Nearing its third anniversary of permanence on the grounds of Havana’s Chinatown, the current Arte Continua center is presenting the collective exhibition How Is the Water? since September 22nd. The display includes Cuban artists Elizabet Cerviño, José Yaque, Yornel Martínez, Luis López-Chávez, José Manuel Mesías, Iván Capote, Leandro Feal, Orestes Hernández and Yoan Capote. The exhibition is inspired from that colloquial question, derived from a fable quoted by American writer David Foster Wallace (1962-2008).
That simple question reveals an in-depth reflection that cuts across the speaker’s voice and the writer’s pen to share a collective thought. Thus, the expression attributed in the story to an old fish, and ignored for a while by those whom it questioned; brings up a metaphor in which the contemporary human being and his paradoxical dehumanized behavior can feel alluded to.
The sorrows of a current community, fearfully and closely linked to social networks on Internet, spread all over the former three-story Aguila de Oro Cinema, now the international project Galleria Continua headquarters in the city of Havana. According to a statement by the exhibition organizers, the concerns since the advent of Internet are being probed in How Is the Water? exhibit, based on the concerns for the oblivion of elementary questions as part of existence.
Water is then understood as a source of life, whose concept spreads into all those questions, which are vital, fundamental, of interaction with others, with the closest environment, with Nature… Exchanges languishing in the media avalanche during a technological era.
Each artist then, with his or her poetics, sets a pattern, which may range from the textual lyricism being abridged in Elizabet Cerviño’s Lámina única (Unique sheet), to the vibrant evident silence, captured by the sound waves in Yornel Martinez’s exposure Nadie puede escuchar la voz de un poeta muerto (Nobody can hear the voice of a dead poet). In the latter, the inaudible voices recorded on the screen correspond to readings of verses created by Cuban poets who have deprived themselves of life, such as Juan Carlos Flores or Ángel Escobar.
Another hopeless vision overwhelms spectators at the top floor of the Arte Continua venue, where Yoan Capote’s proposal, Resonancia (Zona de silencio) (Resonance Zone of silence) gathers a strong symbolic burden in its constituent elements. Thus, the red-tinted seawater, concentrated in a bucket shaken by the real sound of recent armed conflicts, synthesizes the breakdowns advocated by wars in one of their possible scenarios, or by one of the already sought-after natural resources.
While Yoan, from the daily use of a bucket and the pregnancy of these records, describes epoch-related threats that concern humanity, Ivan Capote for this exhibit helps himself with resources much closer to traditional art. Thereby, a conventional wooden frame and a piece of canvas blur an illusory painting while turning the ashes into a true iconoclastic gesture of the artist (referring to his title Iconoclasta). The action continues by creating a pigment from these ashes and covering the paper’s surface. The critique of established canons, as well as the connotations related to temporality and the relativity of cyclic processes may find themselves within the polysemic content of the work.
José Manuel Mesías, the youngest creator in this group, presents another approach, in this case, directed towards the natural richness of our fauna. The artist, playing the role of an ornithologist, displays the recordings on his presentation 157 cantos de aves residentes, endémicas, introducidas, transitorias y ocasionales cubanas (157 songs of resident, endemic, introduced, transitory and seasonal Cuban birds). Thus, he presents the public a sort of a cabin, or a cage –to suit the theme– covered with images of these birds. Inside the structure, the singing heard through earphones provides listeners an environment of a total complicity with nature.
However, the approximation or the distancing, with respect to truly essential subjects inherent to the human being, are addressed by means of diverse resources in the artists’ proposals that staff the collection How Is the Water? These artists have had the opportunity to comment on part of their work and exchange with the public through the video presented by Arte Continua every Wednesday afternoon.
It is therefore not only a matter to promote knowledge in terms of these art makers, of their art itself; but also a matter to encourage reflections on an existential basis, derived from an element that originates life, which concerns the future of mankind, and the planet where we live on.