The art of Rene Francisco Rodríguez has always had the suggestive power of metaphor and ambiguity. In his work there is no closed speech, since the participative interpretation of the viewer seems to be as important as the creative act. Even more, it could be said that it is part of the work itself, what is inherent to contemporary art. Inheritor of the renewing and questioning spirit of Volumen Uno, chronicler of a polemic Cuba from the duet he made up with Eduardo Ponjuán, bearer of a novel and necessary exercise in Cuban artistic education with his group Desde una Pragmática Pedagógica (From a Pedagogical Pragmatics – DUPP), René Francisco has never abandoned his intention of provoking and subverting codes.
Loyal to his revolutionary impulse, the artist presented us the exhibition Asthma, which was open during February and March in the centrally located Galería Habana, Havana. This space was the witness of a sui generis curatorial discourse, which invited us to think in not a few challenges of the present, through the not always harmonic relationship between tradition and modernity and, more specifically, between two objects par excellence producing the contents: books and computers. The entire exhibition breathed some nostalgia for a not so distant past, but increasingly distant because of the permanent technological revolution which we live. The National Visual Arts Award (2010) invited us, once again, to stop and think on how to live in these times of new sensitivities, in which the fleetingness of the change might leave us out of breath, in an endless panting, just as happens to an asthmatic.
The work that serves as a portico of the exhibition is an installation not lacking of irony, whose protagonist is one of the most influential personalities in the world of art: Swiss Hans Ulrich Obrist, whose face serves as the cover of number 104 of the well-known magazine Surface. Ulrich is a profuse navigator of Internet, where he has already created numerous virtual collections, in a sort of “Nano Museum”, first on Facebook and later on Instagram. He is also an avid reader who, since a youngster, assumed an open notion of the curatorship and the visual culture which would allow him, among other things, to curate an exhibition of works of art in the same way as one of architecture or literature and books.
The Cuban artist does not overlook Hans Ulrich’s concept of curatorship and, much less, his capacity to organically combine two worlds as different as book and portable computer are. The ironical and ambiguous nuance of this first piece is given by the inhalator René Francisco has placed on Ulrich. Would it be that the Cuban wants to put the Swiss curator on his same circumstances, whether cultural or of another kind? Does he want to place Hans Ulrich in a world in which the technological revolution is as important as the increasingly agonizing and less abiding existence of the book in its traditional support? It would seem that René Francisco wants to place Ulrich on the reality of his own “surface”, on his own skin. And, to help him and make the crossing more bearable, he places an inhalator with the purpose of relieving the anxiety and asphyxiating sensation which asthma may cause, just as might happen to him. (…)