Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today - Page 23

It is difficult for photography, more than any other media, to represent what is not there. than fifteen minutes. The narrative, which lends voice to Maceo’s perspective and privileges sensations and emotions, is novelistic in tone, vividly recounting the obstacles encountered as well as the emotions associated with different stages of the event, ranging from doubt and passion to heroism. Most of all, it describes a bloody scene that cannot be imagined by looking at the photograph alone. What originally struck Novo was the fact that there is no sign to commemorate what happened: the historic site has become pure geography. That is what the photograph shows, or rather fails to show, and what the text is there to provide. In fact, the text is more than a substitute for a commemorative plaque. It fills the visual silence of the image and humanizes the place. It superimposes on the photograph the sensorial experience and the emotions of the battle. The text is there to do what the photograph cannot. In this piece, text and photograph work antithetically: the text visualizes what the image can’t. The narrative accomplishes an act of communication that the visual image is incapable of accomplishing. It is difficult for photography, more than any other media, to represent what is not there. Writing, a less referential medium, helps make the absence of memory noticeable. When seen together, the image speaks of a void, of an absence of signs, whereas the text visualizes the carnage. But this operation communicates more than the experience of the war alone since it also shows an attitude of neglect and forgetfulness in the way the battlefield has been abandoned to the passage of time. For Novo, Sólo la tierra perdura is a counterpoint between word and image. In other words, it is not only the combination of the two media that create meaning but, rather the distance that separates them. The vitality of the piece results from the juxtaposition of different languages whose meaning resides in the invisible threads of comparative perception that suture the photograph to the written word. The text closes with a vivid description of the carnage that resulted from the battle: machetes have ferociously cut up bodies; the pasture has changed color and texture; the road is now paved with blood. This description can be interpreted as the photograph that could have been taken on December 15, 1895, but was not. The text is a photograph made of words. 17