Cuba and The Godfather
Back in 1974, you might have watched The Godfather (II), and thought it impossible to make a sequel that was even better. You might not have been aware of it, but after The Godfather, all gangsters, hooligans, and despots began imitating Mario Puzo’s characters. Even I did. I once had plans to lay my bleeding dog Enzo on my bed, just to scare the hell out of my family. I had no good reason for wanting to kill my dog or lay him in my bed, I was a child, and such an act would naturally have been entirely pointless. I loved Enzo, and my urge simply had to do with a desire to imitate the scene where the gangsters kill that beautiful horse and place its head in the bed next to the owner. I remember the blood, I remember the horror.
I was born in 1982, and therefore didn’t see the film in 1974, but much later. At some point, I realised that my admiration for gangsters and power didn’t stem from The Godfather, but rather, from Cuba.
The Cuban Golden Age
Cuba found itself in a very peculiar state in the ’70s. Communism was reinforced on several levels. Cuba was in the process of creating its own national identity visa vis the world with the aid of its leaders, industries and its own strain of philosophical reasoning. Due to a feeling of growth and progress, the Cuban people started developing a crazy euphoria, and subsequently, a penchant for utopias. Cubans started making their presence known on the International arenas of sports, culture and politics. The sense that we were becoming bigger and better became all the more apparent. We thought we could achieve anything. I use the term we, despite the fact that I wasn’t even born in the ’70s, but this attitude courses through my veins nonetheless. We experienced the feeling of being able to conquer the world, and in Cuba we created the most peculiar place ever known to man, a place built on utopias, and this is what I refer to as The Cuban Golden Age. It is the euphoric escape from reality, where people started to strive for different utopias and dreams to achieve an alternative world in Cuba. Once again, an absurdity in the absurd. The people didn’t support a political experiment, instead they strived towards an ideal, a sentiment, a dream – perhaps even a real dream.
The Theatre in the Family
A special place or space that I find truly seductive is the heterotopia. It develops on a parallel trajectory to the utopia, but while utopias include a strain of perfection, no such thing is present in a heterotopia. The term heterotopia means “other places”, literally. Heterotopias are places with special rules that provide them with a certain degree of autonomy. None of what happens there would be understandable in another context. Examples of such places include cemeteries, psychiatric hospitals, the theatre, the cinema, the garden. There are two places in this regard that are especially interesting in my opinion: the theatre and the family, because certain families can transform into heterotopias (through theatre).
In my work, I try to examine the parallel side of the utopia as expressed in my society. A dark side of humanity (dark in the sense of unenlightened, unexamined or occult), of which the central axis is Cuban society.
Since 1959, the driving force of the Cuban society has been its Revolution. That same driving force that split society in two parts: the one that supported the Revolution, and the other one opposing it. All opposition has been punishable by law since the beginning. Its existence has been denied, and its activities undermined, and it has therefore not been allowed to grow in strength. But the most interesting aspect of this struggle is how the people themselves began to embrace the notion that only the one side existed.
Until now, that which the Cuban people have been trying to create is the ultimate utopia: to need only one word, only one idea, only one opinion, only one ideology. How is it possible for nine million people to reach consensus? The fundamental idea that succeeded in transforming the entire nation into a heterotopia was the notion of equality. Something that is impossible to achieve between two people was implemented in the country as an obligation. This is how the country was transformed into a heterotopia, where the family constituted the structure that supported it.
The main experiment was initiated in the homes. Parents taught their children something difficult to explain, something difficult to understand: The Cuban Revolution. Everything that had occurred as a result of the Revolution was described as “good”, no follow-up questions were allowed, and there was never the slightest doubt regarding the system.
The theatre is a heterotopia with a particular set of possibilities. It is a place where you have to “accept” everything that takes place, as conventions dictate your feelings with regard to this parallel reality. Everything that takes place in the theatre is “real”, while at the same time, the theatre always leaves a window open, offering the possibility to say, “this is not reality, this is only a simulation, it’s just acting, merely a play”. This trick is an anaesthesia of sorts. The possibility of standing in front of a simulation gives us the means to endure all the pain emanating from the stage. At the same time, the theatre reminds us that we ourselves also pretend, at least once a day.
