A PUZZLE FROM MULTIPLE PATHS
Claudia González Machado
“I am from a vertiginous country where lottery is the main part of reality: until today I have thought so little on it as in the behavior of the inscrutable gods of my heart.”
The game, its rules, strategies, roles and the ludic element it implies have been present in the work of Reinier Nande since his graduation in the High Institute of Arts in 2005. In his thesis, entitled Juegos discretos (Discrete Games), his interest on deepening into determined sociocultural experiences, in this case the games of chance, to understand and question other wider phenomena, as social behaviors and institutional practices was already evident.
It is not fortuitous, then, that Nande considers the exercise of creation as a sort of game of chance, in which the ideal participants are space and time. And he has given expression to this in solo shows like Playing (2010), R.MUD (2015) and PUZZLE, this last one the most recent of the artist, presented in the centric Galería Servando in Vedado. Those exhibitions, as well as some of his pieces included in various collective projects, have placed us before an authentic manipulator of the appearances that likes to reveal invisible zones or zones lacking visibility, but not because of it less real in a space-time resisting to oblivion.
In this sense, PUZZLE, relying on the presence of Edgar Hechavarría as an invited artist, incites us to rethink on the vertiginous changes that are taking place in Cuba, and he does it starting from the game as pretext and metaphor. With regard to the former, Haciendo la noticia (Making the News) is one of the best achieved works in the exhibition. In it, Nande has set off from the popular hobby that has as a purpose to build images through lines that communicate, following numbers in an ascending order. The spectator should take part in the game if wanting to know—or in this case “to do”—the news hidden behind the order of the digits. Nande places us in a double position and our role as actors in the construction of the work is as important as our role as spectators. Once the final image is revealed, the news is made before our eyes: presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro shake hands in one of the most transcendental moments in the history of both countries: the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
This fact, that undoubtedly have become one of the most common apothegms in Cuban art, had already been dealt with by Nande in his piece Interferencia (Interference), presented in the 12th Havana Biennial (May, 2015). In that occasion, as in Haciendo la noticia, the work only gained a meaning if the audience agreed in “living it” with their participation.
The exaggerated mediatizing of our times and the constant manipulation of society were the last sense of that piece, something the spectator should infer after listening to the interference of news and speeches reproduced by two audio channels in both ends of a network of pipes. In both works, the interaction of the audience in its fullest (not individual) sense is decisive. In one the news is heard and, in the other, it is made; and, in both of them, even with their formal differences, the ludic element is an essential component.
But not everything consists in the discovery of a given invisible area at a glance, because Nande well knows that truth may also hide. That is why he presents us Escondiendo la bola (Hiding the Ball) that, coming from another ancient game —hiding a little ball in one of the three containers or Trile—, discourses on the value of the change of currency as the Euro, the Dollar, the CUC and the CUP, in a moment in which an economic opening in the island happens to be a topic. The fact that the Trile is commonly associated to the fraud also gives us much to think. The figures of the hidden bills grow, but this increment is not equivalent for all (a Cuban peso is not the same as a euro). La bola (The fib), an expression also used to indicate “rumor” in Cuba, is growing; however, just as in the game in question, the truth (there where it is discovered) is a matter of chance.
As a good chronicler of his time, Nande grants special importance to the notions of space and time. In pieces as Apuntalando la historia (Upholding History) and Las 58 diferencias (The 58 Differences), he dialogues with the past, but without obviating his condition as an artist of the present or the resemanticizing of the events. With some nostalgia he talks to us about the ruins with which we daily coexist, but whose presence and symbolism are barely noticed by many passers-by. That is the case of the building placed in the centric corner of 23rd St. and 12th St..in Havana, which today is an extensive agglomeration of scaffoldings and wooden supports, but that on April 1961 received an event as relevant for the country as the proclamation of the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution. Nande invites us not to remain inert before the destruction or loss of history, of the symbols, even in those cases that their connotations, under the light of the new contexts, might seem far-off.
