To Transform the Political Speech in Facts, Finally.
Carlos Garaicoa’s sculptures, photographs, drawings and installations take the city as their central concept and theme: the real and imaginary city; the idealised, utopian and desired city; the forgotten and remembered city; the private and public city (mine or theirs); the past, present and future city; the city’s fragments, pieces, ruins and souvenirs. The city is a text, and the artist’s native Havana has been a rich and recurring motif in his work: a city whose architecture and urban planning ¡s overflowing with tragic histories and stories, where construction, de(con)struction and reconstruction are loaded with political, social, cultural and personal texts and subtexts. Garaicoa’s city-text is multilayered and polyphonic, full of critical, poetic and nostalgic narratives, His strategies can be identified as a certain form of ‘artistic archaeology’, to use Gerardo Mosquera’s terms, as well as ‘surgical interventions’, where the city becomes a body and its buildings, streets, fragments, ruins and flows are viewed as limbs, organs, veins, arteries, wounds and bodily fluids. In another of his surgical archaeologies, for his project at the Moscow Biennale Garaicoa has fittingly returned to the relationship between his native Cuba and the former USSR. After the 1959 revolution which brought the Communist regime to power in Cuba, the two countries developed a close and very particular relationship, operating on many different levels. Garaicoa has turned to the often neglected but quite eloquent ‘design symptoms’ of such a transformation: examining the shifts from pre-1959 capitalist advertising in Cuba to the new revolutionary propaganda inspired by certain avant-garde styles and Socialist Realism. These can be seen in roadside advertising signs, billboards and mural paintings for different products, from political through to household goods and commodities. Garaicoa’s project entails a photographic documentation of such signs and symptoms in several Cuban cities, made in order to return them to the original context in which they were produced, now in a distinct historical moment. The documents will be transformed into postage stamps, which will be displayed in the exhibition space of the Biennale in philatelic vitrines as well as circulated in today’s Russia. The images speak of a recent though strangely distant past, full of hope and desire for a rich, healthy and vigorous future -a future perfect which has been undeniably not been fulfilled, a ‘failed promise’ that now needs to be reassessed. Better late than never.
Artist based in Havana, Cuba