The story is just a narration. Its effectiveness depends on the implied veracity in the story, on the empathy involved in the development of the facts and the emotionality of the argument. The story is a narration that catches human credulity by surprise and assaults it at first. But, for all this, it requires the deployment of forces, as the presence and testimony, which hold absolute truth.
The most recent exhibition deployed in Factoría Habana from Concha Fontenla and Luis Ramírez’s hands is about the life and work of the interior designer Clara Porset and her presence in Cuba. Beyond that basic thematic focus, the exhibition develops, subliminally, on the meaning of history and strategies that are inherent. The topics, immanence and footprint, complement each other in an inaccurate chronology of cultural texts rather than dates. The exhibition is partly done in a clear attempt to legitimize.
If we assume the title of the exhibition, we will focus on the fact that from the beginning is declared the dissolution of the figure of attention and the express attempt to redress the memory of its presence in the cultural history of the Island. El eterno retorno (The eternal return) carries out a trip in which the possibility of return is irresolute, expresses laxity caused by the absence, at the end.
Since the first goal of this exhibition is to place Clara Porset’s presence in the past, highlighting her contributions to Cuban culture, the curatorial work synthesizes the first term of this equation in one of its possible metonymic figures, history –more exactly, areas of official speech of history that were assisted by that personality– and the second term, also in an elementary metonymic figure, the work for life. However, the attempt of structuring that subdues these two terms is not aimed at repealing the fragmentary character that defines the facts; on the contrary, it enthrones it within the ordering strategies implemented. Thus, a course stays structured in which a series of micro texts –photographs, furniture, and fragments of ideas and personal pronouncements– argue, on the one hand, the stamp of the relevant Cuban designer and on the other, the chances of renewed veracity account of history. Nevertheless, and here the greatest risk of the exhibit lies, the need of legitimizing Porset’s work seems to dissolve working only as a pretext to actually affect the story that works as a counterpart, as such. So, we already know the erotic dimension that it acquires in the field of cultural analysis of the contemporary Cuba.
However, it is enlightening the fact that the past area affected in the narration exercised in this exhibition, it is that one which is understood by the fifties and sixties of the previous century. That time, divided by the watershed of the revolutionary triumph is the mythological basis of the projected image of Cuba for more than fifty years towards the world. In the same text, the image of spectacular society highly seductive, hot and tropical, elegant and idle merges triggered by the modernization project of the republican Cuba in its stage of final peak on one hand; and, the virile and almost erotic, imposing, cosmopolitan, proud, and stoic image of the socialist Cuba, on the other hand. The temporary lapse occupied by these two historical decades is projected as the palimpsest of both imaginaries and their bullets, a sort of symbolic stronghold of the Golden Age from the past to the present. Nobody knows that those decades are for the United States the lost object of desire and, by transitivity, Europe is also involved in that red nostalgia.
Clara Posert’s life and work defined from her relation to Cuba has served as an excellent opportunity to recreate the grand sense of those lustrous years. All this in a vigorous simulacrum after which we suffer from deceit of a meticulously structured narrative, unaware of the lack of referents affected in its diegesis.
In Frederick Jameson’s words the speech of fascination about history is in short an aesthetic colonization of the past degraded in its multi-textual quality. This kind of stylistic recovery is part of a desperate attempt to place all those experiences or memories that are beyond individual existential memory. It is also a gesture of false historicity that has as a further outcome the transmission of the past from the glossy qualities of the image and atmosphere that correspond to an imaginary level.
This particular way of interacting with historical memory accused of programmatic falseness is a symptom of the decline of our historicity, as Jameson warns, and our vital chance to experience it actively. Undoubtedly, what is really at stake in the immediate present is our inability to generate representations of our own current existence. Before it, we go to the past and the imaginary building its satiny texture.
Thus, this sort of false historicity generates a pop nomenclature story, Jameson says, where the promptness of a historical past that at some point may have been present is void in a body of facts that are beyond our reach. So our experience and our cultural languages evade the spell of the categories of time to be led by the space.
According to this, Clara’s eternal return is also the legitimacy of the fixity of that glorious segment of our national history in the image that defines us before the world. The reminder of those times, given from atmospheres of furniture of unmistakable style, photographs unimagined for the avid eye of society, of the reference to architectural bodies of great sociocultural importance, is this time a narrative unfolding that is strange to the use of stereotypes, monuments and megalomaniacs impulses. It is a refined prefiguration excessively stylized of appearances that on the face of our culture get ready. It is also an empty space, though apparently occupied. It is a starting point for the journey which involves our future, because the eternity of the return also announces the readiness of persistence.
Undoubtedly Clara Porset is part of the magnificent story that about the Cuban decades of fifty and sixty is recently consumed worldwide. The regal and elegant character of her creations is familiar to the feeling of time that we project today about the memories of those years. It is ultimately plausible, the attempt to encompass that area so controversial of our history as a modern nation by means of building a space beyond temporary placement, all doctrinaire bias or stigmatizing and all patriotic impetus. It is besides a necessary act of ubiquity.
–Luis Enrique Padrón