Exhibition CAAM - Los Balcones
Since 29 January 2016 to 22 May 2016
In February of 1975, Herbert Matthews published in The New York Times the first report on the Cuban Revolution, written during guerrilla warfare in the Sierra Maestra, that reached an international readership . It was an article that turned him into a pioneer, as it was the first to voice the West’s fascination with the revolutionary venture and it also launched the revolution’s young leader. The impact of this report took Anthony Depalma to define Matthews as the “man who invented Fidel”.
The truth of the matter, however, was very different, as both the report and the photographs that illustrated it were perfectly in keeping with the plans of a political programme that had espoused a twofold strategy from the outset with a view to history and the image. As a result, the Cuban Revolution never needed a propaganda department because it was always well covered by the world’s media, by Cartier-Bresson and Barbara Walters alike, and by both Time and by CNN. This is not to belittle the large corps of outstanding Cuban photographic reporters, among them (Korda, Corrales, Salas and Noval). The Cuban Revolution was the first of its kind to make extensive use of television and, unlike in other communist countries, photographs rather than huge statues were responsible for spreading the official iconography.
This is the origin of Iconocracy, a model of government which, among its many powers, upheld its imaginary through the photographic image. This in turn explains why later Cuban art felt obliged to vie not only with this visual tradition but also with its mythology, as well a need to get to grips with its aesthetic discourse and legends.
It is this that runs through the Iconocracy exhibition, which brings together Cuban artists from several different generations who, regardless of their biographical, aesthetic and directly political diversity, are in accord in their defiance towards what has been accepted and disseminated as Cuban photography.
This is not to say that the artists featured underestimate the earlier iconography that prevailed in discourses on the Cuban identity. What it does mean is that they have been capable of ingesting that iconography with the firm intent of assembling a diverse imaginary.
Most Cubans alive today became familiar with heroes an superheroes later ?the ocracy before the icon? and this gives them a particular ability when it comes to accepting, rejecting, constructing or reading contemporary images.
Iconocracy refers to a process of construction and critique, of coping and of digestion.The exhibition is posited as a visual essay with five chapters: The water cage / From We to I / No-place-land / Iconophagy / Apotheosis.
Whereas their predecessors in the 1960s succeeded in establishing photography within the tenets of Agitprop, the artists featured in Iconocracy have managed to meld Agitprop into the rules of art. Now that we are well into the 21st century, this is what one would expect of builders of imaginaries called on to convey something more than the bright light of a flash in this Era of the Image.
Iván de la Nuez
Exhibition title: Iconocracy
Dates: 29.01.2016 to 22.05.2016
Place: CAAM - Los Balcones
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Spain.