Float | 2009
Float is the title of a work made during a research project in 2009 at Scheltema Complex in Leiden for the program Utopische Nest, commemorating the presence in Leiden 400 years previously of the Pilgrim Fathers. The work Float is a 1 : 1 scale paper model of a boat used to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa by 25 migrants. I stumbled across the vessel in Lampedusa, where many migrants land after leaving Libya in small boats to try and reach Europe. On Lampedusa, there is a boat graveyard, where the vessels used for the dangerous crossing are collected.
During a visit to the island and region to gather information and meet with migrants, I was told by a doctor working for Doctors Without Borders that a boat had just arrived carrying 25 people. The following day, I came across the rubber dingy, a so-called Zodiac, in the boat graveyard. It was still filled with air, but slowly leaking.
After taking careful measurements, and making photos of all the details, back in Leiden I reconstructed the rubber boat from paper as carefully as possible. With the help of an intern, we worked for months on the painstaking reconstruction, with attention to as much detail as possible, down to the rubber patches on the sides of the boat, to show just how very precarious and terrifying the journey must have been. Paper models might normally be associated with vessels connected with a glorious historic past, such as the Mayflower. In this instance, the model is used to commemorate a much less visible and precarious history, that of those fleeing persecution and want in their own countries.