To both be and make a border is the primary motivation of this artistic project by Marco Noris. The artist spent almost a month walking the line of the border in the Pyrenees from Andorra to Portbou. An invisible geographic line that is the product of a superimposed layer of historical events, which is made visible through the hundreds of milestones (mugues) that delimit the separation between the countries.
Marco Noris’ itinerary has a pronounced experiential character manifested by the exercise of painting in the open air. In this sense, what apparently seems a playful and contemplative attitude of the artist in relation to the landscape, becomes an action that assumes the form of a critical inventory of the fact of the border and everything related to it: refugees, exile, exclusion, marginalization. In other words, the distance, fatigue and weather conditions experienced by the artist himself acquire an allegorical configuration that refers to all those unfortunate souls of yesterday, today and the future.
These drawings made in situ during the trip, which may be understood as something between a personal diary and a notarial record reaffirming the line of the border, evoke the artist’s visual and emotional connection with a context both inhospitable and fascinating, thereby developing an entirely new setting for memory.
Jordi Font Agulló Director of MuME
Art and Memory. Marco Noris, “On the Border”
From October 28, 2017 to January 28, 2018
Museo Memorial del Exilio (Exile Memorial Museum), c / Mayor, 43-47, 17700 – La Jonquera (Spain)
Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm and Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 2 pm.
Closed Mondays except holidays. For Christmas holidays the museum is closed on January 1st and 6th and December 25th and 26th and on December 24th and 31st it is open from 10am to 2pm.
“Entitled No era el sol [It wasn’t the sun], the exhibition showing a lot of Noris’ work developed around the disappearance in the mass graves, the cruelty of borders, the civil war, exile and uprooting, as well as environmental matters using metaphors for both our material and moral ruins, and readings at a more introspective level as a first and unavoidable step towards accepting denial and shadow to deal with the escalation in technology, excessive consumption and entertainment that blinds us all.” Continue reading It wasn’t the sun, Marco Noris solo show at Trama Gallery
The series of paintings that Marco Noris is presenting at the Roman Temple is the first result of his work about exile and rootlessness; a journey between past and present, historical memory and contemporary migration policies.
From November 23, 2016 until January 1, 2017. Opening: Friday, November 25 at 7pm Temple Romà – Carrer Pare Xifré, Vic (Barcelona)
In the summer of 2017, Noris walked the 290 km of the Spanish-French border in the province of Girona, through which the principal routes of the republican exile ran. During the walk, the artist painted a work corresponding to each of the 198 milestones that mark the border. To walk and paint, joining together points along the border, as though balancing on that invisible line that divides in two that which is one, making visible what is invisible and opening up in this way a new stage for memory.
Over these past four years I have been working with the landscape as a stage and as a border, but always from the comfort and distance of the studio. The need for direct experience, to put myself out there and confront the real without any filters, is what led me to undertake “On the Border”. The project involves walking the entire Spanish-French border in the county of Girona and making a small oil painting at each of the 198 milestones that mark the limit between the two countries. It will not be a visual documentation of the milestones (which have already been photographically catalogued), but rather an emotional recording of the environment, according to whatever the geographical and environmental conditions may be. For this reason, the extreme connection with the environment and the present moment that open-air painting permits is fundamental to allowing the project to acquire a strong experiential value. In this sense, the pieces are not the objective of the journey: the experience itself is the goal, the experience of making and being the border, the introspection of a long walk in nature, the journey and its difficulties. To paint pieces as if they were markers and to walk joining together points along the the border, as though balancing on that invisible line that divides in two what is one, is to make visible the invisible and thus open up a new setting for memory.
Muga (“border stone”) is a word of Basque origin used in the Catalan Pyrenees instead of mojón (or hito, in Spanish) and fita (in Catalan). Here is an article written by Josep Estruch for “On the Border” on the etymology of the word.
