The Mask: Utopia and Ideology

Flash Art International
Eugenio Valdés Figueroa
January – February 1997

From: Valdés Figueroa, Eugenio. “Art in Cuba. The Mask: Utopia and Ideology,” Flash Art, vol. XXX, no. 192. Jan-Feb, 1997.

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Art in Cuba, The Mask: Utopia and Ideaology

Eugenio Valdés Figueroa

This is what distinguishes Gomez’s work from other Cuban artists such as Alexis Leyva (Kcho) or Tania Bruguera, who concern themselves with the ____ of mythological objects. For Kcho and Bruguera the mythology of the object — be it a raft or an artifact conceived as a means of flight — is rooted in the stratagem of escape. It has always been man’s dream to live on though the objects he makes and to fabricate his own transcendency in a bid to resolve his own finiteness in the fatal cycle of birth and death. Many of Kcho and Bruguera objects cast doubts on the idea of perpetuity. Kcho’s boats made from dead, recycled materials are, in appearance, ruinous and brittle, and useless for the purpose of sailing. The same applies to the contraptions concocted by Bruguera paradoxically entitled Dédalo or Imperio de Salvacíon (Empire of Salvation). All of these artifacts have been created with the individual’s escape from his own labyrinth in mind: the same objects however, constitute a trap. They have all been exhibited indiscriminately by the artist as autonomous pieces or as part of performances aimed at highlighting messages. According to Bruguera: “The object is animated only when the individual wearing it activates the necessary mechanisms. In this sense, it ends up as part of the body. It’s anthropological character is reinforced by the organic way in which it is inactive, terminal object as a dead, aesthetic, museum-bound thing… a sign. Elsewhere, In Ilusíon (Illusion), the pedals can only be turned with arms raised and fists clenched in an obvious gesture of protest. And so it goes on…“In this sense, the subject endows the object with meaning while his gestures add to the symbolic structure of the work. The material and the symbol — the very supports of transcendentalist vanguard discourse — are plunged into crisis by these artists’ work by means of a conflict between an awareness of mortality and an aspiration to eternity.