A PUZ­ZLE FROM MUL­TI­PLE PATHS

Claudia González Machado

Art On Cuba - - Music And Arts Festiva - — JORGE LUIS BORGES Lot­tery in Baby­lon

“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. ƒ

Es­con­di­endo la bola, 2016

Video still

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

Vari­able di­men­sions

Courtesy the artist & Galería Ser­vando, Ha­vana 1. Reinier Nande: State­ment. In: http://rnan­dep.blogspot.com/p/ blog-page.html

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