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Script from the Bordered Lives - Immigration Detention Archive.

  • Nov 01 2021
  • Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll
    works on colonial histories through contemporary art. Her art practice involves montaging words and images within films and installations that voice alternate histories through texts and performances.

"Men in Waiting" is the script of a play drawn on original documents, photographs, and detainee artwork, offering a unique insight into the experience of immigration detention in the United Kingdom. In offering a glimpse within these hidden sites, it explores fundamental questions about coercion, censorship, and control, as well as belonging and resistance. This book introduces the Immigration Detention Archive and reflects on the conditions under which art is supposed to be produced (and is undermined) in institutional spaces. Mixing shadow puppetry, photographic slides, video, architectural models, and spoken word, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll’s performance Men in Waiting presents the effects of indeterminate detention, bureaucratic indifference, and banality on the subjectivity of the incarcerated.

Scene 1
Total darkness.
Puppet slowly emerges and breathes.

I [I I]
it I
it is
It is not
it is not enough,
it is not enough to
it is not enough to be
to be here, to be paused, to be invisible, obsolescent
it is not enough to be silent, to be migrant
not in pure darkness nor real sunlight
neither black nor white
I am the shadow of whiteness, of lightening whitening
and so the shadows came to Cambridge.

The building's light comes on

Scene 2
Building speaks in robot voice.

Welcome, my name is Bordr, I am an immigration detention centre in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. I will keep you here for the shortest time possible. As I am an Immigration Removal Centre the likelihood is you will be removed from the country when you leave the Centre.
I house up to 394 residents at any one time, all of which have different backgrounds, religious beliefs and cultures but each and every one of them is treated with dignity and respect by the staff that work in me.

Scene 3
CEO monologue with mask on back of head facing audience. Slight movement like a puppet. PPT on screen.

Welcome to our newest site, I am the representative of our multinational organization Bordr Management, you may have seen us around Plymouth before because we specialize in carpark security, and have expanded our portfolio to immigration centres where we deliver the best in controlled environments.
Ethics and an art of being ethical, a human touch, and that touch as we know we find in freedom we find in art work gives each and every human because everyone in here is an artist. we provide fantastic facilities, gifting residents with art supplies, space to work, recreation time, safety management.
The press has been spreading fake stories about us, you see how minor the deaths in our custody are, and they happen in the gym! of all great, healthy, beautiful places.

Really we are meeting today to celebrate our achievements. These edifices represent the care that we take when anyone is in our custody. They are not just buildings, they are great cradling hands of care that protect the residents in our custody.

When we put our hands on any of the residents that have come from far and wide and who are hungry to learn and be part of this great nation and before they go home we provide them with further training so they can bring some of that great knowledge and humanity back to their own economies. all hands of our staff are equipped with the best new technology and devices for securing each and every body. In fact we contract the leading provider of Anti-Ligature Clothing - these are wears not just to ensure the safety of those that travel alongside, from cell to van to charter flight home but foremost to enhance comfort and protection, enable a relaxed position, ease of breathing.

We foster self-realization, reliance: In our globalized world it is important to know where the borders lie. To know how doors are opened. That is in everyone's interests, and it is the creative energy and identity that Bordr Management, our company, represents.

Bends down and takes the mask off, turns to face the audience for the first time.

Scene 4

K. Begins to circles around the whole room clockwise, to bring fire to the space through the clockwise pacing in circles, around the audience even, depending on the space. Include For Planning Purposes Only here if available on a table or wall.

There is no address for my cul-de-sac at the back of the major airport. Just a sign, which says Care and Custody. For those well versed in the euphemisms of the state, they know this must be the place. They drive in and waited in this car park. I am, as it turns out, one waiting room after another. Unlike architectural programs where each room has a different function, say the living or recreation room is one in which there is a carefree unstructured leisure time. The interesting thing about me is that these are all waiting arooms. The recreation rooms are actually waiting rooms, the dining room, the cell.
It is disorienting in there, labyrinthine. Instead of having enough staff to run me properly, they just build more doors. Heavy doors. Locks which I’m not allowed to speak about. The source of much emphasis: Do not photograph thedoors. The official ban on the artist’s documentation to begin with is on the locks and doors. Although actually they are magnetic so a photograph wouldn’t be able to capture their particular power anyhow. Magnetic power. The difference between the magnetic power of lock opening and the kinds of holding of keys is a significant distinction between the so-called ‘resident’ of the waiting room and the guard of the waiting room. [Accompanied by slides].

