Distant Neighbours / Vicini Lontani 4: Lampedusa to London
Migrant Boat / Floating Museum / Performance Piece
British artist, Lucy Wood, set sail from Lampedusa to London in rescued North African migrant boat on World Refugee Day 20th June 2013 arrived in London on October 15th 2013. Docked at South Dock Marina, London.
British artist and Londoner, Lucy Wood, set out on an epic 4000-mile solo voyage to London from the southern Italian island of Lampedusa in a North African migrant boat, named ‘TO6411’ on World Refugee Day, (20th June 2013). Lucy arrived on the Thames in central London on Wednesday at 5pm.
TO6411 is moored on pontoon G1 at South Docks Marina, close to Surrey Docks shopping centre. The public are invited to come and view the boat.
The main aim of Wood’s ambitious project is to highlight the plight of trafficked migrants and refugees - not just from North Africa, but across the globe. TO6411 also serves as a ‘floating art installation’ because the public will have a unique chance to ‘sit-in’ a migrant boat displaying many ‘found’ items, including personal effects abandoned by the original migrants on TO6411 and similar migrant boats.
Wood has collected and stored these items during her visits to Lampedusa to create an anthropological survey to further illustrate the story of migration and to give the viewing public a glimpse of a migrant’s own epic journeys to reach a safe haven, no more poignant now in light of the very recent and horrific events off the coast of Lampedusa and southern Italy.
“I wanted to keep the vessel in as original condition as possible and to travel with some of the original objects and possessions left on it,” says Wood. “To do this, I felt it important to live as basically as possibly to ensure TO6411’s integrity as a found object and as a floating museum/performance piece. TO6411 represents the desperate measures and risks that people take to make a new life for themselves,” explains Wood. “I am undertaking this journey as a purely humanitarian voyage inspired by the shock I felt when I witnessed the first migrant boat landing on Lampedusa.”
Background story of Lucy’s voyage
Lucy spent nine months living on Lampedusa (a tiny southern Italian island located 176km southwest of Sicily and 113km from Tunisia) preparing for her voyage to London. ‘TO6411’ is named after the officially registered code name given to it by Italian customs. It was originally seized by local officials in Lampedusa after it arrived in waters close to the small Italian island in March 2012 with 36 trafficked North African migrants onboard. Once the migrants had stepped ashore, TO6411 was then taken to the military zone of Lampedusa port where Wood was offered one of three migrant boats by the local authorities. Lucy asked for a migrant boat to sail back to London and was offered one of the migrant boats in April 2012. Since September 2012, Wood has been fitting out the boat to meet EU boat safety regulations, obtaining necessary licenses and sensitively restoring the boat to ensure its integrity.
Wood’s voyage to London from Lampedusa from June 2013 to October 2013 represents the latest chapter of Wood’s visual book entitled Distant: Neighbours/Vicini Lontani.4 (more info on this below) and demonstrates the global phenomenon of migration and people trafficking.
June/July 2013 – Italy – Sicily, Naples, Amalfi coast, Rome
August – France/Monaco – Marseilles and French canal system
September - Belgium/Netherlands – Brussels and Antwerp, Amsterdam
October – Belgium, The Channel to Ramsgate, Sheerness, London
En-route, Wood has collected film footage of stories of migration by people who have travelled to Europe in similar boats. She has also organised ‘sit-ins’ to experience the cramped conditions and has been writing a blog ‘The Chronicles of Lampedusa’ to record the everyday and the public’s reactions to the project.
Comparisons can be drawn from Artist Bas Jan Ader’s performance ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ intended to be documented in three parts and revolved around the risk of death. “I have been asked if there are links in my voyage to ‘Bas Jan Ader,” says Wood. “ I would say only in the context of another artist making a solo voyage/performance. The distances I am covering are much shorter and I’ll be hugging the coastline.”
Visit www.TO6411.net, for more information about the project (which includes a donations page) from which a portion of the funds raised for this not-for-profit project, will go to UNHCR.
Lucy would like to thank the many people in Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and England, who have given up their time voluntarily to help Lucy with her journey and to the staff of South Docks Marina and Southwark Council.
Lucy is currently represented by Upstream Gallery in Amsterdam. www.upstreamgallery.nl
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More information on Lucy Wood and the Distant Neighbours project
Lucy Wood’s work is based on issues dealing with social, political and environmental entrapment. This forthcoming voyage will mark the fourth chapter of Wood’s ‘Distant Neighbours / Vicini Lontani’ project - a series of recent exhibitions surrounding issues of global migration and the idea that migrants are trapped economically and politically at home, but also remain trapped en route and at their final destination.
During the past three years, Wood has regularly travelled to Lampedusa to collect and document migrant material through interviews, photography and found objects. Many migrants believe, on arrival at Lampedusa, that they are in mainland Europe, but in fact they are still far from their desired destination. Many face grave dangers at sea on their perilous journey. Any sea swell often tips these small, unstable craft and their passengers into the sea. The voyages they make to Lampedusa sometimes end in terrible tragedy and are reminiscent of Theodore Gericault’s famous painting, The Raft of the Medusa.
The first two ‘chapters’ of Distant Neighbours were shown at Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam.
Vecinos Distantes / Distant Neighbours.1 (2009)
In 2009, Wood made a show called ‘Vecinos Distances / Distant Neighbours’ documenting the migration of Mexicans and Central Americans from Mexico to Arizona USA. The migrant boat project focuses on a European geographical location using the natural borders of oceans. It represents similar economic and political issues faced by many along the Mexican/US desert borders.
Vincini Lontani. Distant Neighbours. 2 (2011).
The work references the plight depicted in ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by Theodore Géricault. Central to the show was the installation of a migrant raft made from chrome oil barrels, a glass platform and an old, burnt-out 4hp outboard engine. It represents the fragility of the crossing and the dangers associated with overloading a vessel with human cargo. The sail, made from traditional African cloth and North African flags, maps the geographical reference to the piece, while its dysfunctional mast adds to the chaos of this crude vessel. A number of monitors surrounding the raft screen the migrants’ stories of survival, fishermen’s tales of rescue and the consequences to their livelihood. The Commander of the Lampedusa Coast Guard and local Lampedusans’ all speak out across the raft, the audience trapped in the middle being left to stand and absorb the chaotic situation expressed. The Third Chapter of Distant Neighbours was shown at Payne Shurvell Gallery, London.
Vincini Lontani/Distant Neighbours. 3 ( 2011)
This exhibition focused on a rescue in Lampedusa Harbour on 8th May 2011. The exhibition consisted of an installation of a series of ‘ghost’ boats, an abstraction of the ‘Boat Graveyard’ (an area on the harbour side in Lampedusa where the migrant boats are stored whilst waiting to be destroyed), as well as a series of video works of story telling by local people, the police, fireman, fisherman and shopkeepers who were immediately involved in the rescue to save lives.