MORTALS (Prelude)

mortals brMORTALS (Prelude)
Dates from 4/11/2023 to 27/01/2027

Artists: Rosa Amorós, Susana Casares, Democracia, Alex Gifreu, Albert Potrony, Alicia Santamaria, Anna Vilamú Bosch-Associació, and Adriana Wallis.

Curated by: Roser Sanjuan, Albert Potrony, and Maite Palomo.

Organised by: ACVIC
Collaborating: Morera Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Lleida, Fundació Suñol Escola Vic Centre (Vic), Centre d'Art la Panera, MEV (Museu d’Art Medieval) and La Kaseta Ideas Factory.


MORTALS (Prelude) is a group exhibition in which a selection of works by Albert Potrony – regarding old age, care, memory and loss, created in collaboration with a number of individuals and groups – enter into dialogue with pieces by contemporary artists formally and conceptually close to the three main themes of the exhibition:

A first section explores care, ageing and dependency; a second section explores loss, remembrance and memory, conveying these concepts through objects; and a third explores the imaginary of the cemetery as a space for life.

This exhibition is the first since the start of the MORTALS project in 2020. An artistic research project on death and life, which seeks to create spaces for collective reflection on ageing, the end-of-life process, palliative care, support, death and bereavement, through the activation of working groups in order to share knowledge and experiences.

MORTALS is the result of the collaboration between the artist Albert Potrony and Roser Sanjuan, cultural manager and artistic mediator, a specialist in participatory and social art. For MORTALS (Prelude), led by Maite Palomo, and with the participation of the Escola Vic Centre, we approach the project's themes from a child’s perspective, because as a general rule, adults find it difficult to approach the subject. We must be equipped with tools to deal with the subject, and live without turning our backs on death from all stages of life, in order to live better.

Ageing and dependency care

This section addresses the matter of who takes care of us when we get older, how dependency affects family relationships, when our parents (fathers, mothers, grandparents) stop exercising this role, the moment they lose their autonomy.

Per amor/ For love by Alicia Santamaria, is a creative project about care that starts from an intimate context. Is a project which begins with a loved one suffering a terminal illness in the rural context, where there is still a greater culture of dying at home than in the urban contexts. The artist connects with objects of care using ceramics in a moment of family vulnerability, and which also symbolises this moment of imminent loss.

As Susana Casares says about her piece Transits "Currently, there are few family units that can take care of their grandparents' day-to-day, a responsibility that traditionally fell on the women of the house. This has led to a subrogation of care in the hands of immigrant women, care that in the case of the elderly not only satisfies physical but also emotional needs. Transits reflect upon old age from this displacement through the eyes of immigrant carers".

If the entry into an elders home already entails a period of anxiety and often guilt for the families, the COVID-19 pandemic, as shown in the artwork Això ho canvia tot/This Changes Everything by Albert Potrony, magnified these emotions even more; an artwork which takes us back to the initial months of the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, and the emotional devastation it inflicted on people living in care-homes and their families. Using a reduced range of resources, Això ho canvia tot traces the path from physical independence, already compromised, to dependence. And the difficulties of communication with the outside world that confinement imposed on confined people.

Flors/Flowers by Albert Potrony, is a short and intimate piece about the loss of physical faculties and control of one's own body during the period at the end of life. Using the hands of the artist's mother, recorded at different times in the last months of her life, Flors also offers us a reflection on being there for somebody, connection, affection, and the small spaces of communication that still open unexpectedly in these moments of transit.

To finish this section we have the 11 posters of La Bona Mort/The good death by Albert Potrony with Alex Gifreu, an artist's publication arising from a collaborative project by Potrony (Art For Change 2019/Fundació la Caixa) which aims to become a tool for reflection and discussion on different aspects around the final stages of life, death and grief, inspired by the ARS MORIENDI ("The Art of Dying"). This work comprises two interrelated texts written in Latin which contain advice on the protocols and procedures for a good death, and on how to "die well" according to the Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages, under the circumstances of a high death rate caused by the Black Death. The good death is organised around a series of topics related to palliative care, companionship, fears, a good death, euthanasia, grief, legacy. Comprises a collection of 11 posters, a leaflet, and a 70 page book, which enter into dialogue with the works in this section, also quoting palliative care professionals such as Maria López Flores, nursing assistant at Jaume Nadal Meroles Hospital (Lleida), who advises us on how to support, affirming that "There is life until the end of life".

Loss, remembrance and memory

As Marc Augé states, the proximity between the paired words life and death, as well as the pair memory and oblivion, is perceived, expressed and symbolised everywhere, not only metaphorically – understanding oblivion as death and memories as life – but also, characterising our present divided between the uncertainties of the future and the confusions of memory.

In this way, the two sisters in Albert Potrony’s artwork Caravan attempt to conjure up memories of a shared past. Caravan suggests fragments of the life of a 91-year-old woman and her sister, woven through the stories related to the objects and ornaments contained within their caravan. Caravan explores the fragility of memory, and the capacity of objects to help us look back in order to reconstruct a shared biography.

This importance of objects as catalysts for memories as an inheritance, is masterfully collected by Lydia Flem, French psychoanalyst, in the book The Final Reminder: How I emptied my parents' house. In this work she recounts her experience of the death of her parents, within a short two year space of time, explaining her feelings of becoming an orphan in adulthood being an only daughter, exposing her grief through reflections, emotions, and associated feelings while looking through and emptying her parents' house. Flem comes across items from her parents that she longed to own, and must deal with the guilt of now owning them. Other objects had to be disposed of, given away, thrown out, or sold.

