“Al Barzaj” [“Between Worlds”], Marrakesh, 2010, 13’, Toni Serra aka Abu Ali

The title of this work is already very expressive of its content: “Al Barzaj” [“Between Worlds”], wandering souls and bodies between different levels of consciousness, between different sites and places. Geography for deterritorialized, between two shores. In a comment on this audiovisual we can read: “A walk between worlds. Wandering through complex paths around light and darkness, where the gaze is constantly surprised and adapted by the contrast. Between blindness and maximum illumination. through the interiors of any Moroccan city where people and objects appear, just as quickly as they disappear. An oscillating transit between life and death on the margins of anonymous homes” [from the blog Tam Tam Press, from León, giving an account of the activities of the MUSAC de León with Toni Serra / Abu Ali]. “Al Barzaj” [“Between Worlds”] is a work that creates its own format, halfway between video-art and creative documentary, blending autobiographical aspects of the creator himself with the specific circumstances in Marrakesh, and both, both memory as places, showing wanderings and nomadism.

The video is shown in the exhibition “The Nomadic Life” at La Posta Foundation projected on a wall on which a gauze cloth hangs (the idea is taken from the video itself, in which at a given moment you see images that have been recorded by placing a gauze cloth in front of the camera). With this form of exhibition, it has been produced as a reverberation of the image, multiplying the phantasmagorical effect of the audiovisual, already between two worlds, a nomadism of the spirit. In addition, by recording the images displayed in this way on video (see above), the camera itself with its particular optics, and a diaphragm that is very sensitive to changes in light, has further enhanced the surreal aspect of what is shown to the public —the “in between worlds” sensation to which the title of the video refers—, which, to get started, gives us some hidden streets of Marrakesh, the kind that do not appear in tourist guides.

Toni Serra / Abu Ali (Manresa, 1960 – Barcelona, 2019)

Toni Serra Abu Ali

Preach and bear fruit

Although in recent decades it is frowned upon to approach the work of an artist from his biography, due to the tendency to extol a supposed genius spirit, the truth is that in the case of Toni Serra / Abu Ali it comes in handy to understand his work. In their career, as in their lives, they have coexisted with a critical attitude, which includes relevant texts such as “Open the vision”, with audiovisual works that have sought to create another imaginary, different from the one that constantly invades us through the media, including the cinema, some audiovisual works steeped in spirituality, even religiosity, remarkable. In that context, we could say that he did not just preach, but he also bore fruit.

Toni Serra passed away suddenly in 2019 in Barcelona, after a life from here to there, both in a physical and mental sense. In fact he adopted a middle name ―Abu Ali― is quite significant in this regard. Abu Ali means “son of Ali” in Arabic. As explained by Imam Alejandro Alí Badrán, who writes in the newspaper La Voz, from Córdoba, Argentina: “The genealogy of names”, 11.13.2012; the Arabs rarely use their own name and refer to each one as “the son of…” or “the father of…”, or “the mother of…”, consequence of the importance given to genealogy, a transcript in turn of the importance given to the family group and the clan. In this context, we have not been able to find out (yet) who Ali must have been, if it was a real person, adopting his name as a pseudonym. Although it will not hurt to remember that Ali is a fairly common family name, particularly in Morocco. Toni Serra lived a lot in Morocco. In this sense, when reference is made to his biography, it is usually said that he lived between Barcelona and Marrakesh (in some source we have been able to read that in a village near Marrakesh, Duar Msuar, but we have not been able to locate it on the map). Before he lived in New York, between the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties, but as part of his training as a video artist. Although also in the United States he combined his side of political criticism with his search for new imaginaries (in this sense, his work “El canto de la abubilla”, published in 2015, is paradigmatic, although with images recorded in evangelical churches during his stay in New York at early 1990s). That being in one place or another, both in a physical and mental sense, can be appreciated even in his early formative phase, when as a young man he studied Art History, which are literary studies, but after graduating he went to New York to learn video art. A whole life “between worlds”. That is why the choice of “Al Barzaj” [“between world”] (13’, 2018) is particularly appropriate, in particular for “The Nomadic Life”.