Palma de Mallorca

Daniel García Andújar, Mediterraneum. Atlas. Puertos (Mediterraneum. Atlas. Ports) (detail), 2022, 163 robotic drawings printed on paper, dimensions variable.

Daniel García Andújar, Mediterraneum. Atlas. Puertos (Mediterraneum. Atlas. Ports) (detail), 2022, 163 robotic drawings printed on paper, dimensions variable.

Daniel García Andújar

Traversing the vastness of the Mediterranean as both historical and imaginary, Daniel García Andújar’s solo exhibition “Patente de Corso” (Letter of Marque) offered a disconcerting account of how the sea has been a locus for expulsions and migrations throughout European history. In works ranging from installations and videos to archival displays and a presentation of historical paintings, we saw how mare nostrum has been witness to the “bare life”—to borrow a phrase from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben—of migrants and refugees.

Occupying the entirety of a stark red wall in the middle of the exhibition, Mediterraneum. Atlas. Puertos (Mediterraneum. Atlas. Ports), 2022, presented a set of 163 “robotic drawings” that trace onto old maps the possible combination of routes that had been taken by migrants over the years to reach the various ports and harbors that rim its coasts. The frenzied tangle of trails complements the dry and mechanical rendering of Migrantes desaparecidos registrados en el Mediterráneo desde 2014 (Missing Migrants Recorded in the Mediterranean Since 2014), also 2022, which filled an adjacent wall with a sprawl of drawings that tabulate the total number of migrants who failed in their attempts to cross the sea: an ongoing count of dead or undiscovered bodies. Andújar’s treatment of these cases transforms the unspeakable fate that migrants face into unfeeling maps and metrics. The cold calculation of human life and experience into the data sets comprising these two works renders the events surrounding them commonplace.

From this data-driven factuality, the exhibition proceeded to interrogate the powerful hold of the Mediterranean on the European imagination, alluding not just to contemporary political debates but also to how the sea has been used to allegorize the threshold beyond which lies the other. In the two seventeenth-century oil-on-canvas paintings by Vicent Mestre that greeted visitors at the exhibition entrance, we followed the fate of the Moriscos (Muslim descendants forced to convert to Christianity) as they were expelled from Spain and sent to sea (Embarque de los moriscos en el puerto de Denia [Moriscos Embarking at the Port of Denia], 1612–13). Their boats eventually crowded the shore of Oran in northwestern Algeria (Desembarco de los moriscos en el puerto de Orán [Moriscos Landing at the Port of Oran], 1612–13), where most of them reportedly were robbed or killed. In both paintings, the sea symbolizes the unknowable: a means of obscuring one’s origins as well as a passage beyond the canvas, where the life of the Moriscos is cast past historical memory.

Juguete de los hados (Forced by the Fates), 2022, a video of a refugee boat with a caged statue of Poseidon aboard it, compellingly rounded out Andújar’s marine mythopoetics. Yoking the mythic and the contemporary, the projection was accompanied in the exhibition space by the actual boat, displayed as though overturned, and the life-size imprisoned god. The vastness of the sea is at once the heritage of a rich culture and an oppressive inhospitality that has refused humanity to countless people deemed other.