Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today - Page 11

Carlos Garaicoa, Balazos y puerta (Shots and Door), detail, 1997–2000 A perture, an essential element in the practice of analog photography, refers to the opening of the lens that regulates the amount of light that enters the camera and inscribes an image on the film. “Apertura,” the equivalent term in Spanish, also means a transition of something from being closed or fixed to a state of openness. When used figuratively, the term describes a sudden desire to embrace change, to accept new ideologies and cultures. Reflecting upon the traditional use of photography, Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today explores the way photography is currently used, understood, and experienced in a culture often portrayed as isolated both politically and geographically. New Cuban photography opens up the imagination, both in terms of what it can now do as a medium, and in its capacity to envision new cultural and political possibilities in a place that feels as though it has been frozen in time. This exhibition brings together photography-based installations, digital photomontage, and “intervened photography” by eight contemporary Cuban artists to examine how photography has changed on the island over the last two decades, and to show how it creates meaning in light of technological, philosophical, and aesthetic changes. The premise of the exhibition is that, in contrast to the highly stylized documentary photography we tend to associate with the early days of the Cuban Revolution, the new Cuban photography aims to shape reality by creating a new language through the combination of expressive artifacts. Now, the printed image plays only a part in a complex, multilayered discursive practice. Through combinations of different images and media and through the displacement of photographic techniques to other senses and materials, new Cuban photography-based art creates an imaginary space of aesthetic openness against what is perceived to be a stagnant political reality. The Cuban Revolution, which saw itself as creating a new, more just society, largely constructed its utopian image on the basis of photography. Soon after they seized power in 1959, Fidel Castro along with Che Guevara and other guerrilla fighters became the exclusive clients of photographers who had had successful careers in advertising in the 1950s. Their carefully constructed images drew on advertising conventions and techniques that emphasized the youthful, irreverent heroism of the new leaders. Showcasing the casual style and the aggressive masculinity of the guerrilla fighters, Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez (known as Korda) (1928–2001), Osvaldo Salas (1914–1992), and Raúl Corrales (1925–2006) created an alluring visual archive of the early 1960s. Combining a euphoric tone with an intimate gaze, their images have had a profound influence on how contemporary artists see Cuba photographically. Even though enthusiasm for the Revolution itself has critically diminished over the years, those photographers created 5