Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today - Page 22

that is by creating concepts on the basis of unexpected combinations. In Fragmented City, small, irregular towers made of cut-up old photographs suggest the existence of a mass of human beings, disconnected from each other and from themselves, in a way that reminds us of the fact that we can never know the large majority of people who live in our own cities. That is, the true texture of a modern city is made of affective and physical connections, but mostly disconnections. At another level, Fragmented City underlines the notion that modern cities fail to provide the sense of community that human beings long for. In the case of Cuba in particular, the promise of community was somewhat tied to the idea of a more organic and just society that would be brought by the Communist revolution, a promise that, according to most critics, was not fulfilled. Atados 2 consists of small bundles made up of old postcards and letters precariously tied up with a simple ribbon. The pieces evoke notions of private feelings and family memories. They speak of travel but also of exile, and of the work of memory done at the family level when a member takes it upon him or herself to organize, preserve, and cherish the visual residues of the family history. Part of the mystery and the beauty of these pieces are provided by their form; these letters and photographs are piled up and tied up, and we cannot see their individual content. In their compactness, they represent the peculiarity of private memories—that is, that they only make sense to those who know about the content. For outsiders, however, there is no meaning other than the idea of memories, and an invitation to reflect on the fragile vessels in which they travel. In contrast with the private memories of Atados 2, A la sombra de los maestros ingeniously speaks of a collective 16 artistic conscience made up by centuries of European art. Our sensibilities have been shaped by those masters and the way we create or understand art is inevitably conditioned by those images that populate our aesthetic unconscious. Tradition both shelters and confines us. Ultimately, the umbrellas in A la sombra de los maestros, like the rest of Fors’ art, are meta-curatorial in the sense that they reflect on how much meaning is produced in the process of selecting, interpreting and “staging” a museum piece. Reynier Leyva Novo and Silence Reynier Leyva Novo’s (b. 1983) installations usually reflect on Cuban history through a variety of media such as battle inspired perfumes, tea prints made of dried flowers, and puzzles that reconstruct maps of the battle of Dos Ríos, where poet José Martí died in 1895.14 Novo’s piece in this exhibition, the 2013 installation Sólo la tierra perdura (La Batalla del Mal Tiempo) (Only the Land Endures [The Battle of Mal Tiempo]) (p. 41), juxtaposes a large photograph and a text. The photograph shows a landscape: green pastures topped by a few clouds on a bright blue sky. While the image gives us very few clues as to how to interpret the image, the title is more eloquent. Sólo la tierra perdura is about erasure and the loss of historical memory. To the side of the photograph is a text in Spanish followed by the English translation. The words offer a vivid account of the battle of Mal Tiempo, one of the most significant battles of the Cuban war of independence at which an army led by Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo used machetes to kill several hundred Spanish royalist soldiers in less