Technologies of Sovereignty 4i - Excision ad absurdum: The Bremen


Excision ad absurdum: The Bremen

[imagecaption] Screenshot of the article ‘Geraldton asylum boat conservation sheds light on harrowing journey‘, ABC. [/imagecaption]

‘And in May 2013, less than a month after the Bremen sailed into Geraldton Harbour, parliament took the extraordinary step of legislating the excision of Australia’s mainland from its own migration map … The excision of the Australian mainland from its own migration zone in 2013 was a culmination of a process of the desire for overweening sovereign control in space and time. Australia performs its absolute self-sovereignty through the ultimate disappearing act, extreme self-insulation through dissolution. In a paroxysm of anxiety over its borders, the state, in effect, has swallowed itself whole: Australia becomes not-Australia.’ 

Suvendrini Perera, ‘In flight’, 2015


On 9 April 2013, a group of 66 people including children, travelling on a small fishing boat called the Bremen, arrived on the shores of Geraldton, 400km north of Western Australia’s capital city. The four-person fishing boat had been donated to Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami. After spending 44 days at sea, the boat, which had been destined for New Zealand, unexpectedly arrived on the Australian mainland. Many of the children, women and men on board were immediately deported, while others were dispersed into mandatory detention. Following this, parliament took the extraordinary step of excising the entire mainland from the migration zone to prevent any further landings on Australian territory.

The boat itself, contrary to standard operating procedure, was not torched or scuttled. Instead the WA Museum acquired it as part of the story of the state’s relationship with the Indian Ocean. Planned for display at a new state museum, the Bremen will be an ‘ambiguous witness’, bearing the traces of arrivals who themselves have been disappeared, hinting at their unrealised aspirations and unknown dreams. (Perera, 2016). Its display bears some resemblance to the controversial exhibition of a boat named Barca Nostra at the Venice Biennale in 2016. 


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