Daniela Ortiz, The Empire of Law is an Online Video Exhibition curated by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, featuring the work of Daniela Ortiz.
Daniela Ortiz’s film The Empire of Law aims to critically analyze the relationship between law, justice, and colonialism. Based on the architecture and history of two law courts—the Brussels Palace of Justice in Belgium, and its replica, the Palace of Justice in Lima, Peru—the film unveils the role of the legal system in the construction of extractivist, racist, and neo-colonial global structures. Throughout history, the law has served as a legitimating tool of colonialism, of which The Law of the Indies of 1512 and The Berlin Act of 1885 are clear examples. Even today, however, the idea of justice is used to approve violent migratory control policies, including the strengthening of the persecution, detention and deportation of migrant people from former colonies. In a similar way, the legacy of...European settler colonialism continues to exercise its violence upon contemporary racialized subjectivities that “have never been human,” to quote the Brazilian performer and writer Jota Mombaça. As shown by researcher Malcom Ferdinand, the colonial project reduced not only entire populations, but also natural environments and non-humans into subservient objects which fed into a “colonial way of living.” As a result, Ortiz speaks of a European project of creating “The Empire of Law”: an empire rooted in colonialism, in which justice to the colonial territories and racialized people can never be found.
Ortiz’s film was commissioned by KADIST, together with Netwerk Aalst and Contour Biennale 9, in the framework of a four year project entitled Not Fully Human, Not Human at All that I curated on the invitation of KADIST, in collaboration with several European institutions: Lumbardhi Foundation in Prizren, Kosovo; Netwerk in Aalst, Belgium; Kunsthalle Lissabon and HANGAR, both in Lisbon, Portugal, and Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany. The project borrows its title from Donna Haraway’s text “Ecce Homo, Aint’ (Ar’n’t) I a Woman, and Inappropriate/d Others” in which she refers to Hortense Spillers’ seminal text “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book”, which describes the inexisting legal subjectivity of enslaved women. Spillers’ text is a touchstone for Black feminist studies for the connections she draws between the structures of enslaved families, and how this resonates with contemporary African American communities. Not Fully Human, Not Human at All looks into processes of dehumanization that are taking place in Europe; a number of recent political and social occurrences have led to stricter policies of immigration, new forms of nationalisms, limits on universal access to healthcare, neo-liberal pressure on state economic policies, the erosion of rights for foreign workers, and the reevaluation of what defines Europe both culturally and geographically. These processes are coexistent with relations produced by the white privilege that defines who is considered human at all, and are part of a historically recurring process, starting with the colonial project of many European countries. The artists taking part in the exhibition question the obsolete category of “the human,” by imagining concepts from a new vocabulary of the process that can be called re-humanization. The preparation of the exhibition itself was bound to the context of 2020, in which the process of dehumanization is intrinsically connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has intensified these pre-existing social, environmental and political crises. The incitement #stayathome exposed many social inequalities and increased domestic violence in France and elsewhere.
— Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez
About the curator
Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez is an interdependent curator, editor and writer. Among the exhibitions she has curated are Defiant Muses: Delphine Seyrig and the Feminist Video Collectives in France in the 1970s–1980s, with Giovanna Zapperi, LaM, Lille and Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2019–20; Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton, Mechelen, 2019; Let’s Talk about the Weather: Art and Ecology in Times of Crisis, with Nora Razian, Sursock Museum, Beirut and Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou, 2016/18; and Resilience – U3: 7th Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia, +MSUM, Ljubljana, 2013. She was co-director of Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers from 2010–12. She was chief editor of Manifesta Journal, 2012–14 and of L’Internationale Online, 2014–17. She is co- founder of the Initiative for Practices and Visions of Radical Care, with Elena Sorokina. In 2021 she was appointed Cultural Programmes Manager at the Cité internationale des arts, Paris.
(1) Malcom Ferdinand, Une écologie décoloniale. Penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen, Paris : Seuil, 2019.
(2) Donna Haraway, “Ecce Homo, Aint’ (Ar’n’t) I a Woman, and Innapropriate/d Others: Human in a Post-Humanist Landscape” , 1989 : “Slaves were unpositioned, unfixed, in a system of names; they were unlocated and so disposable. In these discursive frames, white women were not legally or symbolically fully human, slaves were not legally nor symbolically human at all.”
(3) Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book”, Diacritics, vol. 17, no. 2, 1987, pp. 65–81.
(4) Hervé Hinopay, “A Delafontaine, les soignants sont ‘au front sans armes,’” April 13, 2020. Bondyblog, https://www.bondyblog.fr/societe/sante/a-delafontaine-les-soignants-sont-au-front-sans-armes/
Entrada actualizada el el 22 jul de 2021
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