Empire’s Island tells the story of Ascension Island, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and how it was propagated across three centuries serving the interests of emerging empires.
Throughout the centuries the island is altered after the ideological, economic and military interests of an emerging global structure of power: from encounters with the Dutch empire that used the island to exile crew members of the East India Company (VOC), to the British empire that sent Charles Darwin to greenify (geoengineer) the island, and lastly the contemporary US empire that together with the British established massive military and planetary surveillance infrastructure on Ascension. Today, the terraformed and technoformed island embodies visions of billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk who aim to establish Ascension Island-modelled colonies on Mars and beyond.
This reconstruction of Ascension Island takes the form of a video study with a detailed model that shows that the colonial, imperialist era, never truly ended. The colonial declaration of Ascension Island as “terra nullius” is now replicated and expanded by declaring vast parts of outer space into “nobody’s land.” How to resist and dismantle Empire’s ongoing propagation of our world and outer space and meet Ascension Island on its own terms?
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
SCRIPT EDITING BY
FILM EDITING AND SOUNDSCAPE BY
Ruben Hamelink and Jonas Staal
VOICEOVER RECORDING AND EDIT BY
Tom Estrera III
IMAGE ADJUSTMENTS BY
Ernie Buts and Ruben Hamelink
TITLE DESIGN BY
Remco van Bladel
ARCHIVAL RESEARCH BY
Veerle Driessen and Jonas Staal
PRODUCTION AND COORDINATION ASSISTANCE BY
Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam, for the Prix de Rome Visual Arts 2023