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Exploring the Inner Self through the Eyes of the Lawyer, the Artist, and the Citizen

Talya Deibel, Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in the Law and the Inner Self Project, was invited to contribute to the participatory artistic event series “II/Legal Fictions” in the project space Au Jus, Brussels on 13th December 2023. II/Legal Fictions explores law as a socially constituent and speculative force and it aims at creating interdisciplinary engagements among the lawyers, the artists, and the citizens. The focus of the event series is on law and its relationship to the body. It traces it from inside to outside and from private to public to comment on how laws become inscribed in our notion of self. II/Legal Fictions is designed as a medium to foster valuable exchange where the artist, the citizen and the lawyer inspire one another.


One of the events in this series is “After the Maestro” which is created and developed by the artist Tom Kemp. After the Maestro is a storytelling game that explores body-politic metaphors, self-governance, and radical transformations through law. The tabletop roleplaying game is set within an “anthropomorphised anatomy”. The game is designed as a depiction of the inner human body as an industrialised city. The city is sustained by microscopic workers analogous to cells, microbes, and viruses. Each interaction generates a new narrative of anatomical and social re-organisation. The social re-organisation of this vast city creates primarily legal questions which revolve around the main goal of the game: how to self-organize so that we keep the body alive. The participants focus on legal and political questions that revolve around the body and personhood.

What does it mean to be the subject of law? What is personhood? Do the agents in this political ecology have a deep and rich inner realm? Who has agency in participating in the governance of this polity? Whose will does law prioritize? Who can conclude a contract? Who has the capacity to have rights and obligations?

These questions organically arise as the game develops and bring the lawyer, the artist, and the public together.


Talya contributed to After the Maestro to foster the exchange between different groups in society. She was a participant in the game with a slightly different function: the lawyer. Before the game session started, she started a discussion on the law’s relationship to the body. The main axis of the discussion zoomed into the “body” as material, metaphorical and fictitious sense. As such, she shared her insights on the law’s relationship to the inner realm and the inner self, law’s relationship to bodies and the biopolitical, bodies of law throughout legal history, and the emergence of “persona ficta”. Based on the analogy between Tom’s industrialized city and the legal person, the discussion focused on the organs theory as a methodological tool to grant a communicative structure a spectrum of rights and obligations. Tom’s city created a persona civitatis that is formed in an anthropomorphised anatomy. But above all it was a living social entity, just like a real person. It was a social organism where the inner self was manifested through the organs, cells, and other microscopic entities.

The legal discussions raised questions to be dealt during the rest of game. The participants tried to reflect on questions such as:

How does law think? Is it made through a political covenant of everyman with everyman? Or is it an imposition of force in a stratified society? Is law all about justice and morality? How should it protect the weaker party? How do we foster freedom, identity, and equity? Is law a social facilitator? Or is it an agent of commodification? How should legal system be designed to secure legal certainty, efficiency, and effectiveness without jeopardizing morality?

During the play, the participants tried to discover the implications of embodied legal speculations and experiment on law’s generative power in constructing societies.

After the Maestro is designed to motivate the participants to engage with the philosophical questions regarding law. Starting from the law’s relationship to body, the participants discuss the universality of laws, the basic principles of law, pacta sunt servanda, procedural economy, proportionality, freedom, and autonomy. The game pushes the participants to discover how law balances different, sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting interests. To be able to do this, it also encourages interdisciplinary and post disciplinary discussions. This includes law and economics, IR theory, the human rights jurisprudence, private law theory, political philosophy, and so on.

This multiplicity of point of views are inspiring both for the citizen and for the lawyer, especially when dealing with the boundary concepts like the inner self. As the critical legal scholar Ari Hirvonen explains, boundaries can be constructed and deconstructed through art. Art allows us to think beyond dichotomies.

The creative ways to engage with artists, citizens, and activists such as collaborative events with ludic mechanics contributes to better interdisciplinary research in legal academia.

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