The work of Ro Caminal reflects upon one of the fundamental traits of our society: the construction of borders which aim to define what we are and what we are not, the marking of a line that is virtually invisible or blatantly present between us and them, the invention of an identifying narrative that tries to segregate all that, in spite of everything, we share and have in common. The journey between what we think we are and all that we remove from our comfort zone is complex, requires a polyhedral view and cannot be made alone.
Reflections upon otherness and representation are key aspects of “Resistències vora el mar” (Resistance by the sea), an initiative which takes the Mediterranean as a space from which we can reflect upon the complexities of the many realities it is comprised of. Strictly related to both the phenomenon of the migratory flow currently considered unlawful and the exploitation of tourism, the Mediterranean continues to be a threshold crossed as a result the desires and speculations of thousands of individuals who, despite sharing the experience of the journey, see themselves facing radically opposing realities. To reflect upon these realities, Ro Caminal focuses her attention on the historical and socio-political contexts of the maritime districts of five cities: La Barceloneta, in Barcelona; la Goulette, in Tunis; al-Manshiya and al-Agami, in Alexandria; the Casbah in Algiers, and the Sliema district, in Malta. Of these five focal points, Ro Caminal has selected Arquitectura de conjunts (Ensemble architecture) (Algeria) and In Limbus Melita (Malta) to be included in the exhibition at the Tarragona Museum of Modern Art.
Arquitectura de conjunts explores the construction of otherness from three interrelated perspectives: Si je te vole la mer, Inventaire and L’ordre d’Échiré.
Taking as a starting point the epistolary dialogue between the artist and the Casbah —to whom the Algerian poet Cedric Chaabi lends his voice—, Si je te vole la mer takes the spectator on a hypnotic, almost erotic and profoundly honest journey. A journey which crosses the path between the self and the other, in order to destabilise the reductionist simplicity we often employ to describe ourselves. Si je te vole la mer confronts an ethnographical exercise, the interest in research and the study of the periphery, the damage, the drive to build a civilisation now in ruins, in an impossible, almost pathetic task built on the foundations of an otherness which is, or should be, more fiction than reality. It is precisely these ruins, the shared failure, which Ro Caminal reproduces in Inventaire. The installation, in which we can observe a pile of building materials, the ruins of past times, and an LED panel which crosses them, also speaks of those scars that so fascinate us, and of how the work of the ethnographer, the archaeologist and the artist, through their inquisitive gaze, continue, even today, to try to discover new exoticisms, recreating otherness. Ro Caminal’s proposal in the third part of Arquitectura de conjunts: L’ordre d’Échiré, is precisely to destabilise the intrinsic nature of dichotomous understanding, intervening in the linguistic idiosyncrasy of the conjunction and blurring the borders between the self and the other.
The second part of the exhibition, entitled In Limbus Melita, is structured around two installations: In Limbus and Heavenly father.
The title of the piece, In Limbus, refers to the state of limbo many immigrants find themselves in when they arrive in Malta. Because of its strategic geographical location, the island has become a sought-after destination for many sub-Saharan immigrants, who believe they are at the entrance to Europe. After arriving on the island, many end up being exploited, among the ruins of a luxurious civilisation which gradually takes the form of Sliema, an old fisherman's district which is disappearing among the huge cranes and the concrete structures, and is becoming a mirror image of opulence, corruption and exclusion. The many hypocrisies in which a supposedly diverse and multicultural Europe sees itself every day facing a reality of exploitation and exclusion are made more evident in the audio piece that accompanies In Limbus. Heavenly father is a prayer and an oration for the immigrant, a call for respect, tolerance and equal opportunities. A clamour for the light of the creator to illuminate the path of the newcomers. The paternalism of certain ecclesiastical sermons is more than evident in Heavenly father, the contemporary version of an ancient prayer, modified on this occasion to emphasize condescendence. Here, the oration is not a reference to others, but a reminder of the realities we form part of, and for which we are responsible.
As Abu Ali proposes, we need to “open our eyes to what we do not know [or do not wish to know], involve ourselves in life within life, bodies among bodies. Not in rhetoric, but through a vital experience which interrelates various affections and wisdoms. An experience which requires time, sentiments, desires and fears, in order to continue caring for mutual need, collaboration and consultation”. The work of Ro Caminal invites us to open our eyes in order to embark on this journey.