HOGAR Y ESPERANZA
01 DECEMBER 2022 - 21 JANUARY 2023
Brigade is pleased to present Hogar y esperanza, Home & Hope, an exhibition featuring eight contemporary Cuban artists. The genesis of this exhibition begins more than four years ago when Brigade first visited Havana. In this enigmatic city at the precipice of history we met a resilient and dedicated community of artists who have continued creating art under the most difficult of conditions, and it is with gratitude that we are finally able to exhibit eight of these in Copenhagen. The exhibition text below was written by Sachie Hernández Machín, a well-established Cuban art professional and the founder and director of the independent art project La Sindical in Havana.
“…the polished, the smooth, the impeccable, are the hallmarks of our time. They are what the sculptures of Jeff Koons have in common, with the latest generation telephones and waxing. The natural beauty has atrophied into the digital beauty that does not tolerate any strangeness, any otherness, any negativity, any failure. We find ourselves in a crisis of the beautiful as it is glossed over, turning it into an object of 'I like', into something arbitrary and pleasant, which is measured by its immediacy and its use and consumption value. But beauty is not necessarily impeccable, it happens more as a reunion and recognition…”.
Byung Chul Han
This exhibition comes from Cuba, it was created in Cuba, the artists that make it up were born and educated in Cuba; that island so taken and brought from love, admiration, attack, furious criticism or indifference. It is no longer a lighthouse in the Caribbean, nor a utopian guide to build a new society, but it continues to be a symbolic reference, of the revolutionary utopia for the world; and amid the sustained crisis in which it lives, it still derives from it, especially from its people and its culture, a flow of candor, of light.
We wondered if the words home and hope would be poetic enough to name the show, if they could happily relate all the aesthetics and topics contained in the artists' works, and we conclude that they are. They are sufficiently encompassing and beautiful words that evoke ontological issues for the human being, and whose meanings can be circumscribed to the sphere of the private, the intimate, the personal, or expand to the sphere of the public, global, universal.
Hogar, which comes from the Latin focaris, derived from focus, fire in Spanish, goes back to the beginning of Western culture and its cult of fire. Each house had its bonfire and around it the families made life in its most urgent and literal sense - cooking their food, cultivating different materials, keeping warm during the winter, protecting themselves from predators - and also in a more subjective sense – to be together and talk or remain silent, spiritual purification.
Hope, whose etymology comes from the verb esperare in Latin, to wait in English, and from the suffix anza, which indicates action, has frequently been perceived as an act of faith, somewhat naive, mystical and even cowardly, if it comes to addressing reality. The political economic chaos in which we are immersed, given the ups and downs of global capitalism and totalitarianisms with labels of left or right, alienation and exploitation ignored and hidden under the illusion of freedom, protected by new technologies and the market; they almost make us believe that hope can be a sin, a theoretical and intellectual error. However, we decide if we hope, we decide if we trust. Hope is an act of will, it implies work and struggle, it refers to the longing for a real place, the fruit of our creative acts, of the active, critical, dialectical transformation of life.
All the pieces that make up the exhibition can be understood from the configuration of these two terms, home and hope; some in an immediate relationship and others in a more subtle or metaphorical way. There are artists whose contents refer to situations that take place, develop, or make sense, in the sphere of the collective, social, and political imagination, and others whose paths are eminently intimate, self-referential, and subjective.
Mari Claudia García (b. 1989), for example, shows two pieces that immediately express her concerns regarding the political tensions that have occurred in Cuba during the last two years, between civil society and the government, which have actively included a part of the intelligentsia and the art profession; and the way in which this limits or widens the spaces for the emancipation of citizens. That big house that could be the island for all Cubans, becomes a disturbing, suffocating, dangerous space for some and a space of possible profound transformation for others. Her works depict the shackle, and the possibility and impossibility of writing in glass, of living, in freedom. The glass used in her work makes us think about the fragility of power, when it is not exercised from a legitimate consensus, and about the relative, random nature of the construction of freedom.
With a historical vision, but from fiction, Alejandro González (b. 1974) constructs scenes of situations from the 1980s that he did not record at the time. Two significant events for the future of Cuban society, and one of them of global significance; (i) the fall of the Berlin Wall, symbol of the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the socialisms of Eastern Europe; and (ii) the trial broadcast by Cuban Television of Division General and Hero of the Republic of Cuba, Arnaldo Ochoa, which ended with his execution. Domestic spaces are recreated, the living room of a Cuban house, could be any, impoverished, and the office of an official, also any (offices sometimes become extensions of the home for bureaucrats), and despite the importance of what is transmitted on the respective monitors, there is an evident lack of attention, a patterned alienation of the news. The truth is that in Cuba the images of what was happening in Berlin were never transmitted in real time, we saw them a long time later through films and documentaries. And what we were able to hear and appreciate about the criminal proceedings against the General was obviously edited and biased. The Cuban government decided to protect us from the world and even from ourselves, it decided to protect itself. Facts that overwhelmed many human beings in the world, and in Cuba, with hope and certainty, or with despair and confusion.
Susana Pilar's (b. 1984) video performance, Resistencia, could also be read from the Cuban context, however, I believe that it goes beyond that circumstance and resonates with global agendas and recent struggles against gender violence and in favor of women's rights, in against racism, whatever its form of expression and in favor of the rights of all racial and ethnic communities that inhabit the planet, against discrimination for political, religious, gender and sexual orientation reasons and in favor of the rights of the LGBTIQ+ communities and the rights and full inclusion of people with different abilities.
