Filip Berte is presenting an installation at the Espace dAM gallery in Romainmôtier entitled Gutta Cavat Lapidem. The title is inspired by a quotation from Ovid which translates as: “dripping water hollows out stone”. The installation is part of Filip Berte’s vast ongoing project on the theme of migration: Un-Home / Moving Stones. The project was developed over the course of two Arc residencies, beginning in 2015.
The origin of Filip Berte’s work lies partly in his discovery of the State Secretariat for Migration's Reception and Procedure Centre in Vallorbe, not far from Romainmôtier, which was formerly both a hotel and a military barracks. He was also inspired by Vallorbe’s famous limestone caves, a tourist attraction and a site of geological interest. Using a camera obscura which was hidden either in a moveable model of the asylum centre, or in false limestone cliffs made of plaster, the artist was able to unobtrusively document not only the Vallorbe asylum centre but also other “frontier” areas of Europe and so-called “liminal” spaces, whether concrete or abstract. For the artist, the cave is a metaphor for the marginal position occupied by refugees in Europe today. He sees asylum centres as “fractures and faults” in society.
The exhibition space is set up as a locus of mediation and reflection on the theme of migration, whose layout metaphorically calls to mind both a cave and a camera obscura. Its opaque glass panels are fitted with peepholes, inviting the visitors to cast their glances within from outside. Negatives of the images the artist has created with his camera obscura are projected onto a translucent screen. An audio system plays the artist’s voice as he reflects, presenting a philosophical meditation on his experience of migration – his own migration as a travelling artist as well as the migration of fugitives, refugees and asylum seekers. The installation creates an interplay of various levels of meaning related to themes including exile, tourism, history, philosophy, geology, architecture and photography.
With his project, Filip Berte is taking a stance in a Europe that is polarised between ideals of hospitality and welcome and the politics of withdrawal, exclusion and expulsion. He offers a form of enlightened and poetic resistance by adopting the role of an artistic mediator, tackling the questions of hospitality, conflict, the integration and break-up of society and identity, surveillance, obliteration, dissociation, endangerment and empathy.