Memory of Defense:
Physical and Mental Architectures
About four centuries ago, the fortress on top of which the foundations of Es Baluard Museu stand today was erected in Mallorca. The project was carried out by the Renaissance military engineer Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino, who also devised multiple fortifications located in both the Mediterranean Region and the heart of Europe. Thinking about fortifications and walls anchored in these enclaves introduces us, paradoxically, into a timeline that we know when it begins and that, unfortunately, is still running. We are interested in casting light on to the contradiction and paradox that characterizes history. In a way, we present a journey that brings us closer both to Frantz Fanon, recognizing ourselves as heirs of colonial and invasive enterprises, as well as to the relationships and denunciations that Foucault pointed out in Discipline and Punish (1975). What is the relation between border walls, prisons and schools? We want to listen to, as Gayatri Spivak would say, the voices that inhabit the other side of the wall.
The goal of this exhibition is to open a debate about the compulsion to erect physical and mental architectural elements, in order to justify political actions that augur protection. Following this approach, we raise questions to the object that breaks our security: what or whom do we protect ourselves against?
The exhibition is organized into three distinct areas that allow us to delve into the dichotomy that hangs over the reasons why defense structures are built. As emphasized throughout the exhibition itinerary, our need for protection is not related to physical aggression, rather, it is related to our fear of being too close or being influenced by other people’s ideas, about the possibility of changing our ways of thinking and doing.
The show begins with a prologue that includes a cluster of historical materials aiming to reflect on the perpetual compulsion to build fortifications as well as to unearth the ties of our present physical and mental defense architectures to the past. For example, the 13th century fresco of the Conquest of Mallorca from the collection of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya reproduced for the first time for this exhibition brings the issue of protection into question: who is the real enemy? Through building plans and maps from different historical periods as well as through a variety of iconographical sources we get close to the scenarios in which the fear of the other comes to presence.
After the introduction comes a second zone that brings up the double game hidden behind both ancient fortifications and current border walls. From the prison bars of the paintings by Juan Genovés and Peter Halley we move toward the West Bank barrier that separates Palestine and Israel as depicted by Lida Abdul and Roy Dib’s video works. Memory of the Defense wraps up with both a series of archival materials from the Balearic Military Intermediate Archive and an installation by Kemang Wa Lehulere. This way, the exhibition emphasizes the urgency of keeping, preserving and reactivating our memories. In this respect, the Department of Education at Es Baluard has carried out a series of interviews with neighbours of the museum that have first-hand experience of the transformations occurred in the urban landscape and the surrounding area as well as of the multiple usages of the bastion.
Finally, the exhibition explores our present through a variety of projects by María Jesús González and Patricia Gómez, Antoni Muntadas, Mounir Fatmi and Petrit Halilaj, among others, including topics such as the fear of new thoughts, pandemics, prisons, walls and borders. Our time demands that museums are and must become meeting places and safe havens, sites care and affect. In this regard, it is of the utmost importance to address the physical and mental structures that hinder the possibility of growing into a community.