Nobody doubts of the omnipotent power of the Sacred Scriptures. It is assumed with respect that God’s legacy to men, and the full history of mankind, is condensed in them. They have been even provided with a messianic character: The Bible is, definitely, the divine word. However, it is worth the doubt: Very few remember that this text is just the version of the possible facts, a wise choice that grants the owners of the power of writing with a voice. And, where is the rest of this story? The Bible is a sacred attempt of cognitive ruling and the first victim of the western culture’s self-destruction.
In a gospel lost in orality, this story has been consigned: On the twenty seventh day of the second month after the flood, Good called Noah and warned him: The Man is already mortal; from now on he will live only one hundred and twenty years, and he will feel nostalgia for the past when he finds out that he no longer has control over time. I will give him memory, so that he never forgets what he has done on Earth. And he will proudly tell his children how he has managed to become what he is, and his children to their children. That story will be called history.
Moreover, he added: remember that men’s history cannot be everlasting, because his presence on Earth is not either. If my authority is challenged, I will remember again how men became evil when he was eternal and I will make him blind. I will take from him, not the years, but the memory of the years and the times. Remember it very well, Noah, and remind your children so that they never forget. “It was in this way that God talked to Noah.” Noah rushed to write everything the Lord indicated him to do so that he never forgot. That’s how History was born, and with the immortality of such writings, the challenge to God’s word as well.
Dark zones within official discourse, first evidence that man has been playing with history and challenging the totality of God’s word for thousands of years.
The exhibition Don’t Play with History, by young artist Hander Lara, is placed facing these matters: the challenge to the divine word, the human blindness, and the power of writings; the authority of the letter in the construction of mankind’s historical tale, that is, the collateral effects of the instrumentation of reason and knowledge.
In this occasion, the artist is presenting a group of canvases in which, by evading figuration, he finds supports in writing and, more exactly, in its calligraphic traces. The text “Don’t play with history” has been subjected to an abstraction process that, far from emptying from its multiple communicative connotations, has transformed it in a reduced image container. Lara has stated it: his work is primarily an exercise of visual condensation. Consequently, he employs graphic design to invoke, in each piece, an expressive synthesis that reminds of the American conceptualism and minimalism. He makes allusion to, suggests, reminds, and even disturbs. Don’t Play with History, from the subtle superficiality of its structure, is a Pandora box waiting to be opened.
Lara’s attitude appears to be iconoclastic, for it decentres the supremacy of the image and substitutes it by the written word. This rhetorical gesture is not subversive, since Lara does not question the validity of the imaginary process in the construction of western culture; it is rather the other way around. Together with the characters that are part of his moral claim –the text Don’t play with history–, we can find enlisted strings –graphic elements that accompany each composition’s typographic design– that challenge the audience to explain themselves, by means of visual memory and historical experience, the empathy with each of these pieces. He has defragmented the imaginary bases of human history so as to create new icons with the remains of it. There are no trace of anecdotes in this operatory: Coca-Cola, University Sports Propaganda, The Coram, The Sacred Scriptures, the Japanese Flag, the emblems of the countercultural movement of the 1960s, the car’s brand Chevrolet, the Russian communism, Piet Mondrian’s neo-plasticism, the westerns, video games, among others, are suggested, but not represented. The referent has been manipulated through an almost archaeological process of reconstruction and visual and symbolic synthesis, one that does not intend to restore the dissected cultural text, but those communicative strategies that are instituted behind it. His discursive interest is the deconstruction of the tactics used by today’s man to relate with is historical past, assume his present, and envision the future.
As a result, his artistic gesture is initiated with a severe warning, the same way God did with Noah at the beginning of times: human blindness is merely a visual analgesia that prevents the adequate apprehension of the world in its phenomenological totality. In order to further explain his thesis to us, he uses the motive that constitutes the cause and the victim: culture. In today’s society, where technology and communication have rearranged the planet’s physical limits and transformed human experience, culture has been granted other roles. This is essentially due to the fact that the “(…) communication’s technological mediation has stopped being purely instrumental to (…) turn more dense and become structural (…).”1 In other words, the technological revolution mankind is living today institutes no longer the use of other machines, but of new ways of perceiving the world and verbalize it according to the development conquered: new sensitivities and writings. In tune with that, there is also a modification of “(…) what distinguishes our species as a biological rarity, its ability to process symbols”2 and to produce culture.
Therefore, the fragmentation of the human experience in its attempt to rationalize the world, and the flow of images that attack it daily from this planet’s visual platform, have transformed culture into a sensorium. Interconnection, (de) anchoring, ambiguity, will be its structural principles. In the end, a cartographic possibility in which not a few coordinates are undone.
Lara’s pieces emerge from that rearranged universe, participate in its newly created ways of writing, and feign to be participants in that new sensitivity that many applaud. However, it goes beyond that, it denounces such mutations. This exhibition, as a whole, is the rehearsal of a micro sensorium in which cultural references are intertwined weaving a steam cloud that is impossible to seize. Consequently, it generates sensitive, rationalizing, and even cognitive instability; it represents the forms in which men has appropriated and recreated the world. He chooses history as a metonymical motive that represents legacy, symbol in itself, future and past, creation, ubiquity, humanity, culture. God chose the man and gave him, not the years, but the memory of the years. He provided him with, not the Earth, not even the control over it, but the overwhelming feeling of possessing it.
On the other hand, Don’t Play with History alters other reflection fields: firstly, the partiality of the historical narration of mankind’s past, a seemingly universal question; secondly, the benefit of the doubt about the expensive comments on the Cuban nation’s project.
In the current cultural panorama, decentralization and deconstructive perspectives are common. History or the discourse of it mankind has consumed and affirmed since the methodical, encyclopaedic, and rationalizing Illuminism took the Earth do not escape from it. Hander Lara joins this almost symptomatic effort of global culture and declares, with this exhibition, that history is experience, memory, and inheritance. Western modernity’s encyclopaedic knowledge establishes that history was born with writing, cataloguing its precedents as prehistory. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that history is a tale that is alive, it is sensitive experience, socially shared recreation, first through orality and then from the functioning of social imaginaries. Writing, on its side, constitutes the voice, not of the historical narration, but of one of its multiple possibilities, only one version among so many others. And only the one that conquers makes history, that is, the one who possesses, among other things, the privileged access to writing. In the end, literal description annuls narration’s vitality: its multiplicity; mortal game, unexpected dagger. And the modern man, convalescent of a visual and cognitive analgesia drinks from the past, assuming it as text, and supressing its empirical intensity.
Hander Lara denounces such a stripping of the senses, warning that history has been depreciated, like a dead body, in its big meta-narration –like an uncomfortable coffin. History is not science, but experience. This is the emphatic statement we receive from the exhibition Don’t Play with History.
Now, his work does not sacrifice the shadow on the floor, among many other ontological and universal reflections. Its dialogue with the present is essential. Don’t Play with History is also the claim of the whole nation that, in only a few days, has been displaced amidst an unarticulated forces’ field. Power has involuntarily shown the rules of its game, or rather manipulation. Once again it is clear that there are, with regards to the past, two tales: history, narrated and written by the authority; and history, not forgiving insults, mutilations, challenges, and that waits patiently its time for justice. This is the one Hander Lara defends, and the one that is today ambushing the “omnipotent” domain of writing; that is the history future is predicting.
God told Noah before departing: I confess, Noah, that you will not find the future ahead, but behind your steps. Hence, assume your past memories, cuddle them and, in this way, from such warmth, the future of your species will be born.