Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today - Page 24

Doors in Angel Delgado and Rafael Villares Angel Delgado (b. 1965) refers to the images in his series Límite continuo (p. 24) as “intervened photographs.” These are photographs depicting chains, locks, and barbed wire, printed on cloth, to which Delgado adds a drawing in wax pencil. The photograph is both the central piece “intervened” by the drawing, and the context or setting for a small sketch of a human figure lost in a Kafkaesque maze. The images suggest an array of emotions, ranging from the feeling of isolation to the idea of living in a politically or existentially besieged state or in a state of suspension between carefully guarded borders. The title Límite continuo (p. 24) which can be translated as “continuous limit,” reminds us of the impermeability of Cuba, an island that is embargoed both from within and from without. It can also and more generally speak of the loneliness of modern man. The human figure, drawn in wax pencil and embedded in a photograph of barbed wire and giant locks, is almost abstract: a solitary man who waits, or remains trapped, in an inexplicable world. The photographic elements in the work are traditional: an image captured by a lens and printed on a sensitive surface; in this case, a canvas. Yet, the drawing embedded in the picture frame produces the effect of breaking or “intervening” in the photographic medium. The work superimposes not only two artistic languages—painting and photography—but two levels of interpretation, creating a story when the human figure intervenes in the landscape and serves as mark or index of subjectivity, however vague, in the otherwise dehumanized scene. The human figure, 18 moreover, is all the more powerful in its neutral, generic appearance since it invites a multitude of identifications. Photography and drawing together point to human patience, or despair, in an impossible, unnerving, perpetual state of siege. While Angel Delgado works with padlocks, Rafael Villares (b. 1989) works with imaginary doors. Villares’ process of composition follows three steps: first, he photographs well-known Havana landscapes such as the Malecón, the Focsa building, the Hotel Nacional, and the Habana Libre Hotel. The artist includes himself in a position that suggests that he is manually painting doors in the air. Finally, he digitally adds doors. The series is called Finisterre (p. 47), a title that only obliquely suggests the disconnection from the world about which the images so powerfully speak. Like the images created by Delgad o, Villares’ suggest that enclosure is a perpetual state that can only be transcended by magical or digital means. Though virtual, the door on the Malecón, an esplanade and seawall that follows the contour of the island, is a testimonial element: it attests to the fantasy of exit, of leaving and returning freely (the images are from 2005, when exit visas were required for Cuban citizens and were often denied), or even the fantasy of canceling out the geographical and/ or political insularity. Similarly, the door that opens to the Habana Libre (Free Havana) hotel seems like a joke: if you open the door, what you find is a free Havana. Or it discusses perhaps an internal frontier posed by the double economy that gives rights to tourists to enjoy spaces that are not available to most Cuban citizens. The double economy separates those citizens who receive remesas (remittances)