Aqua Nullius

While territorial lines in the South China Sea are being politically blurred, Flat Island, in contrast, is an island whose borders are shifting with the ebb and flow of tides. On this island, the tradition of the Bajau sea gypsies thrives on the ritualistic construction and maintenance of an artefactual device. Rather than their presence signifying the acquisition of the island, territory is understood as the construct of the social interactions and networks of this aquatic and nomadic society expressed through the device. Distilled within the symbolic articulation of its pieces are mechanical mannerisms and technological precision that reveal the ambiguous limit between land and sea. Few areas are better suited in the creation and preservation of this peculiar device than the environment of the sea. As man tends to define its territories by land boundaries, the artefactual device, which may not feel entirely indigenous to the sea, instead becomes something that comes from many islands, many people, many places, and over many years immersed in the brine of the ocean. A product of a place that can unsettle how we think of territory.

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Aqua Nullius


Inter-relational system of references between Flat island, the anchor points and the device

Amplification+measurement of the blurred limit between land & sea

Movements around Flat island following the tidal/moon cycle

Social & economical exchanges between the Bajau people in the Spratly archipelago

Post-typhoon re-construction

Full moon celebration

Diving ritual for the recovery of lost joints; precious pieces from the artefactual device

A mystical device