The sunken ship motif is frequently found in films and artistic installations on migrants, as it symbolizes their perilous crossing. As Michel Foucault asserts, the ship is “the heterotopia par excellence,” and the contemporary fate of migrant barges is quite comparable to that of the ship of fools described by the philosopher in the classical age. The ship is a heterotopic motif which acts as a physical substitute for the body of the castaway, a substitute that makes sense in the maritime world, and that we find in classical paintings, in popular religious art, or even in the ex-votos. The objects that belonged to migrants perished at sea have a memorial character, allowing their history and sometimes their identity somehow to be restored. Giving them back their name is an essential issue so that they can be buried and not wander in a heterotopic space after their death, a heterotopic wandering which also characterizes the experience of their migratory journey.
migrants, sea, death, boat, visual art