Rachel Bacon

Float, 2009

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Float, 2009


To commemorate the presence in Leiden 400 years ago of the Pilgrim Fathers, the persecution and flight of the Pilgrims was linked with the situation of present day asylum seekers, in an installation and performance made for Scheltema Complex in Leiden, NL. The heroic story of the Pilgrims is well known; on being persecuted in England for their religious beliefs they were forced to flee, and in doing so became the symbolic founders of the United States. Before their flight across the Atlantic, they were granted asylum in Holland, at that time one of the most if not the most tolerant countries in the world.


1 : 1 scale model of a boat used to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa by 25 asylum seekers in May 2009, paper, 520 x 175 x 60 cm


Commissioned for the program Utopische Nest/ Smaakmakend Scheltema, Float took place in Scheltema Complex in Leiden, in the Spring and Summer of 2009, with support from Stichting Doen and Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden.


Present day asylum seekers and migrants now embark on as perilous and uncertain a journey as the Pilgrims, often using very small rubber boats or Zodiacs to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe from Africa. The Red Cross estimated that in 2008, 1 in 5 people do not survive the journey over the sea from Africa.

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One of the most important things on the journey across the sea is the supply of fuel and water. Most of the boats have only enough supply for two days, the time it takes to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy if everything goes well.


Jerry Can, 1 : 1 paper model, 31 x 19 x 22 cm, 2009

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On July 22nd, 2009, 150 paper boats were launched into the river Vliet, on the Rapenburg in Leiden, the Netherlands, at the exact place the Pilgrims left the city on their way to America 389 years before. The flotilla consisted of 75 Zodiacs and 75 damlopers or damschuiten, transport boats used during the early 17th century.

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Agrigento, 12 x 12 cm, photo, 2009