From January 23 through March 22, 2008
Image: Yoan Capote, Dinero bilingue (Bilingual Money) 2002. US quarter, 1 peso coin spliced together. Courtesy of the artist
States of Exchange: Artists from Cuba, Institute for International Visual Arts first major exhibition at Rivington Place, provides a dynamic and thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of economic and information exchange in contemporary Cuba.
At a time when borderless communication is assumed to be the global standard and economic powers no longer adhere to old boundaries of East and West, Cuba is a country caught in flux. With two legal currencies (the Cuban Peso and Cuban convertible Peso) and growing divisions between those who have access to resources from beyond the island and those who don´t, the residents of Cuba have become experts at negotiating exchange between each other as well as with the rest of the world.
Curated by Cylena Simonds (Iniva) and prominent Cuban curator Gerardo Mosquera, the group show focuses on six artists living and working in Cuba today: Iván Capote, Yoan Capote, Jeanette Chávez, Diana Fonseca, Wilfredo Prieto and Lázaro Saavedra. The artworks span sculpture to performance as well as video installations. Accompanying the exhibition there is a full-colour illustrated catalogue and a video screening program featuring artist´s shorts and experimental documentaries, including works never before seen in Europe. There is also an education program and events program including music, talks by the curators´ and discussions with artists such as Lázaro Saavedra and Jeanette Chávez.
Gerardo Mosquera says of the exhibition and program:
"States of Exchange aims to show how artists in Cuba discuss contradictions, ambiguities and social negotiations in Cuban life, leading a critical culture that prevails in the country since the mid 80s. They use the semantic powers of art to create complex works whose impact goes far beyond the local context. So this is not a general show of Cuban art but a thematic exhibition on issues particular to Cuba. It includes both emerging artists that are beginning to be known internationally and more established ones."
Cuba´s complex system of economic exchange is summarized in Yoan Capote´s work Dinero Bilingüe (Bilingual Money, 2002), which splices together a peso with a US quarter - rendering both coins defunct. The piece has become an iconic statement of the situation in Cuba today. In Wilfredo Prieto´s Untitled (Pea), (2001) a single pea is painted as a globe. What is striking in both of these works is the minimal and almost imperceptible way they are as objects, in contrast with the significance of the meaning that they carry. Wilfredo Prieto´s One Million Dollars (2002) humorously reflects a fantasy of unlimited wealth - creating an illusion that a single dollar is reproduced to infinity. An elusive grasp of currency is also key to the video Pasatiempo (Dinero) (Pastime (Money), 2005) by Diana Fonseca in which two peso coins suddenly vanish leaving a dark stain on the artist´s hands - her instrument of practice. The alchemical conversion of labour into value is the subject of Iván Capote´s Móvil Perpetuo (Perpetual Motion, 2001). A vial containing the artist´s sweat produced as he filed a US quarter into metal shavings sits beside photographs documenting the process.
Themes of censorship are explored in Jeanette Chávez´s video performance, Autocensura (Self-censorship, 2006), she painfully ties thread around her tongue and closes her lips, her self-inflicted silence becoming invisible. In Secreter (2000/7) Iván and Yoan Capote collaborate to create a means to share secrets via a giant rudimentary telephone reminiscent of a handmade children´s toy. In Prieto´s installation Speech (1999) we see rolls of toilet paper made entirely from Cuba´s official newspaper, Granma.
Using red beans to represent people, Lázaro Saavedra´s video animations La gloria borra la memoria (Glory erases memory, 2006) and El que no sabe es como el que no ve (Not knowing is like not seeing, 2006) succinctly dramatise the tension between the official representations of life in Cuba and the actual experiences of Cubans. A veces prefiero callar (Sometimes I´d rather shut up, 2006) humorously dramatises the artist´s arguments with himself as he veers between the futility of art practice and his compulsion to persevere with such gestures. Iván Capote is equally dubious regarding the reliability of historical chronicles. Historia (History, 2001) is a mechanical sculpture, with a pen attached to one circling arm and an eraser attached to the other. As one arm marks the glass, the other arm all too quickly erases - suggesting lessons in history that have not been learnt.
