Symposium: On the Limits of the Law and…

Symposium: On the Limits of the Law and People’s Tribunals

de Appel, Tolstraat 160, Amsterdam

The symposium is on occasion of the exhibition Edgelanders: Amsterdam on Trial / Part III: The Witnesses. Through the multi-part project, artists Ehsan Fardjadniya and Raul Balai are building material for a people’s tribunal against the city of Amsterdam in relation to the right to housing for undocumented people.

During the symposium we ask a set of questions together through the lenses of different projects including Edgelanders: If the state fails to act in accordance with justice and human rights, where do we (documented and undocumented) seek justice? Why is the state not acting in accordance with the justice systems put in place? And what are the limits of law? Where do we go for truth-telling and reconciliation? How can we make the state accountable? How can people's tribunals effect broader social and political change, including policy reforms, advocacy campaigns, and grassroots mobilisation? How can we center the voices of the ones who experience oppression in the processes of justice?

Artists have been engaging with the form of People’s Tribunals in different ways, as art works, whether processual or performative but also as active members of tribunals. There is an array of forms of People’s Tribunals, this gathering is geared towards learning from each other”s experiences and sharing with the audience various ways of engaging art in the work of social justice. It is primarily an assembly to help Raul and Ehsan think through the process towards the tribunal, and open a discussion about this form of justice with artists and the general public.

Participants are Pim Fischer (lawyer), Tineke Strik (politician), Robin Vanbesien (with his recent project Hold on to Her), Gable Roelofsen (The Shell Trials), Sami Tsegaye (We Are Here collective), Nilab Ahmadi (city councillor) and Ehsan Fardjadniya and Raul Balai (artists).

The symposium will take place at de Appel (Tolstraat 160) and Cinetol (nextdoor at Tolstraat 182). The symposium will be in English, except for the discussion between Pim Fischer and Tineke Strik, which will be in Dutch.

Saturday 18 May

11am-12.30pm, Cinetol, Etage room
Film screening of hold on to her (exhibition version) (2024) by Robin Vanbesien

12.30-1pm, Cinetol, Etage room
Documentation of The Shell Trial (2024) by the Duch National Opera


2-2.40pm, de Appel
Tour of the exhibition Edgelanders: Amsterdam on Trial / Part III: The Witnesses by artists Ehsan Fardjadniya and Raul Balai 

3-4.30pm, Cinetol, Etage room
Discussion Pim Fischer and Tineke Strik

Coffee break

5-7pm, Cinetol, Etage room
Discussion with Ehsan Fardjadniya and Raul Balai, Nilab Ahmadi, Gable Roelofsen, Robin Vanbesien and We Are Here collective (Sami Tsegaye)

hold on to her (exhibition version), 2024, Robin Vanbesien

hold on to her (exhibition version) traces a lived social infrastructure of care, solidarity and struggle, addressing a recent case of police and state violence in Belgium. Mawda Shawri, two years old in 2018, sister of Hama, daughter of Phrast and Shamden, was shot dead by a Belgian police officer during a migration border control. In 2023, over 40 people, both undocumented and documented resident activists, assembled before the camera at La Voix des Sans Papiers in Brussels to stage a collective hearing of documents from and reactions to Mawda’s case. During this gathering, the speakers acknowledge a ghostly haunting, caused by the impunity of the police and the lack of accountability of the state. It is in their refusal of such a lack of truth and human rights that they feel the need to explore beyond the official narratives. They produce the counter evidence of this deadly crossing, and they practice justice as a sensuous social space for collective mourning and healing. Faced with the inability to proceed within the dominant frameworks, this hearing challenges what is visible and audible, supported by Vanbesien’s audiovisual grammar, which foregrounds the opaque and the poetic.

The Shell Trial (2024), Duch National Opera

The Shell Trial is based on the play The Shell Case by Rebekka de Wit and Anoek Nuyens, which premiered in 2020 and was very popular on Dutch and international stages. Directing duo Romy Roelofsen and Gable Roelofsen, together with co-creator and conductor Manoj Kamps, took the initiative to adapt this play for the opera stage, in order to bring the theme to the attention of an even larger audience. They asked librettist Roxie Perkins and composer Ellen Reid to make this challenging translation with them. The Shell case continued to form the starting point, but in their opera adaptation the climate crisis is presented not only as a current problem, but also as a problem with a long-running colonial history. The addition of extra voices, which are often not heard in the debate, express this extra layer. There is The Historian, who creates space for the voices of history, and The Climate Refugee, which represents the voice of those who have had to flee their country at the hands of companies such as Shell. In this way, The Shell Trial is a plea for jointly looking ahead, with attention to the history that has brought us to this point.


Ehsan Fardjadniya

Ehsan Fardjadniya is a performance and visual artist. He was exiled from Iran in 2000 due to his political cartoons, after which he applied for asylum in the Netherlands. He studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and has a Master in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths’ College in London. Art and activism coalesce in Fardjadniya’s work, for which his “politicized” body—as a political exile and man of color—forms the starting point. His personal experiences and struggles with institutional racism filter through in the poignant stories about migration that he tells.

Raul Balai

Raul Balai (Amsterdam, 1980, SU / NL), is an artist whose work centers around the exploitative state of our minds, and how this subsequently frames the shape of the world. He provides insights into power structures: how they resonate in the way the story of history is told and reproduced, and how they lead to the society we have today. Here (personal) stories of migration and colonialism frequently play a role. He uses different styles and disciplines to expose and explore this. Balai studied at the University of the Arts Utrecht and has been a member of various collectives and partnerships as an artist.

Robin Vanbesien

Robin Vanbesien (Sint Lucas School of Arts, Antwerp) is an artist, filmmaker, researcher and educator. In his work, he explores the intricate reciprocities between artistic poetics and social practices. His recent projects, the wasp and the weather (2018-2020) and Solidarity Poiesis (2016-2018) – including film, installation, performance, study circle, workshop, writing – commit to the study of the poetics and imaginaries of various self-organized and emancipatory social practices. 

Gable Roelofsen

Gable Roelofsen (Zeist, The Netherlands, 1982) is an actor, singer, director, writer and producer from Dutch-indies decent. He received his education at the Maastricht academy for Drama, Lincoln Center Theater Directorslab New York City and he conducted an artistic research about innovation in the field op opera and musictheatre at APT-Apass post-graduate in DeSingel, Antwerp. In 2015 he graduated from the Operamanagement course of Opera Europa.

Pim Fischer

Pim Fischer was sworn in as a lawyer on August 15, 1995. He established his own office in Haarlem in 1999. Pim Fischer is a member of the Social Security Law Specialization Association (SSZ). In the Register of Jurisdictions of the Bar Association, he is registered in the field of social security law, in particular social benefits.

Tineke Strik

Tineke Strik has long been committed to the protection of refugees, minorities and the rule of law. In the 1990s, she worked as a legal protection consultant with Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland. Subsequently, Tineke went into politics. First as policy officer Justice at the Lower House fraction of GroenLinks and from 2002 to 2006 as alderman in Wageningen. In 2012, she received her doctorate in European asylum and migration policy from Radboud University in Nijmegen. 

We Are Here

We Are Here is a group of refugees in Amsterdam that does not get any housing provided by the government but also is not allowed to work and therefore should live on the street. The group decided to make the inhumane situation that they have to live in visible, by no longer hiding, but showing the situation of refugees that are out of procedure in The Netherlands. Thanks to the power of the refugees and the help of many supporters, the group squatted various buildings in Amsterdam between 2012 and 2019.