The New Atlantis

Image:
Paula Naughton
Coincidentia Oppositorum
2013
collaged image of:
Raising the flag of Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal
Raising the Flag on Diego Garcia as seen from USS Vernon County.
Photo taken by Chaplain Larry Sellers, Commander, USN, Seabee Battalion, 1971.
The New Atlantis is a curatorial multi-media documentary project by Paula Naughton chronicling the history of the people from the Chagos Islands.The New Atlantis tells the story and plight of the people of the Chagos Islands—a small isolated archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In 1973, the population were forcibly evicted from their homeland by the British government to make way for a US naval base called Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have been living in abject poverty ever since and little record of their culture and existence has survived. They have remained steadfast, however, and are fighting political and legal obstacles to return to their homeland.

The governments involved created a fiction that a permanent population had never existed, a claim made easier to uphold because photographic evidence to the contrary has now been dispersed. The New Atlantis maneuvers through this fiction in order to bear witness to the untold history. Taking testimonials from the displaced Chagossians as a starting point, the project uses archival material obtained from a variety of sources, such as retired US Navy Seabees, museums, individuals, and documents from Wikileaks. An entirely different mode of documentation is offered in the paintings of Chagossian artist Clement Siatous, whose visual summonings of his homeland are done entirely from memory. All of these merge together to form an achronological tale of a lost Atlantis.

This project is dedicated to the displaced Chagos community and all those who have helped tell their story. With special thanks to Marie Sabrina Jean and The Chagos Refugees Group for their dedication in supporting this project.

‘The New Atlantis’ refers to Francis Bacon’s Utopian novel in which a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge is portrayed. Bacon played a leading role in colonizing North America and the novel refers to the political ideologies of imperialism, colonialism, and overseas expansion.