Cuban people

Leisure time and precariousness during the Special Period

/ 1 March, 2018

The exhibition Cuban Analogs, by Juan Carlos Alom, on show from October 17 through December 10, in Jorgensen, Center for Performing Art, Connecticut University, is a sort of collection of the rhetoric that defies the author’s photographic art: landscapes, portraits, nudes, objects.

However, those photos are thinned down in another rhetoric: an account of the last decades of the Cuban revolution. They are images of the island in the lapses between the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the socialist block in Eastern Europe, a point zero, and which have extended with several facets, to date. These are the years of the so called special period, which shifted the focus of many discourses, including the artistic, towards the material scarcities that severely impacted the population of the country.

Many of these photos capture unique moments of this existential catastrophe and likewise give us an output that escapes from the stereotypes, which plotted in the body and its sentiments the radical speeches in the island and abroad: solemn people that took the circumstances as a divine mandate and on the other hand some sad, undernourished and reactionary people. The odd thing about these photographs is that they do not avoid
polarizations but they find nuances and intermediate positions.

(…) As Susan Sontag says about some photographers, Juan Carlos Alom plays at being “an armed version of the lonely pedestrian exploring, lying in wait, crossing the urban inferno, the voyeur walker who discovers in the city a landscape of voluptuous extremes”. However, at other times he is the director of a montage that insists on the precariousness left by the Special Period for Cubans, yet approaches their creative side: ornamental objects that acquire practical characteristics for daily life, and some implements transformed into home appliances.

Alom deposits some of his experience in these pieces, as a Cuban who lived through the most terrible vicissitudes (during the 1990s) of that chapter in Cuban history, which not yet ended, while simultaneously deploying the artistic sensitivity that allows these fragments of reality to become a source of reflection. (…)

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