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De vegades, penetrar en l’univers de Nathalie Rey és com endinsar-se en el país de les meravelles de Lewis Carroll, en el sentit que és un món aparentment absurd i sense ordre en el qual res no és el que sembla, i tanmateix ple de revelacions. Només posar un peu en una de les seves instal·lacions, tens la sensació que el món s’ondula i tot es capgira. Et sents atrapat en un entramat d’astúcies, de girs lingüístics i estratagemes visuals i estètiques que fan que les lògiques del món real deixin de ser útils per orientar-s’hi. I no obstant això, el seu món és real, tremendament més real que el que hi ha a fora, només que l’habiten tot d’escletxes que et fan travessar portes que no sabies que existissin. Però perquè això passi t’hi has d’abandonar, deixar-te anar i no posar en dubte les relacions que proposa, o en tot cas reservar-te aquesta opció per a després de l’experiència.

Aquesta sensació d’estranyesa que poden causar els seus treballs és el resultat de l’habilitat que té Rey de posar en joc intel·ligències i percepcions diverses, de desencallar els processos de comprensió a través de metàfores, girs i associacions que connecten amb la realitat sense descriure-la, a base d’al·lusions i lectures esbiaixades capaces d’enregistrar una gran diversitat de perspectives i matisos. Tot i que l’artista no es planteja una negació radical del coneixement establert, sí que presenta una actitud crítica a la reducció conceptual dels missatges que ens transmeten els mitjans, que sovint desatenen parts essencials del contingut, de vegades tan importants o més per a comprendre el món en què vivim.

Però, per què es generen aquestes relacions fortuïtes? Com és que la intuïció pot ser més precisa que el càlcul de dades? Quines són les imatges que importen? És la metàfora menys certa que la història? No és més real un món caòtic, de temporalitats diverses, contradiccions i absurditats, que el dictat per la burocràcia i l’ordre? De fet, les informacions que percebem en el dia a dia estan plenes de senyals, però el marc cultural ens en limita les lectures i la manera d’abordar-los. Llavors, com pensar el desastre de Fukushima des de la innocència de la infantesa? Com entendre el confinament plantejat com un estat de setge i la ciutat presa pels animals? És possible articular fets aleatoris i fantasiosos entorn d’una experiència viscuda aparentment banal per transcendir-la? Poden conformar totes aquestes contradiccions aparents un corpus estètic premonitori de la destrucció del món?

Les escenes de l’apocalipsi s’han codificat al llarg de la història visual a través d’imatges de destrucció, focs, enderrocaments i càstigs divins, però Rey s’hi submergeix sense omplir-nos de pols i cendres, alliberant-nos de missatges sobrenaturals aterridors i catastròfics, per a enfrontar-nos a les nostres pròpies accions, individuals o col·lectives, que en posar en perill la supervivència de l’espècie, han portat a descriure la situació actual com l’era de l’antropocè, per l’impacte que té l’activitat humana sobre els ecosistemes terrestres.

El títol de l’exposició és prou eloqüent, en referir-se a l’apocalipsi en temps present, marcat per la immediatesa de l’adverbi ‘ara’. Però també conté referències i dislocacions, com la clara citació del film de Francis Ford Coppola “Apocalypse now”, una obra que aborda l’absurditat de la guerra, però és també un procés de cerca interior. A més, ella el fa grinyolar introduint una barreja d’idiomes, la primera paraula en castellà, la segona en anglès, de manera que els dos substantius xoquen entre ells i es dispersen en dues direccions, l’imaginari de l’apocalipsi per una banda i la pressió del temps present i, per tant, la impossibilitat d’un futur, per l’altra.

Així, “Apocalipsis now” recull un conjunt de treballs a través dels quals Nathalie Rey emergeix des de diferents moments i situacions, amb connexions i disjuncions, per a reflexionar a través de diferents registres sobre la destrucció a què estem sotmetent el planeta, i el risc per a la supervivència de l’espècie que això comporta. L’artista es fixa en la destrucció física, però també en la dimensió moral dels actes que la provoquen, per això els girs estètics, narratius i del llenguatge li permeten introduir-se en àmbits del pensament que connecten amb altres maneres d’entendre el món i sabers alternatius a la ideologia hegemònica dels règims polítics i econòmics dominants.

 

Mercè Alsina

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In el mar / la mer, various recurring topics in Nathalie Rey's work – such as children's imagination, shipwreck understood as failure, the denunciation of contemporary consumer society, and environmental catastrophes caused by human beings – are interwoven with a clear common thread: the sea.

 

In Nathalie Rey’s projects, the sea (la mer) appears powerful but serene, beautiful but dangerous, representing peace and calm and at the same time harboring shipwrecks, battles, and environmental disasters. It gives us shelter and feeds us, and it is the mother (la mère), referring to the mother with her child and the mother earth that nourishes us, cares for us, and protects us.

 

From these two terms and their symbolism comes the title of the exhibition: el mar and la mer, the latter when written in the phonetic alphabet represents two homophonic words in French with different meanings (sea and mother). Rey thus creates a visual play on words and uses what they symbolize for her to speak of humanity, wars, catastrophes, and – in short – of our mother earth based on her children’s imagination and through apparently innocent objects.

 

Various works that make up the exhibition evoke the artist's childhood memories of her grandmother's village in Belle-Île-en-Mer, an island off the Atlantic coast of northern France. For instance, La Danza de Los Ahogados [The Dance of the Drowned] and Tas No.10, two installations in which the artist uses objects that she found in her grandmother's house–such as life jackets and penguin-shaped bowling pins– and the memories and stories they contain in order to raise her voice against socio-environmental tragedies.

