Displacement Island is an experimental narrative set on the island of Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily. Famed for the beauty of its beaches, this paradisiacal island is routinely confronted by its crucial geopolitical role. European vacationers seeking a summer refuge here are confronted by migrants fleeing from their countries but denied entry by Schengen. These people are tossed upon Lampedusa’s beaches after floating adrift for days in the open sea. The work articulates the gulf between these two figures of the displaced: the tourist and the asylum seeker.
For the tourist, as for the migrant, the beach is a promised land. For the former, it is a site of illusory oblivion, a break from his productive social existence. Attracted by the exceptional transparency of the waters, the tourist produces an alternate economy that supplements the island’s modest fishing trade. For the latter, the beach is the final destination of an often deadly journey on a fortune boat from the coast of North Africa to Italy. The migrant’s arrival should be the materialisation of a dream: an economically better life within the European Union.
Lampedusa is a kind of heterotopic space. Prior to being deported back to their country of origin, the migrants are jailed behind barbed wire at the end of the airport’s single landing strip in the CIE, the “Centre for Identification and Expulsion”. As their gazes meet those of tourists landing for a short vacation, two parallel worlds disrupt one another in a visual loophole. I use the term “constellation” to qualify my recent work with photographic dispositifs. “Constellation” was first used by Paul Valéry to describe the scattered form of Stéphane Mallarmé’s modernist poem “A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance” of 1914. The spatial organisation of my photographs on the wall – which I think of as an extended book – follows similar principles. Here, metonymical and metaphoric signification is produced through cinematic montage strategies in an apparently loose narrative matrix. Like with Mallarmé, the graphical envelope of the work has the shape of a wave.
Marco Poloni (born in 1962) is a Swiss and Italian Berlin-based visual artist, filmmaker and photographer. Over the past several years, Poloni has been building an index of plots, problems and tropes of the Mediterranean Sea. (Among other exhibitions: MuseumsQuartier Wien, Vienna, 2014 (group show); Kunsthalle Bern, 2010 (solo show); DEPO, Istanbul, 2010 (group show); Swiss Pavilion, 51st Biennial of Art, Venezia, 2005 (group show)) Displacement Island is his second publication with Kodoji Press.