Las 58 diferencias refers to the rescue of the ruins and of the collective memory. Appealing at irony, the artist invites us to compare the yesterday and today of an emblematic Havana building, the Hotel Trotcha, whose history began at the end of the 19th century and whose present appearance does not exceed some few foundations covered by climbing roots and graphite. Behind the dusty remains, we see the Meliá Cohiba Hotel at the distance, with its imposing crystal-clear façade. So much paradox in just one image! With works like this one, Nande gives us trails of his interest on restoration, a subject he studied in the beginning of his career. As he had said: “…I try to uncover and arouse what became indelible, to respect in all its arbitrariness the traces, barely legible, of what it once was.”1 And do not forget that restoring is recuperating, saving, physically and spiritually; it is the dignity of memory.
PUZZLE invites us to live art as a game, without it meaning banality or flippancy in its proposals. This is not an exhibition to see with indifference, since the works, supposedly very simple, disturb us and demand from us to think in the metaphors underlying behind that apparent simplicity.
For Nande, art may be similar to a game in which, as we have said, rules, strategies or roles do not lack. The galleries and other art institutions would then be not only legitimating spaces, but different worlds in which the plot of the game develops or the missions are fulfilled while the adventure advances. In this sense, El camino correcto (The Correct Path) introduces us into a labyrinthine Havana, forked in multicolored paths which take to various galleries in the Cuban capital. The arrangement of them in the map, as well as the design of the journeys, reminds us the game Grand Theft Auto (GTA), very popular since it hit the market in 1998. What is the path to follow? Where to begin? How complicated and risky the journey is? And which is the goal? Undoubtedly, there are as many answers as artists (players) in the island and as intentions the mediators have. As one more among all, Nande offers us his opinion on this work, but subtly, from the perspective of the artist who asks the question.
Edgar Hechavarría, for his part, also invites us to the ludic dialogue, since he is also an artist of metaphors and, just as in Nande’s case, they remit to our environment and to architecture as a symbolic space. Hechavarría does it from the construction of cities and buildings, in the style of a Lego game or of the famous videogame Minecraft. Contenlegueando submerges us in a world of immense edifications composing a peculiar skyline of a hyperpopulated city and Contenlego consists in a tower very similar to the Empire State which imposingly rises in the midst of the gallery. The containers, components of these mega-constructions, are loaded with rich polysemy: they function as integrating elements of everything, although, at the same time, they talk to us on economic globalization and the constant moving of merchandises from one place to another. Also, the use of digital printing as a support in the case of Contenlengueando, contribute to bestow a given utopian character to the city reflected on the piece, as the same does not happen with Contenlego, which deeply affects us because of its materiality. And what if everything were to show us the fragility of hyper-development as a puzzle of appearances?
PUZZLE invites us to live art as a game, without it meaning banality or flippancy in its proposals. This is not an exhibition to see with indifference and leave quickly from the gallery, since the works, supposedly very simple, disturb us and demand from us to think in the metaphors underlying behind that apparent simplicity. The spectators are part of the game since they become involved in it and grant it a meaning. In such way, it might seem that the task of the artist is to build the context, where the receiver is free to elaborate his own topic, according to his experiences. And Nande does not forget that freedom is an indispensable component in this and in any other puzzle; that is why he does not mind the rules or laws determining it. Living the works from multiple personal experiences, exercising senses and memory… this exhibition summons us to that game, and we are all free to choose our path.
Escondiendo la bola, 2016
Courtesy the artist & Galería Servando, Havana Las 58 diferencias, 2016
Dyptich / Digital print / 23½ x 39¹⁄³ inches Courtesy the artist & Galería Servando, Havana
EDGAR HECHAVARRÍA Contenlegueando, 2016 Digital print
23½ x 157½ inches
Contenlego, 2016 Installation
Courtesy the artist & Galería Servando, Havana 1. Reinier Nande: Statement. In: http://rnandep.blogspot.com/p/ blog-page.html