SURFACE TENSION (OR WHAT HOLDS AN 'US' TOGETHER)

2019.

Sand + Water


A sand sculpture holds itself together through the use of surface tension; two units of sand create a meniscus bridge of water between each other, holding each other in place. Repeat these points of attraction millions of times,  add sufficient downward compression,  and eventually what is created is a form like this sculpture or a fantasy called nation. 


In 1986 one hundred and fifty-two Tamil refugees, fleeing the beginnings of Sri Lanka’s bloody genocide of the Tamil people, were discovered adrift in lifeboats off St. Shott’s on the Avalon Peninsula and rescued by local fisherman Gus Dalton. They were issued Minister’s Permits and welcomed to relocate and seek employment while their refugee claims were processed.


In 2009 and 2010 respectively, cargo ships the MV Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea were intercepted off the coast of British Columbia and their four hundred and ninety-two Tamil refugees were placed in detention, some for over a year. The federal government responded to their landing with aggressive legislation – some argued unconstitutional – that gave them increased power to detain migrants indefinitely and deny them a wide variety of rights. The landing of the MV Sunsea had a lasting impact on Canadian migration policy and how Canadian’s conceived of themselves.


The 70, 000 lb sculpture uses the physics of surface tension, to create a metaphor of how citizenship (or the creation of an “us”) becomes foundational to who we are able to extend empathy to, on a macro and micro level. 


Texts:

Arbitrary Lines: Refugee Law in Canada 1986 – 2012. by Gobhina Nagarajah

Reading Close: Joshua Vettivelu and Legibility in Absence by Curator Kailey Bryan

One Thing: Surface Tension (or What Holds an 'Us' Together) by Arun Nedra Rodrigo


Endless thanks to Kailey Bryan, Harry + Sue Bryan, Diane Dalton,  Eastern Edge Gallery, Gobhina Nagarajah, Pete Soucy(BIA), Jerry Dick, the CBC, and the people of St. John's for their enthusiastic support. 

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