K. turns to audience

How can a door in this world be cheaper than a person?
How can a door in this world be cheaper than a person?
How can a door in this world be cheaper than a person?

I was asked to describe what happened to a person here, and each time they go through the same rituals of waiting, of going through one locked door and waiting in front of another locked door. The experience of waiting by and looking through the small portholes in these locked doors became our relationship. In every door one could always see a face looking out with a mixture of mostly blank but partially still hopeful: Need. For it was the dependence on the guard with the keys that made this relationship so asymmetrical, so dependent, like a child on a parent.

There were stories about female guards who locked in the inmates at night and then felt guilty - or perhaps it was desire - that drove them to call later on the telephone to talk to them through the walls.

There were only telephones allowed with no cameras. A ban on images. But the men wanted particularly to have their image taken, their image given out, to be distributed, their image as affirmation that they are still here. But they are not here. There is no hereness in that space of waiting. And you cannot see them because all the images were destroyed. They are in that black hole of images into which all the evidence of this place goes. And yet we know from other crimes that those well documented are also those that can later be better retraced.

Think of extreme cases, because we have been here before we have been here before Kunst macht Frei, macht Kunst Frei? Frei macht Kunst Capacitar wall recreated from Detention Centre photograph.

The paperwork is an aesthetic object which evidences the power of bureaucracy. In this Capacitar for curing your own mental health, read between the lines - pull yourselves together because there is no funding for anyone to help you - Now the way that these things are presented is in corporate cheer, the veneer of WordArt, which is freely available software that comes with Microsoft Word. The aesthetics of which are that of the pre-emoticon emotional richness, i.e. two dimensional, garishly coloured array of kitsch icons to which a person is supposed to be able identify as if beyond language, as if on a pseudo emotional level of enthusiasm that is required in the corporate world, that is the unspoken contract between everyone that works underpaid, on a project they only superficially believe in, the ethics of which are mutually dubious to all, but which has such power of financial promise that in that WordArt is an expression of this emotional lie, of this complicity in a power structure that isn't equal. In a capitalist project that doesn't recognize the rights of the migrant worker or noncitizen prisoner, but that it acknowledges their 'aspirations' and 'well being' and 'capacitates' them in 'education' and 'recreation' and offers all these aspirational things that apparently the neoliberal world will enrich life with. WordArt is the aesthetics of neoliberal organizations, an anti-aesthetic that artists both despise and parody, as I am here.

I'm going to share with you now a part of a film we made, with material from inside the detention centres, as this whole piece is, from the art and media rooms within them.

'Artists in Residence' film is screened: https://vimeo. com/179157429

Fang became “the most enthusiastic artist that Campsfield would ever have”, according to the institution’s newsletter. Profiled in interview within this document that is for internal circulation only, Fang was asked about how he sees his future with his artistic skills from arts school in China. “I would like to do better in future to improve my current skill if I have the opportunity here in the UK” he replied.

Fang painted the Queen and Prince Charles, and the then Prime Minister David Cameron. He sent them their portraits with a letter setting out his case for British citizenship. Perceiving that horse portraits also appealed to the British ruling class, he painted horse heads for good measure. His works have the photorealism of painting from press photographs and the authenticity of a perfected mimicry, skills, we were told, acquired from working in China as a counterfeiter.

As a recent conference on Faking, Forging, Counterfeiting stated, although the visual impact of counterfeits contrasts with their negative connotation, they
are still considered as fraud, fake, shadows of a creative act. There is a great irony, hence, in using photorealism to prove the artistry and authenticity necessary to be a skilled economic migrant. Yet forgeries can also be an “embodiment of an aesthetic patriotism” and Fang’s portraits can be read as interpretations of the press photographs on which he based his paintings. In his images, the establishment show the harsh public face presented to the press. It is the dignified official icon of the queen that Fang chooses to represent, not the paparazzi’s scoop of her eating from plastic Tupperware in private. She is a decorated and upright figurehead, with the raised eyebrow of a judge in action. Like many others in detention, Fang assumed she has power in the UK, the way a hierarchical figurehead might. Of course, he was mistaken.

