The title for this post is taken from a verse by Antonio Machado, purportedly his last – written on a scrap of paper found in his jacket upon his death.
So, those yew trees (at the tomb of Antonio Machado) turned out to be cypress trees. Easy mistake, I guess (for the writer of the article I read that led me to this particular tomb in Collioure, France on my quest for the European yew), as both trees are common to graveyards/cemetery’s and the like. There are cypress trees at the cemetery in Portbou, Spain as well (where Walter Benjamin’s tomb once was but now, as I gather, the body was moved and it is simply a memorial marker). It’s looking like specifically using the yew tree as a point of departure for this project is not going to happen in this instance – which is fine. There’s a lot to sort through here and I’m at the stage of collecting and thinking, trying some things and flailing a bit as I figure out my approach(es).
Not a lot of time to write thoughtfully about things during my stay here (at Nau Côclea) as the days are being spent on various excursions, generally through some pretty intense, windy mountain roads and it’s hot as all hell and by the time we’re home (colleague and art friend extraordinaire - we’ll call them LAP, to respect their privacy- is working alongside me during this residency) the brain energy is in a kind of wonked out state and there’s always more stuff we need to research for the next day before we head out again.
In short though, here’s a super brief list of what’s rattling about in my head as I’m out in the field and back in the studio (aka, old school on-the-grid-but-barely beautiful, rustic house/compound in the mountains just outside the nearest village of Camallera)…
- paths and crossings/borders – open/closed / multi-directional (double-cross)
- memorials and behavior / pilgrimages v. sightseeing
- landscape markers (see above) / specific forms (numbered rocks)
- fascism and anti-intellectualism / Spanish Civil War + WWII
- duration and prolonging / archival imagery/material + ruins (bunkers)
- sites and topography / stone + soil
- mountains + trees / sky and coast
- grief and despair / pathos and horror
Yeah, that’s a lot – and there’s more (such as, why I’m using the cyanotype process while here and how I’m doing so – although, actually, that’s kind of embedded in parts of the above…more on that later).
Quick bit of site-specific info to give a sense of what/where some of the images below were made and/or what’s embedded within them:
Site 1 = Tomb of Antonio Machado, renowned Spanish poet forced into exile during the Spanish Civil War. Machado died only a few days after arriving in Collioure (his mother died a few days later and is buried with him).
Site 2 = Memorial and “grave” of Walter Benjamin in Portbou, Spain. Benjamin committed suicide in Portbou after being led across a mountainous path from France into Spain by Lisa Fittko where he hoped to continue onto Portugual and then the U.S., but was denied entry and was to be deported back to Nazi territory the following day.
Site 3 = Coll de Banyuls. Portion of the trail that both Benjamin and Machado took to/from France/Spain within a little over a year of one another – as well, this was the trail that countless “unnamed” exiled citizens of France/Spain traveled. There is a border stone here, and Francoist bunker ruins.
Site 4 = Border crossing between France/Spain in Portbou. A portion of the trail referenced above can be accessed here. There is also a border stone, bunker ruins and a Francoist monument.
The images below are rough, rough, rough. Some still images, some video stills/composites (click on the first one for an easier viewing experience...I think, maybe...)