It is surprising the silence that reigned over the ruins. The lack of events is deceiving because in the basements there are still living fires, which move underground from one coal bunker to another
Sebald, W. G. On the natural history of destruction
As a child, Rosell Meseguer learned to listen to these fires buried under the cement of bunkers and forts, when she walked through underground galleries or tunnels of abandoned mines. The cavernous and military architecture forms the orography near Murcia and Cartagena, where the artist grew up.
Like Sebald, Meseguer sees the journey as a permanent ellipsis and the narration as a complex collage of text and image, cartography and invention, documents and speculation.
When a form loses its function and acquires archaeological status, its solid texture and armored constitution become porous, allowing itself to be penetrated by memory and imagination.
The archeology of the universe, with its black holes and all those stars that can only be seen when they are extinguished, seems to align itself in the work of Meseguer (in the same area of poetic uncertainty) with war archeology and its echoes of stone.
But unlike the galactic fossils, which were already dead when ancient civilizations looked to the sky, the defensive “fossils” remaining along the coast and resemble “Teutonic warriors” (JG Ballard) only need the end of a war to imbue an archeologic aura.
The non-visible, dark matter, espionage, encryption (as a crypt architecture and as an encrypted code), the camera obscura (pinhole or as a nod to the Platonic cavern) … are themes that link science, philosophy and science-fiction, history and geopolitics, old photographic techniques and literature. They are subjects where the enigma and the effort to decipher it are faced one another.
The Rosell’s work is nourished of all this, being frequent in her projects to find cuts of press on scientific advances, old postcards, photogravures or cyanotypes of mining fields, radio telescopes slides and bunkers photographs that look like lost UFOs or stranded ships. They are different projects but moved by the same obsession with hollowness: The Invisible, Ovni Archive, Batería de Cenizas: Metaphors of defense… and, now, Disuasión: la marea y el límite.
In her last exhibition, she recovers previous research on the military batteries built during the Spanish Civil War in the Monte de Cenizas, next to the Bay of Portman, extending it to fortifications, casemates and bunkers dug in the Balearic Islands, as well as watchtowers of XVI Century originally intended to intimidate pirates and corsairs.
The coasts are entrenched, raising engineering blocks whose physiognomy reveals the fears of each era: the “strange bodies” crossing the sea have been incarnated in Ottoman corsairs, stealth submarines, Franco naval vessel… or immigrant boats. Defensive architecture is more dissuasive than effective.
The sea, with its tides and riptides, acts as a metaphor for the swings of history, the continuous return of past times. The espionage and the nuclear threat, with its intrigues of cold war, reappear when the tide is lower, in vulnerable times like ours. Today the nuclear shelters are on the rise: the richest order luxury bunkers and the most catastrophist are satisfied with bombproof holes.
For Bretons, the contemplation of sea was restricted during the Second World War, explained Paul Virilio in Bunker Archeologie, who felt the opening to the horizon as a liberation. But his gaze, rather than projecting towards the ocean, was caught by those works of dissuasive engineering erected by the Nazis on the Atlantic seafront.
They were military constructions of a recent past in time but distant in a mental time because of their effect of estrangement on the survivors. And it was thanks to this delay in the dark concavities of military constructions that Virilio would be interested in the psychic effects of urbanism and architecture.
The concrete blocks located in Normandy, camouflaged in the undergrowth or standing like megaliths, reminded Virilio mastabas or Etruscan tombs. Why this analogy between the funeral archetype and military architecture? Why is this insane situation looking out over the ocean? He asked himself. I felt as though a subterranean civilization had sprung up from the ground.
Or, in the words of J.G. Ballard: those German fortifications seemed to have been left behind by a race of warrior scientists obsessed with geometry and death (A handful of dust, The Guardian).
The mythical dimension of armored architecture has also fascinated Rosell. Bunker archeology has been an important reference for her when it comes to materializing her intuitions and emotions about her immediate surroundings and in relation to other parts of the world. More than the effects of military architecture on civil architecture, the artist has been interested in discovering connections between remnants of ancient constructions and extinct life forms, often related to the sea (like whalers).
Her work is not limited to recreate the aesthetics of abandonment, but she also questions the multinational interests placed in a region, for example, in the mining companies in Chile or Potosí.
We imagine the mind of Rosell pierced by secret tunnels where American listening stations meet underground galleries of burial mounds or fortresses on the other side of the world. When she travels, her mind does it in several directions. In her universe, the routes of yesterday overlap with those of today, Rome and Cartogonova, the Chilean coast and the Spanish Levante; the world contracts or expands, the map bends over itself and the distant points touch each other.
Rosell Meseguer. La disuasión: la marea y el límite
Curator: Fernando Gómez de la Cuesta
Selected in the III Exhibitions Contest “BuitBlanc”, Ayuntamiento de Alicante
in la Caja Blanca de Las Cigarreras, Alicante
until 17th February 2019