Fishing for Flotsam – a deeper dive


Romana Schmalisch/Robert Schlicht
Fishing for Flotsam – a deeper dive


Iméra artists in residence, Romana Schmalisch and Robert Schlicht are organizing:


◉ On January 25, at the Musée d’Histoire de la ville de Marseille : “The container fetish”, a cinematographic performance with the actor Robert Rizo, followed by a Q&A with the artists and Nicolas Feodoroff


◉ On 31 January, at the FRAC, “Containers unchained” – a scientific presentation and round table discussion with Sergio Bologna, Delphine Mercier, Michel Peraldi and the artists


Both events are organised by the artists in the framework of their fellowship 2022/23 at Iméra (the Institut for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University), in partnership with, Frac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Goethe-Institut Marseille, Musée d’Histoire de la ville de Marseille and Laboratoire d'Economie et de Sociologie du Travail (LEST), Projet ANR Le Grand Entrepôt.




“Fishing for Flotsam” is a film project and scientific research that originated with a residency at the Frac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in 2021 in cooperation with the Goethe-Institute Marseille and is now continued and extended with a fellowship at Iméra 2022/23.

The project takes the emblematic image of the container as a reference point in order to investigate the socio-political, economic and historical interrelations crystallised in the container and its endless circulation, as well as to reflect upon the question of their representability itself. The focus is on the industrial port in Marseille-Fos, which is taken as a model for container ports worldwide and, by extension, as an image for the globalised society.

As their closing event in the frame of the Fellowship at Iméra Robert Schlicht and Romana Schmalisch will present the cinematographic performance “The container fetish”, a journey into the world of animate objects, followed by a conversation with Nicolas Feodoroff at Musée d’Histoire de la ville de Marseille, and organise the theoretical evening “Containers unchained” about the invisibility of containers and supply chains with Sergio Bologna, Delphine Mercier, Michel Peraldi at Frac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.


Copyright © 2022 Robert Schlicht/Romana Schmalisch


“The container fetish”

a cinematographic performance with the actor Robert Rizo

followed by a conversation and Q&A with Nicolas Feodoroff and the artists

25 January 2023 – 18:30 until 20:00

📍 Musée d’Histoire de la ville de Marseille (Rue Henri Barbusse, 13001 Marseille)


A choreography of containers, cranes, commodities, capital, human beings and a ghostly figure, traversing the poles of the visible and the invisible, the factual and the metaphorical, logistics and beauty, in order to create a portray of a society in which things seem to have more agency than mere mortals.

At the heart of the performance “The container fetish” stands a conférencier who relates old and new stories of maritime trade, adventures involving containers, goods and the new economy, juggling with a multitude of metaphors and narratives used throughout history in order to try to make sense of intransparent economic and social relations. He will gradually breathe life into the goods, awaken our desires and take us onto a stormy journey, navigating the flows of the financialised system that we all inhabit. In the background we see moving images of a giant harbour, hear an enchanting symphony of machines and are invited to listen to a ghostly voice, maybe from another world.

Following the performance, the artists will discuss with Nicolas Feodoroff the question of the representability of reified social power relations and the possibilities of fictional elements and documentary forms in film.



“Containers unchained”

about the invisibility of container logistics and supply chains

presentation and round table discussion with Sergio Bologna, Delphine Mercier, Michel Peraldi and the artists

31 January 2023 – 18:30 until 20:00

📍 Frac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (20 Bd de Dunkerque, 13002 Marseille)


This theoretical evening will discuss the container revolution and its economic, political and social implications. While contemporary political discourses on globalisation and labour primarily focus on the impact of computerisation, artificial intelligence etc. (“immaterialisation”), they more often than not tend to overlook the second pillar of globalisation, containerisation, without which the world-encompassing capitalist system in its current form couldn’t exist.

In his lecture, Sergio Bologna will discuss the invisibility of the container, the intransparency of markets and the complexities in maritime trade as well as the impact of container shipping on global supply chains – creating the general organisational form of capitalist exchange of commodities that is as efficient as it is fragile. Following the lecture, the artists will talk with Bologna about his research into containerisation since the end of the 1970s, about the beginnings of container trade in the Mediterranean and the rather unknown role of Marseille in this development.

