Video, 28’55’’, 2018
During 2017, the collaboration between Italy, the EU, and the Libyan coast guard led to an expansion of interceptions operated by the Libyan coast guard. Better equipped and prepared to use disproportionate force, they have begun to operate ever further from the Libyan coast, conflicting and colliding with those NGOs still pursuing their operations in the Mediterranean. On the 6 November 2017, the NGO Sea Watch and the Libyan coast guard were involved in a highly confrontational search and rescue event involving a boat carrying around 140 migrants. Despite the Libyan coast guard vessel’s reckless behaviour, Sea Watch managed to recover 59 people, including one dead child, who were brought to Italy, while 47 passengers were pulled-back to Libya. The remaining passengers died before and during the rescue. In this incident, the effective distance between Europe and Africa is reduced to several metres as Sea Watch and the Libyan patrol almost rub against each other, and humanitarian and security logics collide.
Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London (UK), consisting of architects, artists, filmmakers, journalists, software developers, scientists, lawyers, and an extended network of collaborators from a wide variety of fields and disciplines. They undertake advanced spatial and media investigations into cases of human rights violations, with and on behalf of communities affected by political violence, human rights organisations, international prosecutors, environmental justice groups, and media organisations. They investigate state and corporate violence, human rights violations and environmental destruction all over the world.
Forensic Oceanography is a project initiated within the Forensic Architecture agency by Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, in the wake of the Arab uprisings of 2011. It seeks to critically investigate the militarised border regime imposed by European states across the EU’s maritime frontier, analysing the political, spatial and aesthetic conditions that have turned the waters of the Mediterranean Sea into a deadly liquid for the illegalised migrants seeking to cross it. The more than 30.000 migrants who have died at and through the sea over the last 30 years are the victims of what Forensic Oceanography call “liquid violence”.
By combining human testimonies with traces left across the digital sensorium of the sea constituted by radars, satellite imagery and vessel tracking systems, Forensic Oceanography has mobilised surveillance means ‘against the grain’ to contest both the violence of borders and the regime of (in)visibility on which it is founded.
While the seas have been carved up into a complex jurisdictional space that allows states to extend their sovereign claims through police operations beyond the limits of their territory, but also to retract themselves from obligations, such as rescuing vessels in distress, Forensic Oceanography has sought to locate particular incidents within the legal architecture of the EU’s maritime frontier, so as to determine responsibility for them. Forensic Oceanography’s reports have served as the basis for several legal cases against European states.