Art On Cuba - - INDEX - Clau­dia Taboada Churchman

Art works as a Moebius ring, in a de-ter­ri­to­ri­al­ized man­ner, vir­tual, with fluc­tu­a­tions be­tween public and pri­vate spa­ces, proper and com­mon ones, sub­jec­tive and ob­jec­tive, as spi­ral band that boosts the hy­per­text di­alec­ti­cal op­er­a­tion.

In Glauber Balles­tero’s work this process of split­ting into two oc­curs. The im­age stops be­ing use­ful in its con­text and ac­quires rhi­zoma­tous ef­fects which per­mits it to be an in­ven­tion hav­ing a crit­i­cal voice in re­al­ity. In his most re­cent per­sonal ex­hibit,

Con­cep­tium Saliara, held at the Galería Villa Manuela, Glauber

(La Ha­bana, 1977) builds a fic­ti­tious his­tory but with dis­tinc­tive par­al­lels and hid­den ref­er­ences to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal and so­cial nar­ra­tion. At some time I at­tempted the fi­nal read­ing of each work, but later I re­al­ized that its at­trac­tion lies pre­cisely in the game dis­cov­er­ing and con­ceal­ing, in cre­at­ing a prob­lem that af­ter­wards will be the open­ing to a void, in ques­tion­ing what was thought. That is why I talked with Glauber, with the in­ten­tion of cre­at­ing more prob­lems than so­lu­tions, more re­flec­tions than ax­ioms, more in­ven­tions than re­al­i­ties.


Experience is talk­ing on the ad­vent of a new an­i­mal species called Saliara and the myth sur­round­ing it. This be­ing is ap­par­ently per­fect. The ex­hi­bi­tion cov­ered three mo­ments and showed an evo­lu­tion­ary trip, since the for­ma­tion of the first cell up to the peak of this en­tity in its en­vi­ron­ment. It also com­prised a book with its sto­ries, con­cepts, im­ages re­lated to them, color pat­terns with spe­cial pig­ments, em­blems, ban­ners, eggs, the al­tered molec­u­lar com­po­si­tion of oxy­gen, or­gan­isms in larva state, DNA struc­tures, etc. It is not by chance that the first piece you found in the sa­lon was the cell and the last one a video rep­re­sent­ing Saliara set­tling in that sort of limbo to be in­hab­ited. CON­CEP­TIUM SALIARA is the in­ter­pre­ta­tion I give to this fact.

To what ex­tent is it rel­e­vant to make the cre­ated story cor­re­spond to the vis­ual re­sult that is dis­played? Do you con­sider that the un­cer­tainty gen­er­ated by this pos­si­ble di­chotomy is a sen­si­tive experience co­her­ent with the work it­self?

Ab­so­lutely, the public that con­sumes my work needs more in­for­ma­tion to be able to re­late the plots to the works. I do not con­sider it as a con­straint, it is an­other way to make art. I also strive to make the pieces have au­ton­omy. I am in­ter­ested in both the spec­ta­tor that only en­joys the vis­ual part as in that who seek out the sto­ries that grad­u­ally un­fold, try­ing to go deeper into the con­cep­tual. There is room for both. I am not ob­sessed with the way the public reads my state­ment, whether it is rigid or if they cre­ate other ideas, it is fan­tas­tic. My motto is: no mat­ter what­ever it is, you will know what it is. Un­cer­tainty or am­bi­gu­ity is some­thing that is al­ways im­plicit, I do not like to make ev­ery­thing ev­i­dent.

Would you tell us a lit­tle about your re­la­tion to photography and how the tech­ni­cal scaf­fold­ing is also a man­i­fest part of the con­cept?

In my case the me­dia are fun­da­men­tal when I am turn­ing an idea into some­thing con­crete. Some­times I try to reach a point that is half­way be­tween one and the other. The se­lec­tion is not at ran­dom, the me­dia are used to di­men­sion the plot of the project. In CON­CEP­TIUM SALIARA I vi­su­al­ized the experience with works that could be ei­ther paint­ings or pho­to­graphs, dif­fi­cult to clas­sify in this sense. But it was ob­vi­ous that the im­ages to be used should be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of those con­cepts ex­pressed in the book, and for this pur­pose photography was es­sen­tial.