Connecting the container to distribution centres, warehouse management and logistics, Delphine Mercier and Michel Peraldi will present their research project Le Grand Entrepôt (2022–2026) at Laboratoire d’Economie et de Sociologie du Travail (LEST-UMR 7317), CNRS,  AMU.
This project focuses on the emergence of “free zones” of industrial-commercial “grey zones” which now play a crucial role in the organization of the storage function, which some economists call “warehouse economy”. These zones occupy in a privileged way territories in disherence where they form real enclaves of local lawlessness. They are also places of innovation revealing real changes in labor relations as well as in the organization of labor markets. It is because they articulate rational management of stocks, flexibility of employment and multiscalarity of circuits, that these areas are privileged space-times for understanding the ongoing changes in transnational economies.




Robert Schlicht and Romana Schmalisch are researchers, artists and filmmakers.

Romana Schmalisch studied fine arts at the University of the Arts in Berlin. She has been artist in residence at numerous institutions, including the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, Studio Voltaire in London and Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers. Robert Schlicht studied philosophy at the Humboldt Universität in Berlin. Schmalisch and Schlicht's joint work lies at the interface between film and theory, focusing on the representativeness of historical processes and social structures in film. Exhibitions, performance series and films explore the theme of work in capitalist societies. In 2019, their first feature film, "Labour Power Plant", premiered at the Berlinale.

The two artists and filmmakers are currently researchers in residence at Iméra (2022/23).



Robert Rizo is a French actor who works for both theatre and cinema and has appeared in numerous short films as well as theatre productions. He is also a theatre director and recently produced his theatre play “Tangente” by Nina Chataignier (2022).

Robert Rizo has already collaborated with the filmmakers Romana Schmalisch and Robert Schlicht in the performance “Performing Labour Power” at Kunsthalle Wien in the frame of the Vienna Biennale, “Robots. Work. Our Future together” (2017), and played a principal role in their feature film “Labour Power Plant” (2019).



Nicolas Feodoroff is an art and film critic and curator. He has been teaching theory and cinema at the Beaux-Arts de Marseille since 2017, and has been a member of the FIDMarseille selection committee since 2006(2016). He has taken part in many international film juries and contributes regularly with structures dedicated to cinema and contemporary art (workshop, conferences, symposiums, programming) in particular at Mucem, Jeu de Paume, BAL, CPIF, the Paul Ricard Foundation, ENSAD-Paris etc.


Sergio Bologna, is Professor of History of the Labor Movement and Industrial Society at the Universities of Trento, Padua and Bremen. He began in the 70s to have interest in working in the ports and in navigation with the magazine “Primo maggio”, in collaboration with the organizations of the dockers of the port of Genoa. His stay in Bremen allowed him to know the ports of the North. During his stay in Paris, 1983/84, he made contact with many European experts, becoming a member of the Eurotrans Club and a frequent visitor of the OECD institutions. Back in Italy, he participated in the drafting of the General Transport and Logistics Plan as head of the goods and intermodality sector. He has worked as a consultant either for numerous institutions (Ministries, Port Authorities, Regions, Competition Authority, National Council for the Economy and Labor etc.), or for companies such as Trenitalia, for shipping companies and associations of freight forwarders and carriers. He is a member of the Management of the International Center for Container Studies (C.I.S.Co.) in Genoa and President of the Maritime Operators Agency (A.I.O.M.) in Trieste. His publications include Le multinazionali del mare (Egea Editore, 2010) and Alle origini del container. Il Lloyd Triestino e le linee per l’Australia (Asterios Editore, 2021).


Delphine Mercier is a Sociologist and Director of Research at the CNRS currently working at the Labor Economics and Sociology Laboratory (Aix en Provence), of which she has been Deputy Director since 2015. For five years, she directed the CEMCA, Center for Mexican and Central American Studies in Mexico City from 2009 to 2014. She defended an Habilitation to Supervise Research at EHESS, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. A labor sociologist, she specializes in migration and labor issues in the context of globalization, particularly in Latin America, Europe, North Africa and recently in the Middle East. She currently directs or co-directs eight doctoral theses. Since January 2020 Delphine Mercier has been the deputy research director of the Institute of Establishment SoMuM – Societies in Mutation in the Mediterranean of Aix Marseille University.


Michel Peraldi is research director at CNRS, assigned since July 2015 to IRIS/EHESS. Michel Peraldi works on transnational urban dynamics, informal and criminal economies, migratory circulations between Europe and the Maghreb. First attached to LAMES/MMSH in Aix en Provence (1996-2004), he directed the Center Jacques Berque in Rabat (2004-2010), attached to CADIS/EHESS between 2010 and 2015 then to IRIS EHESS in 2015 Director of Research Emeritus since July 11, 2018.

Currently Delphine Mercier and Michel Peraldi are coordinating a program entitled: Le Grand Entrepôt (2022–2026).