In July 2020, we (BLKBRD COLLECTIVE) were commissioned by Royal Museums Greenwich to curate an artist-led takeover, to support the reopening of their sites following lockdown. The sail, called Ghost Meridian, addresses the generational experiences of migrants in a historic and contemporary british environment.
(Installation of the sail has been postponed due to Storm Ellen: installation expected October)
BLKBRD COLLECTIVE INTERPRETATION
At the Prime meridian - the line of longitude defined to be 0° - hangs a ghostly sail on the Cutty Sarks' mast. Ghosts are usually associated with folk tales, far from human discovery and science. But for the wretched - the victims of violence and atrocities - adopting the demeanor of a spirit is often the only way to be present within an overwhelming scientific world. A world that was first tailored for British interest and fueled out of the suffering and grief of others. And usually, it's the only way for unresolved pain to re-surface from the depths of repression. `
From Greenwich, time is realised and uniformed from an observatory. Imaginary borders are drawn across the equator, and our earth was split into time zones. The white ivory statues and palaces have us believe that it was for the good of humanity. For its unity, for its development and for every "corner of a foreign field that is forever England." Occupations, slave ships, opium wars, colonial expeditions, are overlooked with union jacks.
And through maritime adventures, Britain shaped the world in its own image. When we look at clocks to tell the time; When we look at maps to find our homes, we tread on a world that was measured before us. However, the consequences of this drawn and divided world are suffered by millions. Migrants; families; communities are traversing across seas, and time zones, fleeing violently drawn borders, searching for a new home.
However, it is in the spirit of human determination that we are told the explorers - now in marble busts - discovered strange land, bringing light to the world. Yet, migrants are revoked of their accomplishments. They sit waiting in deportation prisons, treated as beings who have mysteriously emerged from the dark waters. And for a culture that claims to be modern, valuing the individual through work, the labor behind migration is wholly disregarded. It isn't considered as a worthy adventure, a brave expedition, or a human discovery.
Despite the impossibility of a migrant's route, the work, and sweat behind the endless journey, Britain fails to see the migrant as a pioneer, a pathfinder, a bearer of hope. But instead, it quantifies the migrant's struggle in a couple of paragraphs on a deportation letter and deepens the tragedy.
No imperial - nor metric - measuring system could measure migrants' wounds. And Migrant time isn't made of just minutes and hours. its units are lories, lifeboats, borders, camps, long roads that cut through all seven seas and all four seasons, smugglers, glares of envy, stares of pity, rivers of tears and an endless trail of home office letters. Time essentially is human tolerance; how long can your feet carry you - however far you can run. Its duration could be infinite. Its pain is endless. Like a vast empire, in which the sun never sets, and the blood never dries.