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Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea

On 28 October 2015, a migrant boat left the coast of Western Turkey heading to the closest European coast — the Greek island of Lesvos. The shipwreck resulted in the death of at least 43 people, making it the deadliest incident of that period, also known as «the long summer of migration». One of the survivors, the artist Amel Alzakout recorded the journey and the shipwreck on a waterproof camera attached to her wrist. This footage – which also forms the basis of her subsequent film with Khaled Abdulwahed and Pong Film, titled Purple Sea — provides a unique situated perspective of this tragic event at the threshold of Europe.

In collaboration with Alzakout, Forensic Architecture reconstructed the boat’s journey, the shipwreck, and the rescue operation that followed. Cross-referencing the footage with other sources, including a long-range thermal video taken by artist Richard Mosse, videos by activists looking out from the shores of Lesvos, professional press, and the Greek coastguard, as well as satellite images and weather data, has helped to answer what happened and who might be responsible. The reconstruction of the incident—involving smugglers, migrants, rescuers, national coastguards, the European border agency Frontex, activists, fishermen, and NGOs—reveals the EU’s politics of closure, a systemic negligence that prioritises the interception and repelling of those coming in search of safety.

Team:
Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator), Christina Varvia (Researcher in Charge), Stefanos Levidis, Nathan Su, Bethany Edgoose, Mark Nieto, Robert Trafford, Lola Conte, Dimitra Andritsou, Sarah Nankivell, Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani

Cooperation partner:
Amel Alzakout

Institution:
Forensic Architecture

Original footage by:
Pong Films, Amel Alzakout, Richard Mosse, Eric Kempson, Mikel Konate, Hellenic Coast Guard, Frontex

Year:
2020

Duration:
24 minutes

Country:
UK

Type:
2 channel video

Website:
forensic-architecture.org

Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea
Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe, Lesvos, Aegean Sea