The names of 'nameless' migrants in the Mediterranean as part of an installation. Credit: Museo Reina Sofia
The names of 'nameless' migrants in the Mediterranean as part of an installation. Credit: Museo Reina Sofia

An installation by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo in the Spanish capital aims to commemorate migrants who died trying to reach the EU via the Mediterranean Sea. The names of those who have drowned are engraved in a monument.

Refugees and nameless migrants swallowed by the waters of the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Europe will be commemorated in the Buen Retiro park of the Spanish capital. The installation is titled 'Palimpsest', commissioned by the Reina Sofia Museum and its director, Manuel Borja-Villel. It will be up until April 6. 


An attempt to name the nameless 

The monument restores the names to undocumented victims by way of engraving them on stone, on sand, and some in water droplets. The names include that of 'Aylan', the Syrian three-year-old whose dead body was washed onto a Turkish coast on September 2015.




On the stone base of the installation, the names seem traced with victims' tears, on the sand, they are treated with nanotechnoloy and a complex network of small channels hidden beneath the surface. Thus, the water emerges in microspheres that - like mercury - recompose the names and surnames of real people, men and women from Africa and the Middle East who disappeared during the Mediterranean crossing in search of a better life. With her installation, the Colombian artist reminds the public that every person is a story, with a name and a surname, a vision of the world and life. 

Salcedo, artist that 'gives voice to victims' 

''With her works, Doris Salcedo tries to reconstruct the unfinished and fragmentary story of human beings who live in the 'periphery' of life. A great deal of research on 'desparacidos' (the disappeared) went into this work,'' Reina Sofia director Borja-Villel told the media. 

The painstaking investigative, conceptual and executive work lasted 5 years and brought together 30 professionals including documentarians, engineers and chemists. The artist, who the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago staged an important retrospective on in 2015 that toured other North American cities, calls herself ''a sculptress at the service of victims''. In this case, she is referring to the 3,000 dead in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

Palimpsest as 'poetics of mourning' 

Salcedo calls her work ''poetics of mourning'', consisting in ''elaborating the magnitude of what has happened".
 

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