Escape Committee was a university project where we were set the challenge to form some 'Escape', which was physical or psychological.
Our initial interest as a group was exploring the complexities of escaping people's preconceptions of others; an issue most suffers from consciously or unconsciously. Through research and discussions with the public, we realised that there are a lot of assumptions about immigration. Immigration seems to be a hot debate in the media on a regular basis, which causes a lot of confusion and creates many preconceptions of immigrants.
Immigration is a vastly complicated matter surrounded with all sorts of misconceptions. Exploring and researching immigration lead us to have conversations about spaces and borders. Borders can be physical, psychological, natural, man-made, conceptual, the list is never ending. Embassies are an unusual space which can ignite conversations about the complexities of borders, ownership of land, and citizenship.
Embassies are unique because once you step inside of an embassy, you have technically left your country and are technically/legally in the country of the embassy that you are visiting. As a group, we were very interested in the idea of getting into these spaces and exploring the loopholes and technicalities of laws within them. To visit a particular country you have to go through a long and gruelling process of security, passport validation, visas for some places, etc.
There is no universal system or process in place if you wish to visit an embassy.
When trying to get into different embassies to explore loopholes and legalities, we discovered that most of the time it is tough to get access to the embassies. This reason made us reevaluate our idea, and what we wanted to do in connection with embassies. We tested a few embassies to see how difficult it would be to get inside, one of the most interesting visits was to the Ecuadorian embassy because of the 24-hour security surrounding it for its asylum seeker Julian Assange. Although we were unsuccessful in getting into the Ecuadorian embassy, we did manage to get ourselves into the Columbian embassy which was next door.
Our success was partly because of our power of persuasion, but we realised that playing the student card and showing our passes was what truly allowed us to access to the embassy. We decided to go back to our original idea of preconceptions about identity; we decided that we would use assumptions to our advantage to see if we could gain access to embassies without any official permission.
We decided to use the preconceptions people have of students and to use that power to get access to multiple embassies. We received a thank you card from embassies when visiting them, and decided to create our own thank you cards for handing to the embassies that we would visit. The cards created a sense of purpose for our visit, and the ticket signified that we had a reason for gaining access to the embassy. We decided to document the process through a short film.
London has a vast amount of embassies, instead of randomly selecting embassies we decided to use the narrative from the book and film ‘Around the world in 80 days’. We followed the same journey the book does, but through embassies and in 80 minutes. Equipped with student ID’s, thank you passes, and a smile, we attempted to gain access to all of the embassies in the book.
What were we Escaping? We were escaping preconceptions of authority and identity using the ideology/complexity of borders.