Barcelona or Death (2009)
ink and glitter on Japanese paper
6 x 6 feet (central drawing)
The cheer-like title in the drawing installation Barcelona or Death (or, barsa mba barsaq) refers to the slogan that has emerged in the last few years in the streets of Dakar. It is a contemporary pop-song that sings the story behind the mass of young men who attempt to float to mainland Europe by way of the Canary Islands. This feat is carried out, and mostly fails, in small, narrow, wooden boats called pirogues. Theirs is a quest for the North, for the glittering promise of jobs and cash-in-hand in fortress Europe. It is not so much about facing possible death at sea, but about the spiritual and social death of staying put. Of having to endure the moratorium of youth. In the drawing installation, daredevilry and sport becomes the symbolic focal point for a recasting of vocabulary around 21st-century notions of transcendence. The drawing makes an ambiguous but provocative link between the castaways’ will-to live and the faith and reverence in western culture towards sporting events. Barcelona or Death is one of a series of wall based studio works that combine the formal aspects of Chinese mist-in-the-mountains brushwork paintings with texts that evoke double meanings.