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From One Exile to Another

In her exhibition “Desmemoria”, Laetitia Tura weaves together stories of refugees who had once crossed the French-Spanish border to escape fascism and those who, in the present, are following the same path, risking their lives and traveling thousands of miles.
Laetitia Tura
“What I saw, what I know”, Youssouf’s boat, Perpignan © Laetitia Tura
Laetitia Tura
“The stones keep the secret I – Sant Sebastia”, Tronc, Prats de Lluçanets, Catalonia © Laetitia Tura

“At home, we ate canned squid. Spain, my Spain, has long been encapsulated in these cans,” writes photographer and filmmaker Laetitia Tura. Her grandfather, Juan, like thousands of Spaniards, crossed the French border in 1939. The Spanish Civil War had ended with the victory of the nationalists and Franco’s dictatorship. “During a thirty-year-long exile, exchanges with the family were limited to occasional postcards. A photo of four young men, taken on the front, its surface speckled with fly poop, must have once hung on the wall. Since we know very little, we can only assume; the itinerary is written in a hypothetical mode.” 

In her exhibition “Desmemoria”, Laetitia Tura returns to this exile and to the buried massacres of the Franco years. She fills a gap termed by Octavio Alberola, the Spanish anarchist activist, desmemoria: “Desmemoria is the confiscation of memory; it is memory that is set aside, exiled in a certain way. Desmemoria can be triggered unconsciously or deliberately organized by the state.” Tura reconstructs the journey of a man who left Spain in 1939, following the fall of Barcelona, and draws on stories of now-octogenarian Spanish refugees. An accompanying installation is built around a team of archaeologists who search for human remains. Through video, photography, and archival materials, Tura reenacts oblivion “with its deformation of reality, the scattering of memories and landscapes, the loss of oral history, and lastly the obliteration of traces.”

Laetitia Tura
“CAMPS,” 2012-2019, Tarifa Internment Camp (Spain) © Laetitia Tura
Laetitia Tura
“What I have seen, what I know.” Mediterranean Sea, mass grave, Cerbère © Laetitia Tura
Laetitia Tura
“CAMPS,” 2012-2019, Former internment camp of Argelès (France) © Laetitia Tura

Confronting Spanish history, the artist juxtaposes the Franko-era exiles and the journey of present-day migrants attempting to reach Europe. “Using images, [Tura] discreetly materializes the thousands of kilometers traveled by Karim, Kassoum, and Sofiane; their attempts to build hampered by administrative and judicial procedures aimed at determining their minority; their detention in internment camps; and threats of deportation from the French territory,” writes Bérénice Saliou, the exhibition’s curator. From one exile to another, the artist “thus highlights the stammering History, and symbolically illustrates the shift in the figure of the ‘undesirable’ which is the target of Identitarian and fascist movements.”

Laetitia Tura, “Desmemoria”, curated by Bérénice Saliou, until July 2, 2022, Pavillon Carré de Baudouin, 121 rue de Ménilmontant, Paris 75020.

Laetitia Tura
“They leave me the exile” – “The Spanish Republicans (2011-2016)” – Pedro Peralta

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