Fang’s portraits are not uncontroversial in the detention centre. While the Queen sits proudly in the centre’s boardroom, David Cameron has been returned, unwanted, to the art room. “It is an election year,” we were informed, and like the BBC, if the centre were to hang a portrait of the incumbent, they would need to represent the other political parties as well. The voiceover was text from of a series of posters I made during the Remain campaign, with Fang’s letters in parafictional form. That is, the text was recreated from interviews about the letters Fang wrote to accompany his paintings (the originals remain with the recipients while the replies were treasured by Fang and taken with him when he was deported). In them the polite replies from Charles and the Queen are recreated to form a sequence. Apparently it all ended after Fang sent his portrait and letter to David Cameron. He was never seen again, deported once the gift arrived at number 10.

Scene 5
K. Clicks through carousel slide projector of 80 slides while speaking the following.

1. Going in Circles
people fly in circles
collect points and classes, land settle plant roses
my hands ache to touch the living
let the sun hit my legs as I walk in circles
let my feet feel the grass under my toes
breath, smoke, center
burn, body, decenter
mind flight
hide me
smoke screen center
you hid me London
switched mind
clarity building day waning
lock making time keeping
today breaking click click click
change center point to circle walk hold nowhere
churn air camera blind to smoke in lung churn body
space in center churn
center churns body out of space
in the small rectangle cell the circle skips corners
skips lives skips time
circling record records lost.
sounds dimmed. lights out. wake up.

Eat 9.
10. Legal.
11, 12, Fakery
Recreation. Circles
Wait. Lunch. Lock up. Roll Count
Held under. Circling limbs in water.

I can't breath. 4pm. Visits. I can't breath. 4pm. You look me in the eye and I have to walk in circles for hours to forget how you look me in the eye. Lock me up for 12 hours and I cannot forget how you cannot look me in the eye. 12 hour circles.

Either the mind circles, small spastic trembling circles. Or my body in its massive machinic circling takes that little shivering mass and stretches it out. Over the tarmac.

You can't catch me so well if I'm walking.You can't pin me down nightmare, when I am running.

My shadow moves like the second hands of a clock
the clock moves like my legs second hour
we live by a clock that will not work for us
does not change time does not move forward
goes in circles as I go in circles
if only we could both stop
face down circle
breath out explode
our arms could begin to move backwards
take uncertain steps into the future backwards
turn around and
stop stop

3. patterns, cast a delicate shadow
beneath us the earth opens its mouth and breaths a sigh
of relief
spits out the concrete
yaws and falls into a restful sleep.
For it has been rather stressful, to say the least, to have
you all running in little blackened circles
thick like oil churning toxicity.

The condition of movement blown
on minimal redacted winds
black lines across white spaces
a dusty trace
of parts that didn't survive
keep pushing me in circles
all that will be left
is a black hole for I will have become small enough to
to trace your building with my body
while I have to mirror your greed with my longing
shrink my heart for your ego
keep walking keep saying there is a final solution?
this can't go on
this will always go on.

Scene 6
The building speaks in robot voice.

I find intimacy with particular men in waiting by reading their emails, stories of why they are here.

Watch their faces through the cameras: the face of eighteen year old Mohammed, whose fist fight one night over a girlfriend landed him in prison and now here, destined to return to an Afghanistan he fled from at age 3, an place where there is nothing for him to return to.

They waited for the next opportunity to be allowed to
continue.To live.

Waiting in the 21st Century could be accompanied by the internet. Could be clicked through. Associatively. I can see what they see as they are waiting, for years. At least glimpses through what they search for online (which I monitor) images such as these (overfilled refugee boat Vlora leaving Tirana for Italy in 1992, which was showed to K by a detainee as evidence of white refugees), and documents over email. It was the legal case that preoccupied them most. How to solve something that was mostly invisible, incomprehensible, always shifting, never accommodating.

Scene 7
'Multitude', a large puppet with many faces. Double flashlights, with Jessyca Hutchens as second puppeteer.

I close my eyes, but it is never dark enough,
I cover my eyes,
your light is on the same switch as mine
It’s on, because you can’t sleep either
However much we cover our eyes
it is never dark enough

I see you there, sleep, but I cannot join you
I remain
without within
a world of surface
under which is hidden a shapeless mass

the nights! -- oh the nights!
the undark frightful nights
how the voices echo in that cell
walls, memories, hell
my love on the other side, of this hell
the undark frightful hell
of the nights, nights — nights!

Scene 8

Dream sequence of Hairy Angel puppet, with Jessyca Hutchens as second puppeteer of Mary Bosworth and CEO puppets.