In England, when elderly people die, relatives do as Lydia Flem did; they get rid of the objects they have inherited, and these mostly end up in "Charity Shops", as Albert Potrony shows us in his work A Gift. In A Gift, a charity shop volunteer workers selected the given objects that intrigued them the most. Potrony invited clairvoyants Michelle Hawcroft and Carol Robb to use their gift to read the lives of the people who had owned these objects. The result of these shared moments is an installation of video and sound fragments that were scattered and hidden within the Charity shop. A Gift it's a subtle tribute to the people who help make charity shops a viable alternative to private trade and, especially, to the lives of the people who owned the discarded items.

Apart from ending in "Charity Shops", these orphan objects may also end in online sales platforms such as Ebay, which Adriana Wallis uses in her artwork, buying pieces under the "rare and magnificent" filter in order to destroy them, merge them, and turn them into something different.

How do we learn to face the loss of what we love? How do we remember someone we never knew? How do we make space for those dear family members who died before we were born? Can the younger generations show us how to accept and survive what we have lost? Perdre i Retrobar/ Losing and finding again is an exploration of loss, remembrance and memory, which has as its guiding thread the search and reconstruction of the objects, people and animals that the students of the Escola Vic Centre have lost, or loved.

Perdre i retrobar was conceived for this exhibition, with the support of ACVIC and is the result of the collaboration between the artist Albert Potrony and the students and teachers of the fourth grade group of the Escola Vic Centre

Cemetery as a living space

Peter Ross, a journalist specialising in cemeteries in the United Kingdom, explains that these can be understood as libraries of the dead, places to discover and share stories, starting by asking ourselves who these names were, what would have happened if we had met. The journalist explains that 77% of people who die in the United Kingdom are cremated. A decision that is influenced by two things: it is cheaper and there is not much space left. To raise another issue, cemeteries remain living while still used for the function for which they were created. If not, they become historic spaces, very important green areas in cities lacking parks. The physical sensation is important: you can walk among graves, but you are also in a quiet space, with flora and fauna.

This was a surprising experience for Albert Potrony when he moved to London in 1992. Every morning, to get to the subway station, I had to cross a cemetery, which served as a garden, a public park, where the workers from the surrounding offices and workshops went to eat their sandwich during their lunch break, to sunbathe in the summer, and where at dusk the children played on the grass between the graves.

Who are cemeteries for? For the dead? For the visitors? Morir i Jugar/Die and Play conceived for the exhibition MORTALS (Prelude), is the result of a collaboration between the artist, ACVIC, and the students and teachers of the fourth grade group of the Escola Vic Centre. This artwork aims to explore the possibility of imagining the cemetery, in this case Vic’s Cemetery, as a space for life, for conversation, for remembrance, for healing, but also – as Ross says– as a learning space, a library of lived existences where we can learn to live with death to make better use of life; where social position is as well defined and expressed as in any city of the living; where we only have to read the inscriptions on tombs and niches to understand the past and present of the land we inhabit.

The cemetery’s monumental character, and its importance as a memorial space are captured in the work of Democracia Ser y Durar / To Be and To Last, in which a group of young people who practise "parkour", perform a circuit over graves in the Almudena Cemetery (Madrid). This cemetery was intended for the burial of the deceased outside the Catholic faith, inaugurated in 1884, in which they are buried, among others, the presidents of the First Republic Estanislao Figueras, Pi i Margall, and Nicolás Salmerón; the founder of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español Pablo Iglesias; the writer Pío Baroja; the communist leader Dolores Ibarruri; or the artist Wolf Vostell. The intention of Democracia is to device a kind of negative monument, ephemeral in nature, in which critical practices of urban culture are presented together with the memory of those who were once part of armies, social organisations, and political parties which, moved by humanistic values, aspired to a utopia while the great emancipatory narratives of modernity still made sense. Although this action is carried out in a place loaded with memory, of deep symbolic meaning, due to the very nature of "parkour", the "traceurs" have no concern for the historical sediment of the place, but by its qualities purely spatial and constructive.

Vinciane Despret in her book Our Grateful Dead. Stories of Those Left Behind collects testimonies of experiences of how the dead enter the lives of the living, and how they stay together. Rosa Amorós, with her artwork Crani Petit-Crani UAP, brings us closer to one of the most universal symbols of death, the skull, a symbol that she began to explore in the 2000s when, in the artist's own words “it was the moment when I saw ditches with skulls, the idea of the anonymous attracted me; it's a theme that I've been evolving and haven't exhausted, it stayed in my head".

Finally, the word, the language, as a tool to address, sometimes with humour and irreverence, the most silenced and taboo subjects of our society. At the entrance of the exhibition, the work Morir de/ Die of, by Albert Potrony welcomes the visitor. Die of systematises, with a constantly moving LED display, colloquial expressions containing the words 'to die', at the same time revealing the answers to the questions: how would you like, and how would you not like, to die? collected by the artist throughout the MORTALS project. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to add their wishes.

Before reaching ACVIC, when crossing the Pont Nou de les Adoberies over the river Mèder, we find a banner by the artist Anna Vilamú Bosch in collaboration with the Abilis Association, which explores mourning by questioning the institutionalisation of death, and the social treatment of the experiences that result from it. With the intention of collectivising discomfort and the artistic process, Vilamú makes a funerary anti-monument with a simple banner which calls to every citizen who walks through that place, and which, far from the epic scale which is usually associated with this kinds of monuments, reclaiming the elimination of euphemisms in our everyday language, those which we ordinarily use as a shield against death.

The words also occupy one of the walls of the exhibition, completely covered with euphemisms about death collected by Potrony during the participatory project The good death. From the pious expression to the most irreverent, Euphemism puts a mirror in front of us and advises us to look death in the face, not from behind, in order to enjoy life better.


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