The exercise of the formal in a Caja China

/ 1 March, 2017

As explained in literature, Chinese box (literal translation of Caja China) is a narrative technique in which different stories are involved, one inside another, increasingly shorter until closing, or until the structure returns, in a cyclic way, to the point of origin.

(…) As well, a Chinese Woodblock (also Caja China in Spanish) is a musical instrument of percussion. It is a small wooden box, empty inside and with a slot as a rectangular bar, which is tapped by drumsticks with rubber points to produce resonant and brilliant sounds. Coming from China, this instrument was imported to Europe integrated to jazz orchestras.

In these significances of resonance and concatenations the curatorial pretext of the exhibition Caja China is anchored. The show opened last December 9, 2016, at La Acacia Gallery in Havana. According to the exhibition statement: “Caja China happens from the structure of a ‘mother-history’ which introduces a sequence of ‘daughter-histories’: inside a box is another box, and inside it another more… The Chinese box is not a simple exercise to insert a story into another. It is more than that: to create stories under the doping of estrangement and seduction.”

(…) Thus, Caja china shows itself diverse and resonant as to the multiplicity of contents basting a correlation of speeches, not only concatenated as histories ones inside the others, but as a reverberation of several concepts that articulate themselves from different points of view in the contemporary sphere. Besides, curatorship proposes excellently solved pieces that use sensationalist aesthetic resources and articulate narratives to which we can accede, in what is conceptual, in a relatively easy way.

Because of the small and medium format prevailing in the halls of La Acacia, the exhibition could also be denominated caja chica (small box): a grain of corn in gold in a display case, a machete with incrustations or a pocket book are some of the objects exhibited whose reduced dimensions and dialogical intention grant them the duality of the Chinese box / small box: a history inside another one, a concept in sequence within the object. But the concept of the small box is also perceptible in the sense of the conceptualizations derived from the pieces. Some of the speeches shut themselves towards comfortable interpretations and obvious paths; others are of a more abstract and formal projection; and those less with greater conceptual complexity although, because of the title―and knowing a priori what is understood by that term―we may infer a purpose requiring the exegesis of the receiver for his understanding. The museography is of a careful cleanliness, and convinces because of its attractiveness, to the point of resulting more seductive to the retina or by what is sensitive than by the conceptual.

This modus operandi has become symptomatic in many of the exhibition spaces of Havana, fundamentally those of a commercial profile, and functions as a sort of formula that young specialists have incorporated to the art guild. (…)

The exhibition underlines the vocation of Cuban art for being narrative, and concatenates the interests of national production on ways of saying and histories to reiterate or those who return to from the sensitivity of this moment. These are pieces connected with existential issues which inscribe themselves in global, philosophical, cosmogonist dimensions, disassociated from the insular trauma, and at times so semiotic that become a mere formal exercise. But yes, convoked by the curatorship with all cleverness and intention to flirt, from estrangement to seduction, with the elements that make today´s art work.


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