Elizabet CerviñoFango, 11th Havana Biennial, 2012
Ephemeral terracotta sculptures
Mud: The Heideggerian Sentence of Elizabet Cerviño
We are thrown into life naked and bloody, vulnerable, helpless; birth is an abrupt sliding through that narrow canal, which suddenly places us on a harsh, hostile, cold environment, quite the opposite from the warm ocean of the maternal womb. It is not by chance that one wails inconsolably after that journey which brings us into the world; and time begins to possess us, the rhythmic and chaotic monotony of its passing, the development of a process which is at once progressive and regressive; we grow and age, with no turning back. Therefore the being, who intuits from the depth of his subconscious his finite nature, his temporary insignificance, dresses up, warms up, feeds up, and reproduces, seeking strength and transcendence in the collective. The human being, as the Greeks made into poetry, was able to create a world from the means that Prometheus granted him for his preservation: the secret of the arts and the fire stolen from Hephaestus and Athena. But this world, which today has turned into a tremendous scientific and technological progress for the purpose of life, has not achieved, nor will it be able, to revert a simple and elementary process: we are organic matter in the process of decomposing, we are ephemeral beings on the eve of becoming one with the soil, of becoming soil.
Fango (Mud), the sculptural ensemble by Elizabet Cerviño, reminds us of that fate –our singular fate–, it encapsulates it in a small pond and makes it flow in front of our sight. These human mud models, modelled in natural size, which melt, erode, caramelize into its own matter, losing shape and decomposing under a water shower, generate an ephemeral show which becomes a monad reflecting one of the simplest essences of life, but at the same time, one of the ideas that torment man the most. While caught in our senses in these micro worlds, we can see, imagine, suffer and suddenly become aware of that which we forget, so overfed with sensitive experiences. A sharp contrast, no doubt, if we take into account that as visitors to the Biennial we came to the work through a cultural and aesthetic journey, where are minds wander from a hermeneutic crossroad into another: the edifying virtual quality of culture, of meaning, which plunges us into the symbolic immortality. And suddenly the Heideggerian sentence of Elizabet Cerviño: the being is time, becoming, is a being unto death.
If we approach this work with a more contingent and localized reading: that fine rain falling on the mud beings (as a vertical curse), that small swamp (protein source for mosquitos), that May heat and high humidity (undoubtedly two physical elements that can be seen as constituent elements of the work, why not?), that destitute desolation and the little town melting, consuming itself alive in a prehistoric stupor; is it not also an allegory about what we suffer in our quasi obscene summers?