Flag Of Convenience

Anna Amethyst//Martin Cox//Kirthana Devdas//Nataliya Petkova//Jessie Rose Vala


February 29 2016, Husavik, Iceland

Performance for web camera


Flag of convenience is the business practice of registering a merchant ship in a sovereign state different from that of the ship's owners, and flying that state's civil ensign (flag) on the ship. Ships are registered under flags of convenience to reduce operating costs or avoid the regulations of the owner's country. Flag of convenience shipping encouraged and enabled low-cost international sourcing of labor and manufactured goods by making it easy to swiftly lower transportation costs.


The group of five resident artists decided to perform a semaphoric choreography using flags, thus referring to the once used maritime communication system. Taking turns to execute one letter at a time, the performance unfolds with the spelling of the phrase “CONVENIENCE IS REAL*”, and culminating in signaling the “ERROR” or miscommunication message in front of Husavik's web camera. The performance speaks to the double edged advantage of convenience, its role in the destruction of communities, environment and resources. A conversation arose between the residency artists about the concern for environment and labor, and how we also participate in this system that degrade both. Icelandic locals described to us their experience of the increasing instability and extremes of climate and the effect that has on animal life, farming and fishing.


Beyond communicating a specific content, the performance tackles the technological, linguistic and social failure of communicating any message at all. While virtually gathering viewers through social media, the success of transmission relied solely on the capacity of the town's web server to get the message across. What is more, the meaning of  the semaphoric gestures was likely lost even for professional sailors, as the maritime language has been largely replaced by new technologies.


* The latter “is real”, a reference to at the Oscar awards ceremony climate statement by Leonard DiCaprio which had occurred a few hours earlier.