I am in­ter­ested in the im­age it­self for its iconog­ra­phy, for what it shows, and be­sides for the ex­tent of ar­ti­fi­cial­ity that the medium of­fers. When I re­fer to rep­re­sen­ta­tion, I mean that when I start con­ceiv­ing them, it is like fill­ing up a film or TV stu­dio set, from out­side they are per­fect oils-on-can­vas, from in­side, they are im­pres­sions of those paint­ings. This does not mean that I con­ceive my ex­hi­bi­tions as on-stage scenes, rather that be­sides, I trans­form that ar­ti­fi­cial­ity into some­thing sub­lime, unique.

In the his­tory of art the great so­cial con­flicts have been mostly ap­proached from the experience of mi­nori­ties and not from the su­pe­ri­or­ity of their op­po­site. In your work a strong con­cern for the sub­ject of race can be per­ceived, but it has been worked from a high spec­trum that quotes dis­turb­ing neg­a­tive, am­bigu­ous con­texts. What are you seek­ing in these rep­re­sen­ta­tions in which white no longer al­ludes di­rectly to its his­tor­i­cal con­no­ta­tion?

In the evo­lu­tion of man and its his­tory, the white race has been the repos­i­tory of a sig­nif­i­cant bulk of what we as­so­ci­ate with im­po­si­tion, do­min­ion, etc. ow­ing to what we know, and this has caused that through­out the cen­turies it has held a de­vi­ated rep­u­ta­tion. I would like my work to have a bear­ing on ex­pand­ing these lim­its. Since the first mo­ment that I as­sumed to make art with these terms, I was aware that it was not go­ing to be an easy task, but I set out not to tip­toe. I think it is nec­es­sary to ap­proach this theme at this point in time. I han­dle codes that seem pompous, el­e­gant, re­fined, I do not think they are neg­a­tive as such. I be­lieve a race is above ev­ery­thing, which­ever it may be, and can­not be re­duced by a con­crete phe­nom­e­non, that is why I am in­ter­ested in as­sess­ing it and cre­ate from it; it is a teem­ing plat­form as rich as any other.

José Martí says in his ar­ti­cle Mi raza (My race): “Ev­ery­thing that di­vides men, ev­ery­thing that spec­i­fies, sep­a­rates or cor­ners them, is a sin against mankind…”, and I think that your work is not ex­empt from the cur­rent cir­cum­stances, from the re­vival of the ex­treme right wing, for ex­am­ple, with Trump as president, which has con­se­quences for the whole world and specif­i­cally for Cubans be­cause of his di­vi­sive and ex­tremely vi­o­lent poli­cies. How do you con­sume this experience and as­sume it in your work?

It is sig­nif­i­cant the volatil­ity that the ex­treme right wing has nowa­days and it is steadily gain­ing ground. Trump is self-cen­tered and takes plea­sure in hav­ing the fo­cuses on him, he is the trans­mit­ter of that feel­ing, he knows very well how to sell it, but at the end he is just an in­di­vid­ual. What is re­ally alarm­ing is the fact that so many peo­ple voted for him, but I re­al­ize it is like this. Once again the man­tle of fear cov­ers us, they want the ma­jor­ity to keep mo­tion­less, to keep do­ing the same, con­sum­ing ex­ces­sively and not ques­tion any­thing; the idea of plac­ing all of us against it, is more at­trac­tive. The re­sources are limited, the sys­tems col­lapse, and chaos is im­posed by tran­si­tiv­ity.

Martí was ab­so­lutely right, it could not be bet­ter ex­pressed. Al­though racism and xeno­pho­bia have turned into tools for hat­ing, in my opin­ion, be­ing pes­simistic is not worth­while. The artist must know how to bal­ance and func­tion like an equal­izer, coun­ter­act wrong-do­ings, but above all pos­sesses an au­ton­omy that has noth­ing to do with flags, rulers, re­li­gions, be­liefs, ide­olo­gies; many el­e­ments con­spire to make you move away from that re­al­ity; that is why be­ing an artist gives you to­tal free­dom, it equals you to God. My art is po­lit­i­cal, though it is, above all, a ser­vant, a me­di­at­ing ve­hi­cle of beauty.

As part of your work­ing process you as­sert in­ven­tion as a doc­u­ment or real fact, but later this dis­course be­comes am­bigu­ous and what is “cre­ated” or “fab­u­lated” fi­nally turns into “re­cre­ation” of the ex­ist­ing cir­cum­stances. Could you please ex­plain the rea­sons that lead you to opt for what is undis­cov­ered, empty and ap­par­ently ir­real and as­sume it in its sym­bolic con­di­tion?

