Base/Superstructure and Hermetic Drift

as it is below is it above?

/ 1 June, 2016

Base/Superstructure should have been made in the National Museum of Fine Arts. It was meant to be the solo show this institution sponsors because of the granting of the National Visual Arts Award Lázaro Saavedra received in 2014. But, in his case, because of requirements of the curatorial project, the exhibition ended finishing at the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center. At the beginning, the decision seemed strange to many, but when seeing the exhibition it was easy to notice that the conceptual and museographic approach demanded a level of segmentation almost impossible to achieve in the temporary halls of the Museum.

Base/Superstructure makes direct allusion to two well-known concepts in Marxist philosophy. The base is the structure, the way in which all the elements that make up life in society are organized or interrelated. While the superstructure is the cultural dimension, the level of the ideas, in which it is supposed that the historical particularities of the social structure, the base, are expressed or reflected. Therefore, in the area of classic Marxist thinking, the base predetermines the superstructure.

The exhibition was segmented, spatially, according to this dialectic pair of concepts. On the ground floor of the Wifredo Lam Center works approaching problems of the present Cuba were exhibited, in which the artist behaves as a social reporter, in which he looks at the present and emits a critical judgment on reality. Most of them are small drawings, many of which have circulated in the web as part of the Galería IMEIL saga. It is the type of work that, because of its discursive tone and representation style, may be classified as graphic humor.

(…) Saavedra also expanded to the inner patio and a lateral corridor in the first floor with a big installation composed by video-showing, a car and a washing line of clothes, as if it were a tenement house. The Chevrolet 55 which exhibits its structure as a technological Frankenstein, as well as the washing line with common and ordinary clothes, denotes the concrete level of Cuban life. From the motor of the car, a video was projected on a white sheet hanging on the rope. Images of past events emerging between two political figures of the highest relevance in the present: Raúl Castro and Barack Obama.

More important than the images of scientific and economic achievements shown at the Soviet exhibition held in Havana in 1961 is the speech of the narrator which is heard in a solemn voice-over: “In natural practice among civilized people, Russia has offered our compatriots an exhibition of art, science and culture. Given the ideological characteristics of the exhibiting nation, we must declare that the fact of a determined state to use its perfect right to widen its economic and commercial horizon, exhibits its products before other people and does not necessarily imply that we have to incorporate to that ideology.” A very similar rhetoric has been used by the official Cuban press during and after the recent visit of the president of the United States to Cuba. Any similarity between that fragments of the past and the present does not seem to be simple coincidence, nor much less bad intention of the interpretation.

The part described up to here would be the base, the social structure expressing in art. And this is the first conceptual mirage of the exhibition. What the artist proposes as a base is nothing but superstructure, since it already is a representation of phenomena existing and developing in reality. So when the viewers arrived to the second floor, searching for the superstructure, the second conceptual mirage was entered. In this superstructure level, art did not already referred to problems having a direct link with social reality: works had as a topic, or rather as conceptual delirium, problems concerning what is fundamental in the world of art. (…)


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