A sense of dreaming and longing is evoked in Cambio de Estado (Change of State, 2006) in which Chávez covers a ceiling with starred military epaulettes to create constellations reflecting the night sky of the area in which the work is displayed. The vast 6 x 3 meter panel work by Yoan Capote entitled Isla (Island 2006/7) portrays the ocean that physically separates Cuba from the rest of the world and on closer inspection the waves reveal themselves to be made up of treacherous fish hooks. The US claims that thousands of Cubans attempt to cross the 145-kilometre expanse of water between Cuba and Florida each year and it has become symbolic of the dangerous and fragile links between not only Cuba and the US but also Cuba and the world.
Accompanying States of Exchange is a full-colour, bilingual (English - Spanish) illustrated catalogue of the same title. This Iniva publication includes a broader body of recent work by the Cuba-based artists featured in States of Exchange and explores the exhibition themes. It includes texts on each artist, an essay by Gerardo Mosquera introducing the history and context of current art practice in Cuba and an essay by Cylena Simonds on economic and communication exchange in relation to the exhibiting artists. In addition, an essay by curator and critic Mailyn Machado explores contemporary video practice illustrated with stills of video works. Other contributors include Alessio Antoniolli, Elvis Fuentes, Erena Hernández, Orlando Hernández, Direlia Lazo and Yuneikys Villalonga.
Video Screening Program
States of Exchange video screening program features artists´ shorts and experimental documentaries. From the moment video arrived in Cuba it became an alternative mode of communication exchange - it provided artists with a new means of creative freedom and rewrote the terms of the art-institutions relationship in Cuba. During the period of liberalization in 1990s video equipment became more readily available and the medium became popular. It not only had the advantage of being self sufficient it was also low cost and offered new means of circulation and exhibiting. Artists´ video work created in Cuba is particularly distinctive due to its collaborative bent and is often characterized by low-tech aesthetics. Video art is not often exhibited in Cuban galleries, possibly due to what Machado describes as its ‘merciless account of reality´. However word is spread through the grapevine and the works are showcased in ‘pop up´ galleries off the official circuit - spreading the realities of Cuban life into places far and wide.
Artist short videos include: Eran 47 de Memoria (They Were 47 Years from Memory) by Raychel Carrión, Reconstruyendo al Héroe (Reconstructing the Hero) by Javier Castro, Cuba Baila (Cuba Dances) by Alexis de la O Joya, Zona Afectada (Affected Zone) by Alex Hernández and Asori Soto, Informes de Hechos Vividos (Report on Lived Events) by Jesús Hernández, Polémica (Controversy) and Aiki by Luis o Miguel, A veces prefiero callar (Sometimes I´d rather shut up)by Lazáro Saavedra, Búnker (Bunker) by Renier Quer, Espíritu (al servicio de todos) (Spirit (at everyone´s service)) by Adonis Flores.
Experimental documentaries include: Café con leche (White Coffee) by Manuel Zayas, Model Town by Laimir Fano, Buscándote Havana (Looking for You, Havana) by Alina Rodríguez and Despertando a Quan Tri (Waking Quan Tri) by Gustavo Pérez. Further information and listings will be found on www.iniva.org
Events and Education
Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) creates exhibitions, publications, multimedia, education and research projects designed to bring the work of artists from culturally-diverse backgrounds to the attention of the widest possible public. (www.iniva.org)
Rivington Place is Iniva and Autograph ABP´s new contemporary visual arts space and the UK´s first permanent public space dedicated to culturally-diverse visual arts and photography. The building has been realized with thanks to funding from the Arts Council England Lottery Capital 2 Programme and Barclays, the Rivington Place founding Corporate Partner. Barclays´ Ł1.1m contribution is part of a much wider program of community support, which last year totaled over Ł45 million - one of the most substantial in the UK.
The press view will be taking place on 22 January from 10am-1pm to attend please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA
Public opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 11am-6pm
Late Thursdays: 11am-9pm (Last admission 8.30pm)
Sunday, Monday: Closed
Nearest tubes: Old Street & Liverpool Street
Rivington Place is fully accessible in all public areas
For parking & wheelchair facilities or further information about Rivington Place +44 (0) 20 7749 1240, email@example.com, www.rivingtonplace.org
Source: Inivia press release