Dur­ing the cre­ative process I start by or­ga­niz­ing the sto­ries as a pro­gram­mer who can cover a broad range of pos­si­bil­i­ties and op­tions, cre­at­ing things or even us­ing others that al­ready ex­ist. I mix el­e­ments from the past, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the way they have been read but pro­ject­ing them in a new one. The lim­its, bar­ri­ers, con­texts, space co­or­di­nates and time are lost, but al­ways ac­cord­ing to the plot of the project. That gen­eral idea is the guide­line, the one that marks the pace. My pur­pose is not to al­ter or in­vert pro­cesses that come by-de­fault in the soft­ware, rather I pre­fer to an­a­lyze phe­nom­ena from other edges. That is why, at times, it is like skip­ping traf­fic or even driv­ing on the wrong way. Ap­par­ently it has an off-cen­ter logic, but it is quite the op­po­site, there is an or­der that grants it sta­bil­ity.

“A lie that is prop­erly re­peated a thou­sand times turns into some­thing true”, said Joseph Goebbels. In your case what means

“I mix el­e­ments from the past, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the way they have been read but pro­ject­ing them in a new one. The lim­its, bar­ri­ers, con­texts, space co­or­di­nates and time are lost, but al­ways ac­cord­ing to the plot of the project.”

would you use to achieve the ef­fect? To what ex­tent the ex­cess and de­tail of in­for­ma­tion, its com­plex­ity, its des­ig­na­tion us­ing ne­ol­o­gisms and its es­thetic ma­te­ri­al­iza­tion con­trib­ute to the for­ma­tion of an im­age? That is, not only at the per­sonal level of the artist, his/her work or ex­hibit, rather as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of knowl­edge au­tom­a­tized by the in­sti­tu­tion of art, the course of his­tory and its the­o­ret­i­cal con­cep­tion. Is it that the cred­i­bil­ity of cur­rent art is ques­tioned?

To­day ev­ery­thing is part of, and takes part in the cre­ation of an im­age, even the artists’ per­sonal life is con­stantly af­fect­ing their work, whether he/she is aware of the fact, ev­ery­thing that is pro­jected gives mean­ing to their work, some­times for good and some other times not so much like that. That is why we must be care­ful, not only while we are cre­at­ing or ex­hibit­ing the re­sult.

When I make art, I am in­ter­ested in ques­tion­ing many things, but I think it is con­ceited to think that any artist could ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of art. I am not that fa­tal­is­tic as to as­sert that it is in de­cline, as some others think; art is and will al­ways be in per­fect con­di­tions, maybe the abil­ity to pur­sue and an­a­lyze what sur­rounds us is what is fading away. An artist should not pur­sue the where and how to reach art as a for­mula, the com­ing to­gether is an un­known path, and it is a mat­ter of faith. Those who are able to achieve that state are priv­i­leged.

I agree with Goebbels in part; it is real what he says, but it also keeps be­ing a re­peated lie. I am quite aware of the dif­fer­ence be­tween fake and fic­tion, and I move away from the first. When an artist cre­ates a his­tory, even though it is fic­ti­tious, it does not mean it is a fake, or work­ing like a liar, the con­sumer makes the choice of be­liev­ing or not. Then ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in the Repub­lic1 is a re­al­ity within it, a truth, that is how I as­sume it, and I am con­se­quent un­til the end.

Let us sup­pose that the re­al­ity dis­ap­pears and just this fa­ble or il­lu­sion is left…Wouldn’t it be­come a new re­al­ity? I would call it VITAE BEATUM… Would that be my in­ven­tion?

The Repub­lic is a re­al­ity like many others, within it ev­ery­thing hap­pens. I like to think that noth­ing dis­ap­pears, in some way, we are the ones who en­ter, go out, are con­nected, in­ter­act; we are the ones who per­ceive changes. Each experience is a new di­men­sion that is added. In the Der­mis Cro­mopi­lato the lim­its be­tween cre­ators and spec­ta­tors are di­luted; it could be me or not, it is not rel­e­vant. My in­ten­tion is to me­di­ate, like a key holder who opens the doors of some­thing that al­ready ex­ists to show it and share it. By the way, at the Repub­lic it would be VITAE VEATUM, but I un­der­stand, you have just ar­rived. ƒ

© Glauber Balles­tero

From the se­ries Con­cep­tium Saliara, 2016 / Oil and pig­ment on can­vas / 21½ x 21½ inches

Sea of Tran­quil­ity - Am­pulla (De­tail). From the se­ries Con­cep­tium Saliara, 2016 / Metal, vel­vet, vinyl, plas­tic, con­crete, wood, white sil­i­cone and wax / Vari­able di­men­sions In­stal­la­tion view, Galería Villa Manuela, Ha­vana

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