Susana submits to the sustained onslaught of a strong wind, which is almost unbearable, but it doesn't break, it doesn't break. Here her home, our home, is the world. All of her resistance, our resistance, and we would now add the value provided by the term resilience, or ability to recover, is her hope, our hope.
Yaily Martínez's (b. 1990) work also connects her vision of the home with the world, but she would say that it is in a less political, more anthropological and existential sense. Home for her is nature, understood not as a landscape, but as a field of action and instinctive and intuitive transformation of the life that inhabits it. She observes and tries to represent the reactions, the force that emanates from the wild animal world to also understand our behaviors. The physical and mental impulse to move, the impotence generated by the impossibility of movement and all the cultural illusion that we have generated around movement. The need to hunt, to survive, to compete, the unconscious or conscious relationship with the space and time in which we live. From this perspective, the home is a zone of comfort, well-being and constant challenge or danger, all in unison, and hope or despair derive from the natural will.
No piece in the exhibition refers to a more personal sphere, from the representational point of view of the home, than the work of Osvaldo González (b. 1982). His interior designs resolved with adhesive tape and light are the expression of his obsession with capturing the architectural, objectual, and decorative details of the spaces he inhabits with his family, his work studio, and that of friends. He just suggests through a window, the garden, the patio, the street or the sea. He does not take photos of these visual references, he reproduces them from the imprint of his emotions. They are warm, peaceful, bright spaces. No matter what country, continent or galaxy he is in, home for Osvaldito is his familiar physical place, the place where he is most comfortable.
Linet Sánchez (b. 1989) also works with the construction of intimate spaces, but those places live in her head, they come from the world of stories, her own and those of others, from imagination, from film sequences or theater props, from situations she experienced or believed that she lived through, places that we ourselves could recognize or complete, clean, so clean they are disturbing, figurative or more abstract, sometimes without clear entrances or exits, but almost always encouraging the tour. That is where her creation resides, her space for the search for energy and comfort, both in the pieces that end up being photographic and in her sculpted models. She feels safe there, contained.
Abstraction undoubtedly defines the work pattern of Ernesto Sánchez (b. 1989), not only the result of a formal exercise that has to do with the illusion of limits, continuity or the transition between one area and another, but it is an intentional abstraction of reality, an exercise in conscious evasion in relation to the great problems that afflict us as individuals, society or world community. His process is his home, his studio is his home, his work is his home, and at the same time they are also all his hope. He has decided to free society, the country where he lives and the world, from the responsibility of meeting their expectations on issues as personal and subjective as the ideas we have about home and hope. He prefers not to contaminate his work with the polar logic that abounds in speeches and polemics that exacerbate confrontation and confrontation. He has exhausted herself, even from the representation of art, of everything that tries to express the reality of someone or of others. His position seems naive, but it is not, it is an act of choice about what he wants with his work and life.
I close my comments on the exhibition with the works of Arlés del Río (b. 1975), which are part of his series Nosotros (“Us”). Although they express an immediate political interest, linked to the demography of the world, which also includes Cuba, what is most suggestive is the way in which the pieces integrate the local with the global and the personal, the dimension of being, with the universal vastness. At a time when the media informed us and almost overwhelmed us with the daily statistics of people killed or infected by the Coronavirus, Arles stumbled upon the daily number of the world population, a number he had never really been aware of. So, he paid daily attention to it, as if clinging to that number meant projecting his need to live, his desire for life, also onto friends and family, instead of continuing to submit to the news loops of the death watch. He graphed those figures, and continues to do so, printed and monumentalized on these mirrored surfaces. He tells me that the Pandemic gave him time to be at home, to enjoy his children, his wife, his piece of yard, of heaven, but above all to be within himself. Be aware, observe yourself, with honesty and acceptance, with his fears and hopes. The pieces are beautiful, austere, polished, they are inserted in the logic of the contemporary aesthetic frivolity of art and stained-glass windows. I saw myself in them first from vanity, then from the abstract democracy of that figure. I felt less arrogance and more gratitude for being part of that fortunate mass of the living, still full of possibilities, of the possibility of a substantial and compassionate reunion with myself and with others. Perhaps being in ourselves, we are in everyone, we integrate into the whole.
I predict that the Danish public, despite the physical and cultural distances, will recognize themselves in the beauty of all the pieces that make up the exhibition, and that it will prime them to the beauty, diversity and resilience of our artists.
Sachie Hernández Machín
Sachie Hernández Machín (b. 1972, Havana) is the founder and director of La Sindical (f. 2017), an independent art project located in Havana, whose purpose is to promote and market the work of a group of artists, mainly Cuban, who live and work inside and outside of Cuba.
Machín has curated numerous exhibitions in Havana, Berlin, Barcelona, Boston, Vermont and Mexico City. She directed institutions such as the Servando Gallery and the Center for the Development of Visual Arts in Havana and was part of the Organizing Committee of the 10th Havana Biennial. She coordinated the Havana Cultura Art Residency Project and has been a consultant to UNESCO and other residency projects such as Artist X Artist. Before undertaking her own project, she collaborated for two years with the Galería Continua in Havana.