José Miguel Costa (Las Tunas, 1971) is an “atypical” case among the contemporary art made in Cuba during the last century. He did not arrive in Havana mad keen on entering the Higher Institute of Arts. He did not dare to climb on a raft and cross that line called the horizon. Much less did he succumb to the collective enthusiasm, the common “state of mind” in villages where “nothing ever happens” beyond scheming, committing crimes or tempting fate in prohibited games.
Costa was far from being an adventurer who would abandon his family in order to establish himself. Nor was it an obsession to follow a strategic path to his promotion. Costa declined to join the invasion of the nineties, which took advantage of the stampede of the eighties avant–garde. They were young people hungry to become prominent in the artistic scene, open to institutional flirtation following a corrected cultural policy.
(…) As a social actor beyond the ideological or commercial game, the relationships between visual medium and idea flow as the creative process advances. (…) Drawing the landscape of the quest is the starting point that marks the series Troyanos I (Trojans I, 2012). While Joseph Fouché declared that information is power, Costa translated the founder of modern espionage into a network of micro–powers, sufficient to abolish the boundaries between mass and hegemony, speed and slowness, the artisan and the technological. Therefore, he devoted himself to extracting websites and email addresses, to configure freehand an uncapturable social portrait.
(…) Moving from the relatively highbrow to the supposedly popular, Vapor es 23 (Vapor is 23) concentrated on the relationship between numbers and their meaning. This series became another psychosocial kaleidoscope; now the “lucky ticket” of La Charada (Cuban lottery system) awarded illicit vice the rank of majority obsession. Here there is no ethical/moral distinction between the people involved. Luck is the hope of the dispossessed.
(…) The Vapor es 23 series was not the product of the cold calculation imposed on choosing the right themes at the right time. It is a tribute to the artist’s father, who used to play this number in La Charada and even came to win it. This manuscript, as an informative guide, sought to provide a glimpse of the clandestine nature of the illegal bustle that reigns in the country’s daily life.
(…) Más de un millón (More than a Million) was the title of the solo exhibition that José Miguel Costa presented in the Carmelo gallery (April–May, 2017). The exhibition was formed of pieces making up Troyanos II and Vapor es 23, for a late but sure debut in the Havana circuit.
(…) Whether in the learned or popular view, more than a million is an indication of success, or a phenomenon of failure. It is no secret that cunning or luck unite or separate those who shed their skin, on leaping above an unending “zero option” (…) Erasure, as historic rewriting, or with a desire to cover something up, constituted a discursive ploy turned into a formal and recurring wink in Troyanos II and Vapor is 23. In this way, the “concrete” was transformed into the “abstract”, by virtue of information that reveals the tip of a blurred iceberg on any world map. (…)