Mireille Astore

Tampa

Tampering with the Sea

“Tampa” is a performance of claustrophobia, endurance and an exploration of distance and time as experienced by refugees who attempted to seek asylum in Australia on 29 August 2001 aboard the Tampa ship.

“Tampa” is a sculpture and performance about the plight of some Middle Eastern refugees in Australia. The artwork references the incident where refugees fleeing wars and persecution in a small leaking boat were intercepted by the Australian Army following their rescue by the Norwegian ship “Tampa”. The refugees were redirected and detained in a refugee camp in Nauru, out of sight and away from Australian soil.

The performance and sculpture took place from 30 October to 16 November 2003 as part of the annual exhibition Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi, Sydney. The sculpture and performance acted as a dichotomy between the sense of freedom and grandeur the individual experiences at the seashore and the imprisonment refugees faced as a result of their trust in the most basic form of humanity at that seashore.

The sculpture was a 10:1 scaled version of the MS Tampa and signified the beginning of how the seashore turned refugees into prisoners of inhumanity. Lloyds Register shows the MS Tampa to be 246.41m x 32.36m breadth x 21.01m depth. Therefore the Tampa cell was 24.6 m long, 3.2m wide and 2.1 m high. The bars were spaced approximately 15cm apart.

The performance consisted of myself waiting for my release. My possessions and daily needs were contained in a suitcase. I arrived each morning at 10 am, entered my prison and stayed there without exiting until 6pm.

The ‘point of view’ of the caged was central to the performance. The inversion of the gaze as an exploratory tool and an illustration of the active versus passive vision of the incarcerated were critical to the outcome. As such, each day at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 4pm, I took photographs from within my prison and placed them on this website.

To view the daily images from the performance, please click on the dates below.

Thursday 30 October Friday 31 October Saturday 1 November
Sunday 2 November Monday 3 November Tuesday 4 November
Wednesday 5 November Thursday 6 November Friday 7 November
Saturday 8 November Sunday 9 November Monday 10 November
Tuesday 11 November Wednesday 12 November Thursday 13 November
Friday 14 November Saturday 15 November Sunday 16 November

Comments received during performance. These were documented on a daily basis in a diary format while sitting or pacing silently throughout the 18 days of the performance.

Read the Essay

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