Not Waving, But Drowning materialises the experience of Indian refugees during their arrest and detention by the harbour police in Zeebrugge, Belgium. Within the tense, haunted context of the harbour and the seaside, and together with them, we slowly lose all sense of time and place. Without investigating their past or their future, the human traffic organisations or the Belgian legislation, Elias Grootaers transgresses into the timelessness in which our society ‘imprisons’ people without papers.
Confined spaces and the sea as an impregnable wall define the non-zones of the refugees, breakwater strolls and coffee clutter evoke the seaside recreational community, while the harbour with its inhuman metal thumping and omnipresent bustle could be the gate between both worlds. This subtle analysis of human exclusion and the reduction of human beings to the physical body makes us wonder if a human can be illegal at all?