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.
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 it was also used as a concentration camp during the Nazi occupation and then as an internment camp for Algerian Harkis. The history of Rivesaltes is a dramatic account that takes us through the entire 20th century, which is why it is used as a guide to research the most tragic events of contemporary European history. Rivesaltes is not exclusively a geographical location. It is also, – or especially, now that the ruins have made way for memory – a collective emotional space.
(Un)refuges has therefore been conceived from the debris of the camp, persecutor and witness to the atrocity of the Nazi deportations and the drama of exile of thousands of people. The memory of Rivesaltes is the current reality of the camps that hold millions of lives, millions of refugees, millions of dramas all over the world and at the doors of the European Union. Nevertheless, this is not a work about Rivesaltes, nor is it historical research. In this case, history is really the guide to a journey in the collective emotional memory, seeking the universality of individual experience, beyond eras, boundaries and nationalities.
The (un)refuges are the physical and emotional places of uprooting, where the need for shelter is accompanied by its refusal and where the solution to the tragedy is only the lesser evil. The camps are (un)refuges and they certify the loss of dignity and identity of refugees, broken, separated from their roots, their land, their past. Places where burial frequently follows exile. Mass graves, holes, burial mounds, boxes: symbolic (un)refuges, cynical alternatives to cynical European policies. And finally (un)refuged as an intrinsic condition of the exiled, where the impossibility to return home goes hand in hand with the absolute and definitive impossibility to have a new home, because uprooting is an irreversible trauma that affects the actual fundamentals of human beings.
Marco Noris (2016)
“Refugium, refugia” at MuME, Museu Memorial de l’Exili, installation view 2019. More info