Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today - Page 16

group of photographs is organized as a whole. Even though the photographic object is still thought of as the print that emerges from a darkroom, it has also become a much more malleable object and a collectible piece. As art critic Rosalind Krauss points out, a photograph changes its function and meaning according to the discursive space it occupies.11 Be it casual, intuitive or conceptual, the contextualization generated by the space that houses a given image (the museum, a wall in the family house, the newspaper) attributes to each image a specific genre (art piece, family photo, war image, etc.). The conditions of production and presentation of a photograph dictate its proper use and establish a specific “grammar” of signification. If what we say can never be completely separated from how we say it, the change of language in new photography-based art necessarily means a change of conversation. This exhibition features art that significantly manipulates the photographic image at any of its production stages, altering at least one of the medium’s basic premises: bi-dimensionality, co-presence of subject and object, the fact that it is printed on paper or other surface. We find collages that use fragments of old photographs, objects composed of piles of photographs, juxtaposed or superimposed photographs, all of which create the illusion of seeing time unfold in a single surface. Sometimes artists change the material condition of a photograph by printing images on material other than paper or by displacing the visual aspect of photography to other senses. By transcending the original, constitutive premises of the medium, any contemporary photograph is an invitation to ponder what it means to create, print, and look at a given image. In all these cases, photography is doing something new while commenting 10 on the possibilities of photography to speak otherwise. Apertura engages with photography in this new self-reflexive moment. In order to interpret a photograph, we need to understand the context of both its production and its exhibition. What a photograph says will depend on the objects that surround it, the objects it depicts, and the ones it evokes; it will depend on additional objects or signs, be it duplication, fragmentation, proliferation, displacement, or the addition of drawings and text. When looking at these images, we see a window into the difficult conditions of Cuba as an embargoed island, and as a prisoner of its own history. We also see that something has been broken on the surface of things. Representation is no longer whole. The pieces included suggest a new permeability in the definition of today’s photography, and an invitation for artists to explore alternative forms of saying things with and through optically captured and recorded images. Today’s Cuba, which combines highly trained artists with complicated conditions of art production, offers a perfect laboratory for finding new forms of creating art. One could say that photography-based art emulates the survival practices of Cuba’s Special Period, when essential objects had to be recreated through unexpected substitutions and esoteric combinations. As tools broke down and goods disappeared from markets, Cubans had to find creative ways to make dubious approximations of everyday items with materials borrowed from unlikely sources. In Cuba, then, the experience of the Special Period gives an additional layer of self-reflection to today’s photography. Like Cuba in the 1990s, photography itself is undergoing its own “special period,” one in which art objects are created through unexpected replacements, and the combination of apparently