In order to attempt navigating the act of the Shipwreck, it is imperative to denote the specific re-definition of Ship to which it refers. The Ship in question is a state-owned vessel used to contain, transport, conquer, surveil, and control Blackness in its current incarnation. The Ship has morphed from a literal vessel that denominated nonhuman or subhuman status—slave ships, for example, or the HMT Empire Windrush of migrant crossings—to a systemic container on land achieved through hydrarchy from above.


  1. a large boat for transporting goods by sea
  2. the container, or containing, of Blackness

Synonyms: attempted executioner, the State

The Shipwreck, or the act of Shipwreck(ing), is the destruction of the Ship beyond recognizable use or function. It is the active demolition of the category of the Human in favour of an unmappable, illegible realm of intangibility. The Shipwreck(er) acts to reclaim fungibility and the space of death to free Blackness to fulfill its true, limitless potential, therefore reclaiming the ability to disrupt the notion of time and futurity as an indestructible, regenerative energy akin to that of the immortal head of the Hydra. The Hydra myth typically concludes with the assumption that the monster is slaughtered through successfully maiming each regenerative head. However, according to some accounts, Hercules was merely an attempted executioner who was successful only in containing the immeasurable power of this beast to its single, immortal head. In seemingly alternative endings to this myth, the immortal head is forcibly restrained beneath a large rock on the path between Lerna and Elaius. This head, its fate unspecified, is nonetheless unable ever to truly die. Perhaps it waits to regenerate its severed heads and unleash its power yet again. The Shipwreck(ers) regenerate to escape their containment, to evade singularity in the process. They rewrite futures branded as impossible and destroy a world that has refused them the space of the living—and always will.


  1. the destruction of the Ship through self-destruction, mutiny, and resistance
    “Remnants of a shipwreck denoted that they were successful in their liberation.”


  1. (of a person or ship) becoming illegible to undermine or destroy the Ship; flagging out
    “The Shipwreckers were destroying everything in sight in hopes of liberating themselves.”

 Synonyms: hydrarchy from below, statelessness

Shipwreck(ing) is reinstating the lost ruttiers that defy a single “home,” geographical place, or time. To Shipwreck is to escape and move beyond the edges of the map. It is to sink to the ocean’s deepest abyss and continue defying constraints of the Human. The Shipwreck is more than just an analogy for abolition—it’s also an intangible realm where time flattens, land can become irrelevant, and the living intertwine with the dead.

There is no guarantee of redemption or emancipation in a world that has already ended for many. Therefore, a new world must rise from its wreckage.


This glossary originally appeared in ART PAPERS 45.02 “Finding Our Way” Winter 2021/22

Dominique White lives in Marseille, France, and works nomadically. Recent exhibitions include Hydra Decapita at VEDA in Florence, Italy; TECHNO WORLDS, produced by Goethe-Institut, a; Blackness in Democracy’s Graveyard, UKS, Oslo; and at  Contemporain. White was awarded the Roger Pailhas Prize in 2019 in conjunction with her solo show at VEDA, Florence, and she received awards from Artangel and the Henry Moore Foundation in 2020. White was in residency at Sagrada Mercancía (Santiago, Chile), Triangle France—Astérides (Marseille) and La Becque (La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland) in 2020 and 2021.