A Boat Called the Janga 1h - The outside coming in


‘The outside coming in’

This photo provides a view of a rectangular, grey clad building from across a small river, framed by tree branches. Five small boats drift along the waterway, only one of which has people on board.  'Tracey Moffatt My Horizon' is written on the left side of the front facing facade. On one panel of the facade, which is marked by a grid, the face of a white woman with a startled gaze appears as if she is looking out of the building's window. She appears to be looking with concern towards the boats that are filling the river.

[imagecaption] Tracey Moffatt in the Australia Pavilion, VIGIL 2017 from the series Passage 2017. Photo: John Gollings. [/imagecaption]

‘Walls of barbwire, sheets of steel, bricks, stones…and the prisons we construct in the mind to keep out others require constant vigilance …Godlike, we have become an army of watchers, to anxiously guard ourselves against a world of strangers.  Privilege stares suspiciously out of self-erected watch towers … Not on our watch, we say.’

Alexis Wright, ‘Odyssey of the Horizon’, 2017


Moffatt’s Vigil employs images of the Janga’s break-up to construct what she describes as ‘a blatant commentary on “race”’ by juxtaposing them with ‘images of white movie stars gazing out of windows at dark-skinned people arriving on boats.’

Moffat’s decision to use images of Hollywood actors as the spectators of the boatwreck emphasizes the cultural and racial norms of Australia’s self-identification as a nation of white citizens. Her use of ‘white movie stars’ references iconic performances of whiteness and exposes the unambiguous racism of fears and phobias directed at the arrival of asylum seeker boats (Perera 2017).

Through its heighted visuals and increasingly frantic sound track, Vigil generates a sense of crisis and urgency, reinforcing Moffatt’s statement that the shattering of the boat mirrors the inevitable disintegration of racial as well as geographical borders, despite the vigilance of this array of white watchers.  As the film reaches its climax, the cuts between shots become more and more rapid, while the containing frame of the window becomes increasingly less effective in insulating the watchers from the scenes of horror outside. The film ends with a brief shot of an empty blue horizon before the dissolving into a blank white screen.



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