Gallery 1: Between the idea and experience

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Between the idea and experience, statement by the curators team of the 12th edition of the Biennial of Havana, is available in the official website of this event. There it is expressed the criteria taken into account for this edition. One of the principles is that proposals have to function like an “alive social lab”. That’s what most of performances and all kinds of interventions have been, and they have been succeeding each other from just before May 22th. On the other hand, it is also the common factor of diverse projects like FD play FD and High tension, by the Cuban Felipe Dulzaides and Humberto Díaz, respectively; Harmonious Havana, installation by the Korean photographer Han Sungpil; and the show of the well-known American artist Joseph Kosuth.

FD play FD, is a very suggestive title to suggest to the public the subject matter of Felipe Dulzaides’ inquiries: putting together his father’s history through scattered pieces (his father was the musician Felipe Dulzaides); and by doing that, reinterpreting his own identity. What was at first an attempt to safeguard his father’s musical legacy became an artistic gesture, which also required to go beyond a mere exhibition: background music performed by Dulzaides (now as a soloist, now in the songs he played as an instrumentalist), a jam session in the Elegante Bar of Riviera Hotel (a place where Dulzaides played six nights a week up to the beginnings of the 80’s) and a talk.

Possibly the turn was outlined, as in previous works, from a research work, which is an element that is demonstrated as one of the mainstays of his artistic work. Precisely, his searches in the archives of the television, the radio, record Company and libraries of the country for many years was what allows him to gather the praiseworthy “register” that now he shows to the public. This catalogue also includes photographs, the original covers of records by the musician and soundtracks of the musical group Los Armónicos (quartet that was very popular during the fifties and of which the acknowledged pianist was part). The presentation of this material, in some cases intervened by the visual artist (either through notes or other resources), of drawings and videos is what makes up the sui generis exhibition, whose peculiarity is not in the set-up, but in the selection of the place: an apartment (IJ, 29th floor) in the downtown Focsa building. And it increases the sense of the intervention because many important moments for the history of Cuban mass media have taken place in that building; and Felipe Dulzaides (father), of course, was involved in that history.  Then, what better place for the public to rediscover and remember the successful career of this musician, and with all that rebuild a quite ignored moment of Cuban Culture.

Likewise, High tension is another project where the setting is essential because it enriches the meaning of the piece. It is, like its title indicates, a high tension pylon, which the artist Humberto Díaz placed in the Visual Arts Development Center (CDAV) with the help of engineers and technicians of the National Electricity Company Union (UNE). The actual scale in which the piece was made is a minor worry, if it is taken into account that the main objective was to place it in a way that it goes through every floor of the building for raising some meters above the roof.

And with that, the literal sense that could be inferred from its title vanishes. By enclosing a structure of colossal dimensions, man-made, he draws attention about the existential problems that we have created with our own attitude. Likewise, he refers to the tensions existing not only in the social context, but in the artistic. That’s why it was important to place the piece in a building where there is an institution in charge of sanctioning and validating the artistic production in Cuba. On the other hand, a small detail on the assembly makes clear the conceptual reach of the piece: one of its bases is not on the ground, what would cause a lack of balance of the structure and its consequent falling; however, in this case, it remains still. It seems the artist is trying to attract attention about stability-instability from the multiple situations of everyday life that contemporary man experiences. For that reason, the selection of a high tension pylon isn’t in vain; it is a necessary element for modern life, but it also can create destruction. 

Speaking of works with a conceptual background, we cannot overlook the exhibition A grammatical note No. 8, in El Reino de Este Mundo gallery of José Martí National Library. It is an incomparable opportunity for the Cuban and foreign public that visits us because it is a series, created 20 years ago, in which the well-known artist highlights his concerns about the correspondence between visual and linguistic; as well as his searches on the relationships between words and its meanings. For this event in Havana, he has also used neon, not to shape letters, like in other situations, but to highlight specific parts. The text to work on couldn’t be other but one of the most outstanding novel of Cuban Literature, Paradiso. It is easy to understand the selection if you take into account that Lezama, like Kosuth, was interested in a whole series of studies about language.

His much more “graphic” inquiries, to call it in some way, are the studies made by the Korean photographer Han Sungpil. To think about ephemeral, he has used the facades of buildings that are in a restoration process as a generating device. The facades are covered with a canvas as it is usually made in buildings that are in a preservation process. In that canvas it is printed an image of the facade of the building already renovated, according to the scale of the building in question. In that way, it creates an unreal image (because the renovating process is not finished yet) of something real (the building that is used as a source), which is photographed and, at the same time, is used as a record of action. All this allow him to reflect about the uniqueness, history and correspondence between reality-representation and subjects related to the environment.

For the Biennial of Havana, although Sungpil persists in different aforementioned problems, he gives a greater importance to a possible link between two so different and far-off cultures like the Korean and Cuban cultures. For that, the main resource has been to put two buildings facing each other; these two buildings are paradigmatic for the history and the architecture of both countries: the Pagoda of three level in the Gameunsa Temple (South Korea), which covers the façade of the Abril publishing house and the National Capitol.

All are suggestive proposals that require an active participation of the public from the peculiar poetic of each artist.

B.L.M.

Images 

  • High tension, Humberto Díaz  in the Visual Arts Development Center (CDAV)
  • A grammatical note No. 8,  Joseph Kosuth in El Reino de Este Mundo gallery of José Martí National Library​

 

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