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Mare Clausum
Institute of Contemporary Arts
December 2022
Central Mediterranean Sea, 2016 – ongoing
(Investigations 2017 – ongoing)

As the EU’s policies of deterrence failed to stem the Mediterranean crossings by migrants from African countries, the Italian government deployed a two-pronged strategy to close off the central Mediterranean: on the one hand, by criminalising and limiting the rescue activities of the NGOs that had stepped in to make up for the lack of state rescue operations; and on the other, by reinforcing the collaboration with Libyan authorities and militias to prevent and intercept departures, thus physically containing migrants on the Mediterranean’s southern shore without requiring the direct involvement of Italian or EU authorities. This undeclared operation, which dramatically escalated over 2017, led to what Forensic Oceanography has called ‘Mare Clausum’ (‘closed sea’ in Latin).

Presented here are two investigations undertaken in collaboration between Forensic Oceanography and Forensic Architecture that are central to Forensic Oceanography’s ongoing ‘Mare Clausum’ research, each concerning one of the dimensions of this policy which entails migrants being brought back to a country where their lives are systematically violated. These ‘in-progress’ investigations have been enabled by an exponential increase in video documentation by the different actors involved, allowing for a unique form of 3D modelling of incidents at sea, developed together with the core team at Forensic Architecture.
The Iuventa
18 June 2017