? is a publicly accessible website designed by Verena Hahn and Nina van Tuikwerd to host a fictional interactive conference room filled with clues related to key political actors involved in the 2016 funeral bombing in Yemen. Many of the scattered objects are linked to text fragments disclosing the real timeline of events from 8 October 2016. With their project, Hahn and van Tuikwerd attempt to highlight the world of state-backed human rights violations, illicit arms trafficking, corruption and money laundering.

Project descriptions - Country cases: Turkey

Wannes Vrijs

audio installation with Arduino components, 10:51 min

The Sound of Silence is a data-sonification project by Wannes Vrijs that translates the Turkish media purge following the coup d'état attempt of 2016 into a spatial sound experience. The underlying data represents government-influenced media outlet closures and acquisitions, arranged over time. With his project, Vrijs creates a disturbing soundscape of the current state of freedom of speech in Turkey – a symphony of censorship.

Models for Humanity was supervised by Lauren Alexander, Vit Ruller and Niels Schrader from the Graphic Design Department at the Royal Academy of Arts, 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, scrutinise facts and scenarios, and then present their results in a comprehensive manner. By using investigative techniques of forensics students were able to recognise, document, collect, preserve and interpret visual evidence.

The syllabus was kicked off with a workshop by Christiaan Triebert from the citizen journalism initiative Bellingcat, renowned for their investigation work of the MH17 tragedy through crowdsourcing. During the workshop in October 2017 students were trained in methods of online image research and investigative journalism. By means of geotag battles based solely on online available imagery, students learned to identify locations where a picture was taken.

Country cases such as those from Saudi Arabia or Yemen posed a particularly challenging task, considering it was an unknown context to many students. Despite the scarcity of information available online, the young designers were able to access concealed stories by reaching out to organisations and key individuals, in order to conduct interviews and gather fieldwork during the process. They were forced to step outside of their comfort zones and develop ways to search beyond readily available information sources. The students have been encouraged to formulate their own informed opinion on increasingly complex issues of the globalised world and propose speculative and imaginative counter-narratives. By learning about injustices and their consequences, the upcoming designers developed video stories, imaginary game worlds and fictional sports teams which offer an uplifting alternative to oppression and violence.

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

Project details


Dutch sector of Amnesty International


Exhibition with installations, video, audio, 3D printed models, publications, fabrics