2015. Instant photography, text, video, collage 
Algeciras (Spain) / Strait of Gibraltar / Tangier (Morocco)

53.49 is an archive of photographs, video and text made by Álvaro Martínez and Clara Trischler in 2015 during a journey through the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, from Algeciras to Tangier, 53.49 km away, to be shown in a parallel journey aboard the M. S. Stadt Wien, a 1930s steamship plying the waters of the Danube between two border cities separated 25 years ago by the Iron Curtain, Vienna and Bratislava, also 53.49 km away from each other.

The Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Europe from Africa, is a symbol of opportunities and rapprochement for some, but also of isolation and marginalization for others.

Algeciras and Tangier represent two parallel worlds closely connected, culturally, socially and economically. Through both points pass citizens who want to settle on the other side, or who have already done so and still maintain a very strong link with their customs and home of origin, facilitated by the distance between Spain and Morocco.
Huge differences but also similarities force an understanding on both sides of the Strait to take on shared problems.

The Strait of Gibraltar is the busiest point on the shortest sea route linking Southeast Asia, China and the Middle East with Northwest Africa, Europe and even the coasts of America. A little more than 14 kilometers that separate two worlds, two countries with different cultures, currencies, religions and languages and which are a hotbed of illegal trafficking of people, drugs, weapons and objects, but through which half of the world's trade and 80% of the gas and oil consumed by the European Union also circulates.

A conflict in these waters could lead to a worldwide crisis, which is why the navies of Great Britain, France, the United States, Morocco and Spain are coordinating to keep the area stable.

French children of Moroccan origin
on the Ferry crossing the Strait of Gibraltar

16 snapshots / text / map
23 x 15.5 cm each
92 x 62 cm in total

Ibrahim survived a shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea in February 2015. He’s 24 years old and originally from Mali. “At around 7pm the boat started to lose air and fill with water,” he told Amnesty International. “People began to fall into the sea. With each wave, two or three were taken away. We clung to a rope with water up to our bellies.” At about 3pm the next day Ibrahim and one other person were rescued by a cargo boat as the onlysurvivors.  

„I got my Spanish from television a long time before living there. When I lost my job during the financial crisis, my wife returned to Morocco with our children. While I was looking for jobs, our family was separated for months. My sons and daughter grew up in Madrid.
They had never learned in Arabic before and had planned their future lives in Spain. Eventually I returned as well. I like thinking about the coffee breaks when I still had a job, sitting in the sun with a cigarette and my colleagues.“


The ferry crew travelling between Morocco and Spain mainly consists of workers from the Philippines. The ship has arrived in the harbour and they’re the only ones left on deck, playing basketball. The men work on the ferry for a few months at a time, only seeing their families between these engagements. They cross the strait four times a day, hardly touching the ground.

At the strait where the sleepy Mediterranean turns into the shape of a funnel, the arriving current of the animated Atlantic Ocean causes unforeseeable winds.
People stand in the wind watching, the air is crisp, the winds are loud and it smells salty. The coast of Spain is visible from Morocco and Moroccos shape is visible from Spain.

As part of the twelve labours for the gods,
Hercules had 
to cross the mountain Atlas.
Instead of climbing, he used 
his extraordinary
strength to smash through it,
it into Jebel Musa (Morocco)
and the Rock of Gibraltar 
thus separating Africa from Europe,
connecting the 
Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea
and forming 
the Strait of Gibraltar.

The two mountains have since
been known as the Pillars of Hercules.

HD video. 4:43 min. Fragment
Strait of Gibraltar. 2015
Edited by Thais Odermatt

53.49 was first shown at Art Un Anchored 2015, an art and music festival held in October aboard the M.S. Stadt Wien, a 1930s steamship that makes the journey between Vienna, in Austria, and Bratislava, in Slovakia.

M .S. Stadt Wien, Vienna. Photocredits Ashley & Elvis Fledermaus Photography

︎      ︎