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Conflictual Topography III

  • Wednesday
    Aug 19–Wednesday
    Aug 26, 2020

Online Screening of Daniela Ortiz’s Film
Curated by Heidi Ballet

The Conflictual Topography public program, organized by Heidi Ballet, was planned to take place during the exhibition of Zhou Tao: Winter North Summer South but came to a halt due to the coronavirus crisis. For its third iteration, Daniela Ortiz’s film The Empire of Law is screened online between August 19 and August 26, 2020. The screening is being accompanied by a video conversation. 

The Empire of Law

A Film by Daniela Ortiz

The video The Empire of Law (2019) critically analyzes the relationship between law, justice, and colonialism. It looks among other things at the architecture, history, and context of two courts of law: the Brussels Palace of Justice in Belgium and the court that was built as its copy, the Palace of Justice in Lima, Peru. Viewing the subject from this angle, Ortiz unpacks the role of the legal system in the construction of global structures that are based on an extractivist, racist, and neocolonial rationale.

If the law has served as a legitimating tool of colonialism throughout history—for example, through the Laws of the Indies of 1512 or the Berlin Conference of 1885—Ortiz traces how the idea of justice continues to be used today to approve violent control policies for migrant people from former colonies, thus keeping the neocolonial status quo intact. As a result, The Empire of Law that Ortiz speaks about in the video refers to the European project of creating an empire rooted in colonialism, in which justice for the colonial territories and racialized people can never be found.

Heidi Ballet in Conversation with Daniela Ortiz


Daniela Ortiz (born 1985 in Peru, lives and works in Barcelona) aims to generate visual narratives in which the concepts of nationality, racialization, social class, and genre are explored in order to critically understand structures of colonial, patriarchal, and capitalist power. Her recent projects and research deal with the European migratory control system, its links to colonialism, and the legal structure created by European institutions in order to inflict violence on racialized sections of the population and migrant communities. She has also developed projects about the Peruvian upper class and its exploitative relationship with domestic workers. Recently, her artistic practice has gone back to visual and manual work, developing art pieces in ceramic and collage—as well as in formats like children’s books—as a means to take distance from Eurocentric conceptual art aesthetics. Together with her artistic practice, she is the mother of a three-year-old, gives talks and workshops, conducts research, and participates in discussions on Europe’s migratory control system and its ties to coloniality in different contexts. 

Daniela Ortiz was recently forced to leave Spain hurriedly after having lived there for 13 years. In her work, Ortiz has repeatedly addressed colonial legacies and after being invited to express her views in a TV interview, she faced a severe backlash that put her safety in Spain at risk. She continues her work from her home country Peru.

Heidi Ballet is an independent curator based in Berlin. She is the artistic director of the 2021 Beaufort Triennial in Ostend and recently co-curated the 2019 Tallinn Photomonth Biennial and the 2017 Lofoten Biennial (LIAF). In 2016, she curated the Satellite exhibition series Our Ocean, Your Horizon at Jeu de Paume in Paris and CAPC in Bordeaux, as well as the group exhibition The Morality Reflex at CAC Vilnius. Between 2012 and 2015, she worked as a research curator on the project After Year Zero, which was initiated and shown at HKW in Berlin (2013) and later traveled to the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw (2015). Her writing has appeared in Mousse MagazineRandian, and Art Papers.

Related Exhibition:

Zhou Tao: Winter North Summer South

Feb 15–Aug 1, 2020