A performance exploring Senate testimony around SIEV X
Senator Mason: In the famous words of Jack Nicholson in the film A Few Good Men, "You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!"
(Senate Hansard, 23 October 2002, page 5773)
SIEV X is the acronym for ‘Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X’ (the X stands for ‘unknown’). It is the name given to the unknown the dilapidated, criminally overloaded Indonesian fishing boat that sank en route to Australia’s Christmas Island on 19 October 2001 at the height of the massive Australian military border protection operation at the centre of the Federal Government's re-election campaign. 353 people drowned - 146 children, 142 women and 65 men.
Four years after this disaster, the troubling circumstances surrounding the sinking remain unsolved, including the possibility of direct Australian involvement through ongoing "disruption activities" that included sinking boats. These questions persist. New evidence, both through investigative journalism and answers to Senate Questions on Notice, have proved that significant parts of the evidence given to the CMI Senate inquiry were inaccurate or deliberately misleading, and several of the Senators have been agitating for a judicial inquiry to bring out the truth. But can we handle the truth?
This work-in-progress performance begins where version 1.0's CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident) concludes, charting the unfinished business of Australia's disastrous refugee policies. Australia has unfinished business with SIEV X. Unfinished, unwanted, and vitally important business. This performance uses edited proceedings of the Australian Senate pertaining to SIEV X as a springboard to investigate the act of public speech, and to interrogate the ways in which the language of power paralyses the body's capacity for outrage. This project explores visceral and verbal acts - speech as acts and acts as speech, locating strategies to resist the exhaustion that politician-speak produces. Part epic tragedy, part documentary performance, and part civic archaeology, this is a deeply disturbing rollercoaster ride through the Australian body politic. We may not like what this public language tells us about ourselves.
This performance cannot encompass the range of disturbing questions and concerns surrounding SIEV X, nor is this performance a piece of investigative journalism. This performance instead aims to undertake memory work, to intervene into the consciousness of our audience and state unequivocally that this catastrophic happening must be remembered, despite its discomfort, despite our official record keepers' desire to erase, or at least displace this story. In the end, this is the work that we made following this evidence. There are many other possible works that could be made, and we wait for these works with great anticipation. In these times of public forgetting and cultural amnesia, we need as remembering as possible.
Further reading and research:
http://www.sievx.com SIEV X online archive
http://www.aph.gov.au Australian Parliament House site, follow the links to Senate Hansard
Tony Kevin (2004) A Certain Maritime Incident: The Sinking of SIEV X. Melbourne: Scribe Publications.
David Marr and Marian Wilkinson (2003) Dark Victory. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.
21 March 2005
A work in progress showing for Scratch Night #2
The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Performed by: Tony Clarke, Stephen Klinder, Jane Phegan, Noha Ramadan, Gareth Rickards, Leanne Ryan, Emma Saunders, Emma Tait, Claire Whyntie and Kate Worsley
Text & Direction by: David Williams
Music By: Jason Sweeney
Stage Manager: Brigid Collaery
Sound Operator: Jeff Hardge
Lighting Operator: Quenorie Napier
Produced by: Sally Blackwood for the Sydney Opera House
Developed with the assistance of the School of Contemporary Arts, University of Western Sydney. Material for this performance was also developed by Patrick Dunn and Diedre Gatt.
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