Exhibition "Refugium, refugia", by Marco Noris
Exhibition from Novembrer, 9, 2019 at February, 2, 2020
Openning: Sathurday, 9 Novembrer, at 12pm
Some years ago, during a visit to the Exile Memorial Museum (MUME) in La Jonquera, I heard for the first time about the existence of Rivesaltes, a former concentration camp in southern France opened in the 1930s to accommodate Spanish exiles. It remained operative for almost 70 years as it was also used during the Nazi occupation and later as an internment camp for Algerian harkis.
The history of Rivesaltes is a dramatic account that encompasses the whole 20th century and is used as a source for research into the most tragic events of contemporary European history. Rivesaltes is not just a geographical site but also ‒ and above all now that the ruins have given way to memory ‒ a site of shared emotion.
The work on display at MUME ‒ mainly produced between 2013 and 2016 and now renewed with a fresh approach ‒ emerges from the debris of the camp, the executioner of and witness to the horror of Nazi deportations and the drama of the exile of thousands of human beings. The memory of Rivesaltes is alive and is today linked to the current camps that worldwide and at the gates of Europe accommodate millions of lives, millions of refugees, millions of dramas: the ruins of the camp are the past that connects with the present and with current EU migration policy. Nevertheless, this is not a work about Rivesaltes. Neither does it intend to be a piece of historical research. History acts here rather as a guide to a journey through collective emotional memory, searching for the universal nature of the individual experience, beyond eras, boundaries and nationalities.
The word refuge comes from the Latin refugium. This term was indistinctly used to refer to the place where one flees or to indicate a way of escape. In other words, it made reference to a place of shelter from dangers (not necessarily physical and immediate) or a means to escape a risky situation. It also means “return, way back” and is opposed to the concept of "desertion". The plural ‒ refugia ‒ referred to hidden places in Roman houses where the head of the family could conceal their goods if there was an attack from enemies or a fire. Objection, escape, retreat, exit. Terms that indicate a withdrawal made by an outwards movement, in any case a permanent condition of transit and danger.
The work presented in Refugium, refugia portrays the physical and emotional sites of uprooting, places where the burial frequently follows banishment, where the need for shelter is accompanied by its refusal and where the solution to the tragedy is only the lesser of evils. The camps are both refuge and condemnation and certify the loss of dignity and identity of the refugee, fractured, distanced from his or her roots, land or past. Common graves, holes, burial mounds, boxes... real or symbolic refuges, cynical alternatives to European policies. The refugee as an intrinsic condition of exile, where in the very impossibility of returning home lies the absolute and definitive impossibility of having another, because uprooting is an irreversible trauma that concerns the very foundations of the human being.
Marco Noris (Bergamo, Italy, 1971) has lived and worked in Barcelona since 2003. Since 2013 he has focused his artistic research on territory and landscape, ruins and memory, freely moving between abstraction and figuration. He has more recently approached walking as an aesthetic and artistic practice with "On the Border" (2017, La Capella / Barcelona Producció grant) and "La Entrega" (2018, La Panera / CAN Farrera grant). He has had solo and group exhibitions both in Spain (La Capella, La Panera, Exile Memorial Museum, the Trama, Contrast, Canem and Sicart art galleries, Vic Roman Temple, Vic Biennale, and Escorxador, among others) and abroad (Paris, Parma, Udine, New York). From 2015 to 2017 he was resident artist at Hangar, a visual arts production centre in Barcelona. He is currently resident artist at Piramidón, a contemporary art centre in Barcelona.