Rivesaltes (Ruins I) – 2013 – 19×33 cm – Oil and bitumen of Judea on canvas
A few years ago, during a visit to the Exile Memorial Museum of La Jonquera (Museu Memorial d’Exili – MuME), I read for the first time about Camp de Rivesaltes, also known as Camp Maréchal Joffre, a former concentration camp in the south of France which was first opened in the 1930s to accommodate Spanish exiles. The camp remained open for nearly 70 years, and Among other uses, it served as a concentration camp during the Nazi occupation and then as an internment camp for Algerian Harkis. The dramatic history of Rivesaltes runs through the entire 20th century, which is why it is used as a guide to research the most tragic events of Europe’s recent past. Rivesaltes is not exclusively a geographical location; it is also – or especially, now that its ruins have made way for memory – a collective emotional space.
This work 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 has its origin in the Latin word refugium, a word that was used indistinctly to refer to the place towards which one flees as well as to the “escape route”. In other words, to a place safe from danger (not necessarily physical and immediate) or a means to escape from a dangerous situation. It also meant “return”, “arriving back”, as opposed to “desertion”. The plural –refugia– referred to hiding places in Roman houses where the father of the family could hide his possessions in case of an attack by enemies or a fire.
Protection, escape, retreat, exit. Terms that indicate both a withdrawal and an outward movement, whichever the case, a permanent state of transit and danger.
The work presented in Refugium, refugia portrays the physical and emotional places of uprooting, places where burial frequently follows exile, where the need for shelter is accompanied by its denial and where the solution to the tragedy is only the lesser evil. The camps are at the same time refuge and condemnation and certify the loss of dignity and identity of refugees, broken, separated from their roots, from their land, from their past. Mass graves, pits, burial mounds, boxes… real or symbolic shelters, cynical alternatives to cynical European politics. The refugee as an intrinsic condition of the exiled, where the impossibility of returning home points to the absolute and definitive impossibility of having a new home, because uprooting is an irreversible trauma that affects the very fundaments of the human being.
“Refugium, refugia” at MuME, Museu Memorial de l’Exili (La Jonquera, Spain), installation view 2019. More info
The denial of darkness and mortality is characteristic of our era. Surrounded by cracks and ruins, incapable of facing their fears, the somnolent ultraliberal humanity, through technological escalation, seeks refuge in consumerism and entertainment. For this reason, I decided to explore the distressing and tragic territories of denial and shadow through painting. Mass graves, beaten up violators, accidents, waste and dumps, police victims, destroyed effigies, refugees and mutants… my work is a compendium of demise, a collection of material and moral ruins. Therefore, in this context, (Un)refuges, my project on exile and uprooting, was conceived from the debris of a former concentration camp and speaks about memory and oblivion and the annihilation of human beings, their identity and their values.
Since then and up to very recently, I was convinced that the ruin was the main concept around which I had been building my imaginary. Not so long ago, I realised that in reality the ruin was not the ultimate goal in my research, but a means to light up the dark journey of defeat. Defeat here has two slants. The first is the tragic aspect: the historic defeat, and with it the political, moral and environmental defeats. In the private sphere, we can also include personal defeat, intrinsic to human existence. The individual’s defeat and their concatenation of surrenders takes us to the sublime slant of this journey, where the defeated is celebrated, a condition that requires the force of courage. Finally, at the peak of this itinerary is the defeat of the ego, the last stage of this journey and possibly the start of what will come next.
Apart from some forays into the world of photography, collage, installation and video, my experience is mainly in the field of painting. I find pictorial language an ideal tool for managing emotions without overlooking intellect. The traditional, almost archetypical, visual codes of oil painting allow me to pry open the conscience of the viewer, as a pivot between omen and mourning. In this temporary distortion, post-apocalyptic scenes, ruins from the past, hints of future disasters and memories of tragedies merge together and intertwine forming a cyclical genealogy of the catastrophe, in the centre of which is the viewer, alone facing their mortality.