Time and Space – a Trap
I come from a place where time is worth very little. Life overestimates time, but I come from a place where the tourists are offered time in exchange for a story, an anecdote about what goes on “outside” the real world. My country has made a pact with the devil, and I was taught that time is only tangible when you forget it. If you see yourself as being completely aware of the time you consume, as much time as you want, and all the time you need, then you are nothing but a hostage. You are imprisoned in an idea, in a feeling of mobility, which is in fact a lie; not because this mobility doesn’t exist, but because we do not move the way we think we do, we do not move the way we feel that we do; this becomes apparent when your body informs you of who is moving with you.
“The Species of Spaces” by George Perec opens a door. And to the extent that this door is useful at all, I would say that its purpose is to have us reflect a little more on the space that we occupy in this universe.
The relationship between time and space is a trap. It’s like that book that everyone talks about, but that no one has read. The relationship is far too heart-wrenching. Space is something that someone has already delimited, structured and perhaps even managed to canonise.
A Radial Understanding of Time
I am sometimes asked why I never write a date on my paintings. This has to do with the fact that I can’t perceive time as linear. I believe that my universe and time is instead cyclical. I feel that I am constantly moving, but in actual fact, the consequences of my movements are a radial phenomena. I stand in the middle, with my ideas, monologues and my sense of foreboding. Surrounding me are all my intentions, my memories, and my art. It makes no difference whether I start a painting in the year 2000 and complete it in 2002, it makes no difference whether people demand a date, a number marked on the backside of the canvas, it makes no difference whether you can remember what you were feeling when you made the painting or not, at the end it belongs to you and it moves with you. I visualise time through a radial structure that keeps me from speaking of the past in a chronological order.
Choose Your Name
To have. It’s as though this word possesses a power of its own, as though one can sense the emergence of an impending, absolute truth, more than a mere intention.
What would happen if I stopped naming my works? Someone names us when we are born, and we then become aware of the fact that the people in front of us are our parents, our family. After a long sequence of events, we eventually become aware that we, in fact, choose virtually nothing in our lives.
Imagine yourself, at the age of ten, deciding what your name should be. Imagine that you could sense the name you bear inside of you, that you could say: “I feel that my real name is Yorjander”, or even better, “I feel like a Yorjander”, without having to explain yourself in depth.
Because of the accumulation process of experiences we live in, each act, every artwork exerts a future influence and affects past occurrences. And subsequently, the artworks speak, the objects speak, the dead speak, but you have to be perceptive. That is how I handle the artwork as space; I let it utter its name, and I allow it to show me all that it has amassed over time. When the artwork ceases to be yours, it says its name, it explains its significance, and at the same time, dictates the next work. I can swear to you that my latest piece does not stem from my own ideas, but rather from the piece preceding it.
I almost always imagine the artwork as an autonomous space, a space in itself that eventually merges together with the possibility of revealing its true intentions, at times in opposition to my own intentions. That is the mystery of art, the artwork is a living space, with time as its catalyst, that directs and dictates all that takes place.
The Heterotopia of the Body
I find it extremely frustrating that we seem to talk about the exact same thing our whole lives. The creative process is no more than a circular sequence of obstructions; you have to overcome them time and time again.
You remain in the same place, like the needle on a vinyl record getting stuck in the same groove over and over again. It’s as though fleeing from the ever-recurring issues that appear to have been formulated in the past. Every inner space is a heterotopia. Every person has an inner theatre, where everything that happens should be accepted; that is why conventions exist. Each individual body is a performance, a fictional narrative, the perfect place for your own rules, your own republic.
The body stores and spreads its messages through pain, and when you don’t notice it, the pain is directed inwards, against yourself. The body turns against you with every passing second, because it’s a rebel, because it was born a slave of consciousness.
Monologue From an Empty House
Following hours of inner dialogues, I try to smoke a cigarette. I am unsuccessful, because I have none, I’ve quit smoking. I should stop observing my paintings, but they help me achieve an awareness of my own crisis. Talking to myself about all of this feels like torture. Fortunately, the nightmare is over, and I try to keep my creative soul intact. I’m like a hit-man; I’m not interested in your reasons, just tell me who you want me to kill. Everything has been much more enjoyable today, I have been my own victim – once again. In the end, I always reach the same conclusion; everything is a lie. The hour is late. I eventually catch sight of a cigarette from my bed, but I don’t smoke it. This, at any rate, would appear to be a truth.