I dreamt of walking through closed doors, dream that I become doors and walls, that I see myself in doors like in a mirror. I am a wall that tears itself down, and nothing but my shadow remains. I dreamt that I met the criminologist and the CEO at the border and we fought over who could

Hairy Angel does a clock dance, swinging arms about to
fight off the CEO I dream of flying, disappearing from here, dissolving, throwing my shadow on the other side of these walls, through the counterclockwise motion of clock-hands on a clock-face that runs clockwise towards death the guard’s paperwork is always stacked high and the alarm never stops ringing.

Scene 9

Building speaks and K surveys it with a torch.

I see everything, you see, how they adulterate my food, add spices to chips, complain it's not the same rice as at home and run their own "cultural kitchens".

Cut open the wires of the electric kettles in the cells when they are locked up at night to make a spark, to light a cigarette. all of which is illegal. Ach those stupid fake TV channels take these boy's stories about a few little rats that live in my garden, the garden that's even closed now, because no one could take care of it properly.

They write on me, how pitiful, all graffiti will be washed off tomorrow. Nothing sticks here. Yes, I have a radio station even, but it's not allowed to broadcast beyond my walls. I have newsletters, activities, it's a holiday in here. Okay so
the walls smell of a fear you can never wash off.

Scene 10

Live redaction on overhead projector joins English Lament, played by Jessyca Hutchens.

Censorship began to play a part in the way we thought about what was possible, legally and artistically, what was necessary abstraction, and what is necessary documentation.

Redaction is said to protect the identities of those locked up, especially those who continue to challenge their asylum status and may, therefore, be vulnerable to the authorities in their country of origin.

Mostly there is this enormous language problem. It’s not just the laws that seem to change, or at least remain so complex that they are not useful to the claimants. It is also their Englishness. It is the very Englishness, the very language. The very word that stands for not only for a language, English. But a way of being, English. A way of speaking, English. Belonging to the English. Being proper to the English. And those that are obviously un-English will quickly become evident through their lack of the command of English.

But you cannot be English. You cannot be a language. But you can be encased and closed and constituted by your use of this language and notion of being English, like a flag, waved vigorously, indicating, something.

[pause, CEO puppet waves his hand]

Murkiness. The images obscured entirely by murkiness, by censorship. Rules and laws to be interpreted. Like language, except there is always a speaker. A guard who decides whether the interpretation was within the rules, within the law. To be outside of language, to be outside of the rules and law. That is where we find ourselves. I am not only a place where people have dubious citizenship. I am an existential abyss that is far deeper than this broken Nation.

Scene 11

Burn video projection, 3:30 min.

The burning building at the end is a model that was built by a detainee in Colnbrook, which was destined to be thrown away before we included in the archive in Oxford. When the Pitt Rivers acquired that collection they didn't have space to store that large model and again it was earmarked for destruction. Rather than see it thrown in a rubbish bin as an obsolescent artefact resonant thereby with the person's fate who made it, I thought at least since nobody could store it, it should be destroyed in an intentional way that also released and purified it in the process. One of the ways in which objects are ritually sacrificed is through fire, which is thought to also purify the material, polluted body or object, absolved through incineration. It was also an end that was desired, an end to a building that features as the central character. An end that is sung as it goes.




  • Footnotes
    - An encounter with artist Khadija Zinnenburg Carroll was possible thanks to the critics' residency program of Verein K – It was the fourth edition of the program, organized by Vienna based association Verein K in collaboration with AICA – International Association of Art Critics Austria. The program took place September 6-15 in Vienna and Graz.

    A strong focus is on networking between the Viennese and international art scene as well as on strengthening the position of the art criticism in Austria.
    In the course of a ten-day program, the selected participants will be given comprehensive and profound insights into the contemporary Viennese art scene.

    - Border Immigration Removal Center, architectural model and led light, 93 x 85 x 26. 
    Imigrazie Puppets, leather, horn, starch, bamboo, paint, paper. 
    Multitude, 86 x 115cms, CEO 40 x 20, Protest 29 x 16, I (Journalist) 39 x 20, Building 50 x 20, Mary Bosworth 43 x 20, Van 26 x 26, Hairy Angel 24 x 43.  
    K., Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll CEO of Bordr Management, resin mask, 21 x 14. 
    Anonymous Going in Circles, 80 colour slides. 
    Redacted, The Secrets Act, overhead projection and drawings on transparencies. 
    Cérinne in Burn, digital video, 3:30 mins. 
    Mo'ong and Jessyca Hutchens as second puppeteers and live musicians. 



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