The visual poetry displayed by the creative group The Merger has always distinguished by its highly sophisticated craftsmanship, the use of engineering and design among its tricks, as well as the use of industrial materials of gelid heart. Concerning the discourse of their creations, eventually cynicism, the main voice they use, turns into apocalyptic speculations under the burden of their really seductive severity and soberness. It is impossible to witness their efforts without remembering the great Duchamp, Russian constructivism, the disturbing futurist artists, the European avant-garde of the 30’s and 40’s of the last century, minimal art, conceptualism, kinetic art and simulationism of the 90’s. Regarding quotation and paroxysm, those utopic ideals of redemption of mankind due to the power of machines, as well as the anxiety that always accompanies the threatening dehumanization of Western civilization, are still alive in the symbolic structure of their artworks. The Merger builds fresh comments for those tight bends of the unfinished story between life and art.
However, their most recent exhibition at the face-lifted Collage Habana’s gallery is not only remarkable because of the coherence and simplicity of the curatorial exercise that lies behind it, but also due to the grandiloquent tone reached by the artworks this time. Supernova, a waterwheel of fatidic turns, is moved by the force of waste. The towers of oil extraction that show their silhouettes in this sort of “metamechanic sculpture”1 match with the cruelest reality of globalization and human condition. Likewise, the unstoppable movement that subdues this device denotes the already uncontrollable nature of the habits of collective consumerism that characterizes postindustrial society.
With this artwork, The Merger announces the sudden risk of death: a supernova is no more than a completely exhausted planet that will pass away in a fantastic explosion. The critical gesture that lies behind this image becomes still sharper in the watercolor that works as a previous visual project. In Duchamp tenía la razón (Duchamp was right), the supernova turns over a stool due to the action of an uncertain and uncontrollable device, just as that famous bicycle wheel used to do it due to gravity, that one that inaugurated the age of irony for art and Western culture in the second decade of last century. Supernova may be considered then as a legitimate sign of our present, which lies upon the already acclaimed paradigms of current visual arts and thinking.
Death is a topic affected by the discourse that lies behind this image, not associated to forms of explicit violence, but to the self-destruction and unconsciousness that transcend all forms of automatism. Before this artistic gesture, the memory of those damn useless machines that Jean Tinguely built publically as gruesome performances arouses. Those ones kept a close relation with the utopia of change: Tinguely made his machines explode in spectacular ways, as if they were carnival attractions and so they showed in a sublime way the possibility of death of all sorts of life advocated by men. Then, after the tortuous and fantastic event, normality was reactivated with a certainty in life and its possibilities, nowadays unworthy. On the other hand, The Merger’s Supernova represents threat itself and its eternally perturbing persistence, only by announcing the fatal eclipse. The redemptive utopia of the unsuspecting mankind vanishes, and there is only cynicism in its place, which is an unmistakable façade for an absolute pessimism.
Supernova does not take part of the Dionysian breath of Carl Grosberg’s Yellow Caldron or Francis Picabia’s gallant Love Stop. This machine is no longer that source of uncertainty and desire that those other artworks used to be. Supernova is the invariable tale of a visceral exhaustion of human nature, the chronicle of an announced death.
On the other hand, Occidentalizar (Westernizing), attacks the project of enlightened modernity we all still carry on our shoulders, as well as some of its consecrated apothems. It recreates a multiple and threatening skyline: it is the cold shell of concrete that we have placed over the skin of the world with a hard effort; the tale of civilization and death that follows human arrogance and its collective history. It is, to a great extent, the sketch of a massively shared paradigm of collective life: urbanity, civic-spiritedness, the urgency of building absolute centers to the universe.
The artwork represents the act of construction in the making, parting from whose processes, the empty shells of global culture settle, with the strength of tsunami, on the weightless surface of the Earth. So it reactivates a topic that has become a myth of nowadays thinking: the overcoming or recycling of industrial modernity and its ideals in current man’s behavior. Is it possible that the quality of horizon and expectation concerning the modern project of rationalization of knowledge has not yet expired and it is still latent in this empire of arrogance we inhabit? Perhaps the punishment for trying to touch the sky with terrible and pretentious towers has still some disasters to announce. In the same way, the disturbingly seductive nature of this metallic landscape discovers our vulnerability before the fantastic deployment of power, boastfulness and entropy.
However, it is not the reflection itself about the working of modernity’s enlightened project in the immediate present the doubt that The Merger intents to make transparent through this artwork. Actually, that is surreptitious; such a reflection appears as a premonition out of time, out of set in the historical framework, lying in wait. It leaves behind the sketch of an anxiety ever more adjacent, the sudden welcome the world gives to the until now marginalized Key of the Gulf; the effective introduction of Cuba in the reductive logic of neoliberal globalization and in the game of mega culture; the definitive avalanche of empty paradigms and the idolatry of presumptions and mirrors. This is the holocaustic profile of an eternally desired synchrony between the insular drowsiness and the quick beating of the world.
The discursive procedure of this artistic group is due almost entirely to the practice of a clear skepticism. And as Andrea Huyssen said: “cynicism and utopia, skepticism and utopia are far from being mutually exclusive”2 in the system of thought, culture and contemporary social sciences. This attitude is part of a historicist will that turns from canonic into apocalyptic and is eventually dyed with deconstructive shades. Full of pessimism, it subsumes very risky narrations of global order to the tale of decadence that reaches visibility and attention at the incredibly narrow alley of contemporary art.
On the other hand, concerning the procedure, their artistic practice constitutes an indisputable testimony of the dilation that is starting to be evident regarding its conceptual axioms in recent years. The optimums character of the artistic finish along with the habitual use materials of industrial origin, as well as the careful instrumentation of design and engineering in the confection of artistic products evidently tridimensional, fit with an eminently conceptualist labor, where the procedure, acclaimed in the eminence of the project and its images, is completely consummated. Between installation and sculpture a third dimension is cooked: the vivid and direct experience of the audience, its active participation, the perception as another variable to be renewed, and more recently, the movement, proclaim the need of creating new concepts to establish the space occupied by the mechanical production of these taciturn experts.
–Luis Enrique Padrón
1. This is the name Jean Tinguely used to legitimize his artistic machines, which were honorable because of being useless, as well as due to their contribution to a non-monumentalizing dehumanization.
2. Andreas Huyssen, “Memorias de utopía,” en Diario de Poesía Hílenos Aires, 1995.