 

This is the case with the story behind TasNo.10 (2014), composed of a series of large penguin pins piled up on top of each other (hence the title Tas, which means “pile” in French). Here, Rey takes as her starting point her personal experience when coming across these penguins at a time that coincided with a tragic family circumstanceto create another branch of the Tas series (2013-2018), in which the artist refers to leaked photos of the Abu Ghraib camp after the US invasion of Iraq which showed a pile of naked bodies of the prisoners tortured by camp officials.

 

The same happens with La Danza de Los Ahogados (2020), in which life jackets hanging from the ceiling and belonging to the ship of the artist’s grandfather, a navy captain, refer to current problems of migration with the closure of borders and the drama of the pateras, a clear allusion to the sea when it comes to shelter and social, economic, and ecological misfortunes.

 

For Nathalie Rey, the sea also reflects the irreversible effects of climate change and the consequences of human footprints on the environment through the consumption of plastic. This is what she tells us in her project Naufragio (Shipwreck, 2012-2020), which was born after she read the news about twelve shipping containers that fell into the water during a storm in the Pacific Ocean, one of which contained thousands of children's bath toys that were left floating and contaminating the sea for years. Here, the artist recreates part of this adventure with an installation of rubber ducks on a beach in the Maresme that she captures in a series of photographs (Shipwreck I, 2012). Nathalie Rey also exhibits a variant (2019) of this project, composed of hundreds of these plastic ducks, yet this time piled up inside a bathtub about to overflow, which can be understood as a metaphor for the sea and consumer society with a nod towards the world of children, pure and heartless at the same time.

 

A few yearsafter the first Shipwreck work, Rey recreated the scenario but this time representing the shipwreck of thousands of differently colored Kinder Surprise eggs that invaded the island of Langeeog, on the Baltic Sea coast, in Shipwreck II (2017), an installation composed of metallic sandbanks filled with pink sand and hundreds of chicken eggs. In this case, the artist wanted to emphasize the contrast between the natural and the artificial, the real and the false, by replacing beach sand with pink artificial sand andby using biodegradable chicken eggs in place of the plastic eggs.

 

With Shipwreck III (2018-2020), Nathalie Rey has begun another active process of transformation in nature, this time not based on events such as the shipwreck of rubber ducks or Kinder eggs, but creating her own narrative. Rey symbolically contaminates different landscapes with the very material that she denounces: plastic. The artist thereby intervenes voluntarily in the different scenarios, scattering hundreds of colored plastic jars and creating a landscape that visually attracts the spectator's eye but which, in the end, denounces the harshness of reality.

 

The works of this series shown in the exhibition illustrate interventions that took place this year (2020), some of which were documented in photographs and printed on vinyl canvas, such asCap de Grillson the Costa del Garraf and Port Skeul on her grandmother's island, and others documented in video, as we can see in the action that took place in Belle-Île-en-Mer, giving the video its title (Belle-Île-en-Mer). An action consistingnot only of dispersing plastic but also of collecting it later, with the desire to awaken consciousness and set an example.

 

It is worth highlighting that the final stage of the Naufragio project has also had an educational and participatory side, in which the artist – with the intention of promoting cooperation and collective thinking around what she denounces through her projects – has worked with various collectives linked to the environment and with groups of children in collaboration with schools, making the "Taller d'Art". Sharing her concerns and her creative process, Rey has opened a dialogue between her work and the children's imagination to create works of art with them from plastic waste, taking action and transmitting her message.

 

Nathalie Rey is currently working on other ramifications of her artistic process, as in Donnant 1 (2020), a black-and-white print in a wooden and methacrylate box in which the artist intervenes in the photographic medium rather than directly in the landscape. By nailing colored pins that refer to plastic bottles into the black-and-white photographs, Rey also reinforces the contrast between the natural and the artificial. Then there is the photographic series La Balsa de Santa Susanna de Vilamajor (2020), a project she is developing with the artist EnricMaurí, and in which she once again "contaminates" the landscape – this time not with plastic jars,but with some of her fetish objects, such as rubber ducks or stuffed animals. Composed of five color prints, both this series and Donnant1 refer to places the artist has visited and that have meaning for her.

 

In Plastic Sea (2019-2020), Nathalie Rey makes visible through her inverted maps what is invisible to our eyes: the massive amount of waste that ends up in the oceans. Composed of twenty circular canvases (in the exhibition we can see four of them: Plastic Europe, Plastic America, Plastic Asia, and Plastic Africa), in this series the artist hand-stitches thousands of colorful plastic pearls that symbolize the enormous garbage dump in oceans, seas, and lakes. A meditative action that requires patience and precision and through which Rey denounces a global problem.

 

So too in Noticias 2, a series of nine black-and-white images that the artist has taken from press clippings and altered in a subtle and almost unnoticed way, alluding to the manipulation and falsification of the mass media and consumer society that Jean Baudrillard[1]discusses. In this work, as in the others, Rey alters the narrativescoming from stories and images that speak of tragedies caused by human beings (such as the Nazi Holocaust or the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to move between the false and the real, the natural and the artificial, the beautiful and the terrible, and between innocence and cruelty.

 

A game of dualities which Nathalie Rey navigates to tell her own story of humanity from her personalpoint of view and to vindicate collectivism over selfishness and individualism, because, with intention and action, we could all turn something destructive into something constructive by recycling or reusing what we are polluting with.

 

In el mar/la mer, the sea becomes a tragic-sweet leitmotif, like the passage from childhood to adulthood, or the history of humanity, with its advances and at the same time its misfortunes. Nathalie Rey, an artist aware of the era in which she lives, therefore proposes new paths of transformation that inviteus to conceive the world from empathy and conscience.

Olga Sureda

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