SIEV-X. On a case of intensified refugee politics

Discussion and Work Presentation with Dierk Schmidt (Berlin)
May 10th, 2005

on the occasion of the publication
Dierk Schmidt: SIEV-X. On a case of aggravated refugee policy. A picture cycle in three parts, talks and texts. Series polypen at b_books, Berlin 2005.

On October 19, 2001, a 19-meter boat sank between Australia and Indonesia with 397 refugees on board, of whom only 44 survived the ‘shipwreck’. Although the Australian border surveillance program had already identified the overcrowded boat as a ‘Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel’ (SIEV), it failed to take any rescue measures. The fact that there is no photographic documentation of this (migration) political disaster is not only indicative of the image politics of the mass media, but also an occasion to reconsider the political potentiality of the genre of the historical image.

In his novel ‘Aesthetics of Resistance’, Peter Weiss examined the possibilities of how and whether the art of the bourgeoisie could be used at all for the self-understanding and political struggle of the working class. The difference between operative and idealistic aesthetics is exemplified in the paintings ‘Freedom on the Barricades’ by Delacroix and ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by Géricault. The two paintings still hang in the same place in the Louvre. Dierk Schmidt takes up this placement, but updates the subjects. Idealistic is the Nike clip in which the Brazilian soccer team overcomes all the security barriers of an airport while kicking. Operational would be the depiction of one of the numerous accidents of an overloaded refugee ship and the placement of this depiction in the salons of the interior ministries.

Works by Dierk Schmidt were on view at the Kunstraum of the University of Lüneburg in the exhibitions “Forms if Organisation”, July 2003 and “The Government”, April 2004, both curated by Ruth Noack and Roger M. Buergel.