Mundial at Grand café-Saint nazaire
Enrique Ramírez appreciates stories within stories, fictions straddling countries and epochs, the mirages between dream and reality. This Chilean artist, who lives and works between Chile and France, often uses image and sound to construct a profusion of intrigues and to occupy the equilibrium between the poetic and the political. His imaginary worlds are attached to one obsessional element—his thinking starts with the sea, a space for memory in perpetual movement, a space for narrative projections where the fate of Chile intersects with grand narratives of voyage, conquest and migratory flows. His liquid images speak of the sparkle of a truth in permanent flight, the backwash of history, always repeating and never the same.
Through the sea, he also brings in the figure of his father—a father who made sails during the Pinochet dictatorship, a man who is a metaphor for all the fantasies of voyage doubled with a politically constrained existence. Enrique Ramírez’s investigations frequently vibrate with biographical resonances.
To avoid the trap of any univocal vision, the artist deliberately chooses the path previously followed by certain Latin American novelists or filmmakers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Borges or Raúl Ruiz: the insertion of magical elements and supernatural motifs into situations attached to a recognisable historical, cultural and geographic framework.
Invited by Le Grand Café, Enrique Ramírez has devised a palimpsest of an exhibition, with layer upon layer of multiple geographical and historical references. Entitled Mundial, it is riddled with spatio-temporal distortions, but the artist’s pleasure in opening spaces for intellectual or oneiric affinities nevertheless generates a profound reflexive coherence. Without being discordant, the close maritime context (Saint-Nazaire, Ushant) encounters the Cold War or the suicide of Salvador Allende, and personal history (the artist’s father’s sail loft) becomes a receptacle for anonymous and forgotten stories.
In this profusion of echoes and relationships being established, Enrique Ramírez opens up a way of critical thinking that is never dogmatic. Like the philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman and the vision of art that he defends in his work Survivance des lucioles, the artist notes rather the light in the gaps, unearths the “parcels of humanity” and displaces the gaze—to better thwart power?
The exhibition in the art centre plays host to a completely new production by Enrique Ramírez, filmed on the island of Ushant and in Chile. With the title Dos brillos blancos agrupados y giratorios, this video features the Créac’h lighthouse (France). In this twilight work, the sea appears calm or turbulent: effusions of foam stand out against dark matter, the beam of light mechanically pierces the night sky, and multiple voices accompany this elemental choreography. One voice invites us to discover the beliefs of certain Native American tribes, who felt that the white marks in the sky (the stars) were holes through which entered the light of the universe, where darkness did not exist. Other famous voices revive great moments of political history, burning words that have guided humanity, or evocations of tragic events that have left it distraught. This confirms the existential and generic dimension of Enrique Ramírez’s universe, profoundly structured by the motif of cycle, revolution and eternal beginnings. There is no moralism in this meditative approach: the artist suggests rather the clandestine development of thought, and the experience of immersion in the noise of the world.
Looking onto this projection, Enrique Ramírez has installed an upturned boat, its mast piercing the ceiling of the exhibition space. Its sail appears to defy the laws of gravity. Red and white, this naval flag refers, in its reversed situation, to a drawing by the Uruguayan painter Joaquín Torres García: América Invertida (1943): by tilting this continent, putting the cards upside down, the artist repositioned the perspectives and points of view of history on the North / South ratios.
If the treatment of Enrique Ramírez’s works is poetic, the background is not any the less political, and very close to the words of Aimé Césaire in his Discourse on Colonialism, where he assimilates colonisation to a “principle of ruination,” or writes: “colonisation = thingification.” When Enrique Ramírez reactivates these great ideological issues of the 20th century (colonisation, forced migration) that today still haunt the entire human psyche, he takes aim at precisely that which is contained in the title of his exhibition: Mundial—or how art can seize back this vast commonplace, both literal and figurative, that is the world.
Text: Eva Prouteau
Sophie Legrandjacques, director of Le Grand Café, contemporary art centre
Amélie Evrard: evrarda [at] mairie-saintnazaire.fr