In 2018, artist Sonia Boué made The Art of Now: Return to Catalonia, for BBC Radio 4. She revisits it under lockdown in MAY 2020 to reflect on grieving at a distance – and the value of creative ritual in our lives. She hopes it might bring comfort to others.
Her father – a Spanish Republican exile – was interned in France at a camp in
Argelès-sur-Mer in 1939. Commissioned to retrace her father’s journey she created responses
in key locations, culminating in an exhibition in Barcelona.
The “Retirada,” was an exodus of almost 500,000 Spanish Republican refugees from Fascist Spain (February 1939). Fleeing for their lives from the Franco regime, many walked day and night in gruelling conditions to reach France, only to be held in hostile interment camps.
Using iPhone 4K capture, Boué documented a performance ritual at Argelès-sur-Mer, drawing on a fragment of oral testimony, and Robert Capa’s photo-reportage of Camp Argelès. A traumatic history, it remained almost unspoken in the artist’s family.
Arriving in bitterly cold weather, the refugees dug hollows in the sand to survive. Years later, her father said of his arrival at the camp with the Republican Army:
“We had one blanket between two.”
HUSH – the assemblage piece featured in this film – was exhibited in Barcelona, and incorporates half a ritually cut blanket, ‘failed Polaroids’ taken on this journey, (the final version includes glasses – symbolising the ghost of Boué’s paternal grandmother) .
Boué draws on her father José García Lora’s exile dramaturgy. Performing in ‘costume’ with ‘props’ her actions can be situated in an ongoing posthumous conversation, which references his oeuvre. Details from Robert Capa’s photographs,and family life also weave through her work.