End of Dreams
On documenting End of Dreams
By Eva Gluszak Castagna
In May 2014 a fellow photojournalist invited me to go to document the immersion of 48 sculptures that were part of Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen's project, End of Dreams in the bay of Pizzo Calabro in Calabria, South Italy.
Larsen's series of sculptures moved me. They were both horrible and poetic. The objects represented lifeless bodies of men, women and children wrapped in cloth. The artist explained to me that his work was about migrants drowning trying to reach Europe. Until Larsen's project came to Pizzo Calabro, immigration was always something that happened somewhere else – in Lampedusa, Sicily, Puglia… Now, I almost see his End of Dreams project as a forewarning of what came to happen in our region.
From the day I became involved in the project, I tried to photograph the sculptures in a very human way. I wanted to reflect the sadness of the situation. In a subtle way I wanted my photos to hint at the tragic dramas that all too often occur in the Mediterranean Sea. I was there to document a group of divers immersing Larsen's the sculptures in the sea. They were hung under a raft to build up a patina of marine organisms over time.
A few weeks after the immersion, a brutal and destructive storm smashed the raft and washed most of the sculptures out at sea, and the same night the same storm took the lives of a boatload of migrants in the nearby Channel of Sicily. The day after the storm I went to Pizzo Calabro to photograph two washed up sculptures and other debris from 'End of Dreams'. I projected my sad feelings about the deceased migrants unto my approach of how to document Larsen's sculptures. I wanted to capture the quiet aftermath, but also the harsh, brutal violence that nature's impact had on the sculptures – wounded bodies.
A couple of weeks after the incident of the storm, a ship full of immigrants – the first in our region, arrived in the harbour of Vibo Marina – the town where I live (only five kilometres from Pizzo Calabro), on a warm late summer night. The migrants looked exhausted but more than anything, scared – partly of not knowing what will happen to them, but also about thinking what they have gone through to get here. Hundreds of people arrived in my town that night. A few people at a time put their feet on solid ground in the harbour of Vibo Marina to start their new life. They depend on our humanity, on our community's hospitality. We are now part of the issue of migration. It was very hard for me taking photos of them. I was there, I witnessed their distress, but I also saw hope and relief. Most of the people who arrived that day want to have a normal life. They want to work, they want to be able to send their children to school, they want a life without hunger, fear, wars and misery. And this should be a basic right for any human being.
The search for Larsen's sculptures continued for months. I was there to document a few of the operations. The final search-operation took place the 3rd January 2015. Three divers managed to find 4 sculptures, bringing the total up to 13 (out of 48). The rest are washed away, forever lost at sea.
Eva Gluszak Castagna (born 1980) is a Polish photographer, based in Calabria, Italy.
Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen's End of Dreams premieres at SALT Galata, Istanbul, on 06 February 2015. In December 2014, Ibraaz published this essay, As in an Ocean, by Adrian Dannatt, on Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen's End of Dreams.
'End of Dreams' is produced by qwatz, a.i.r. ROME.