ALEX & I (2013–ongoing)
Alex & I is a research project and collaboration concerned with the narrative of migration and media history and of the former refugee and Tamil spokesperson Sanjeev ‘Alex’ Kuhendrarajah, between 2009 and 2017.Various outcomes so far have included texts, videos, songs, performance-lectures, a postcard campaign and numerous discursive events.
ALEX & I: Narrative and network resistance
Journal article
Social Identities, August 2018
Alex & I:Narrative and network resitance

For Alex & I: Narrative and network resitance, I discuss how the requirement of migrants to submit biometric data to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the purposes of identification is a means of control, drawing on Katja Jacobsen's (2010; 2015) analysis of the risks arising from UNHCR's deployment of iris scanning technology and Joseph Pugliese's (2012) work on the genealogies and biopolitics of biometrics. I address Alex's acts of self-representation on social media, particularly Facebook, as a form narrative resistance, by which he challenges the UNHCR's modes of 'institutional interpellation' (Ajana, 2010), but is also susceptible to 'dataveillance', data mining and forms of network authority. Drawing on Wendy Hui Kyong Chun's (2015) concerns about user profiling and data capture on social media, I offer possible modes of network resistance and discuss storytelling as a form of 'narrative bioethics' with reference to Btihaj Ajana (2010).

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, August 2018 [pdf]

ALEX & I: Against Indifference
Text and photo essay
Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal, vol.8, no. 1, 2016
Refugee Bazaar
Alex & I: Against Indifference concerns a series of portraits made with a community of Tamil refugees living in Bangkok who refer to themselves as 'the Bachelors.' The project was initiated by refugee and one-time media figure, Sanjeev 'Alex' Kuhendrarajah who hoped his peers would tell their own stories to an 'international community.' With reference to Judith Butler's Frames of War (2009), I have sought to 'discursively frame' the images by considering the discrimination these young single men encounter living in the margins of this South Asian metropolis, awaiting the outcomes of their re-settlement applications.

Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal, vol.8, no. 1, 2016.
ALEX & I: Moving Pictures

2016 (12.20)
Included in SAVAC: Monitor 12, Images Festival Toronto. Curators: Oliver Husain, Otty Widasari and Yuki Aditya; Strangeness, Betweenness, and the Cosmopolitan Imagination, Royal Holloway, University of London. Curator: Laura McLean.

Alex & I: Moving Pictures (2016) is a short video essay based on an inventory of images circulating in the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka, 2009. The video recalls the (mis)adventures of a controversial Tamil refugee and media figure Sanjeev 'Alex' Kuhendrarjah, who for a period of time characterised a borderscape that spanned Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Canada. It charts pictures of Alex circulating across networks and the consequences of images moving offline and into ‘real life.’
The Other Alex


Presentations: Poetikum, Berlin, 2013; Displacements: Forced Migration and the Arts, Aarhus University, Denmark, 2013; The Reading Room, Bangkok, 2013; SEAM13, Critical Path, Sydney, 2013; Transforming Cultures Seminar Series, University of Technology Sydney, 2014; Indian Ocean Futures Conference, Fremantle, Western Australia 2014; Performing Resistance, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2014; Postcolonial Justice Conference, University of Potsdam, 2014; Nanyang Technological University Singapore, 2014.

Alex & I: Moving Pictures is an evolving ‘visual lecture’ based on an inventory of images circulating in the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka, 2009. The performance recalls the (mis)adventures of a controversial asylum seeker Sanjeev ‘Alex’ Kuhendrarjah as a historical figure who came to characterise the Australian borderscape and his current circumstances as a detainee in Thailand.

* Given the significant changes in Alex’s circumstances in May 2015 I will no longer be delivering this lecture, which is now archived as a video essay, above. A version of the lecture script is provided here [PDF].
ALEX & I: In proximity to the Other of politics
Journal Text
Law Text Culture: Re-orienting Hospitality, Re-orienting Law.

Vol. 17, 2013, 129–142.
Guest editors: Anne Cranny-Francies and Elaine Kelly.

For a brief period of time Sanjeev 'Alex' Kuhendrarajah gained international notoriety as the self-styled spokesperson for 254 Sri Lankan Tamils who refused to disembark from a small wooden cargo boat, KM Jeya Lestari 5, docked off the Indonesian port of Merak from October 2009. The boat, which was detected by Australian authorities while floundering in international waters off the Sunda Strait, was intercepted by the Indonesian navy at the request of the then Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd. The charismatic asylum seeker, who introduced himself as Alex at a dockside press conference, quickly became a favourite with journalists for his command of English and his 'raw and defiant' manner.

Law Text Culture, 17, 2013, 129-142.

Songs for Sanjeev
Sumugan Sivanesan and Sanjeev ‘Alex’ Kuhendrarajah
with Ben Connor, Matthew Phillip Hopkins and Danny Venzin.
Installation/collaborative process: US visa waiver, digital photographic print, songs.
Included in the group exhibition Oddfellows curated by Iakovos Amperidis at Gallery VV (55 Sydenham Road), Sydney
Iakov Reads

Over the last year my I have come to study the process of migration of the refugee Sanjeev ‘Alex’ Kuhendrarajah. For a brief period of time Sanjeev was internationally reknown as a spokesperson for 255 Tamil asylum-seekers caught in a stand-off with Indonesian authorities at the port of Merak following the conclusion of the civil war in Sri Lanka, 2009. When I began this course of research I understood Sanjeev as a minor historical character, public figure and media construction.

In 2013 I was able to visit him in Thailand where he is being detained indefinitely. By initiating this rapport, I implicated myself in Sanjeev’s appeal for re-settlement; forging a ‘friendship’ that I interrogate on a personal, political and artistic plane. I consider how the politics that Sanjeev’s movements produce might, in turn, produce a movement-of-politics in art and academic contexts.

In Songs for Sanjeev (2013) I asked gallery patrons and peers to co-write songs based on a dense document that constitutes Sanjeev’s application for resettlement. The recorded results of this songwriting process are to be delivered to the asylum seeker on disc.

In an associated workgroup, A Dream of Sanjeev: A Political Science Fiction (2013), I re-presented Sanjeev’s narrative to the public to prompt a discussion on the relationship between labour, migration and (artistic) production with reference to local artist communities. Through the prism of historical painting, we attempted to think out aloud about current arrangements of labour, finance and capital. These discussions will inform further processes of reflection, research and articulation, of which Sanjeev is both a co-producer and a specific audience.


Songs for Sanjeev

A Dream of Sanjeev: A political science fiction (workgroup)
Wish you were here...
Postcard campaign
Runway #24 Islands (2014)
Wish you were here...