Interview to Jorge Otero
In January, Havana Gallery announces the opening of the exhibition War Hero by Jorge Otero. This is an artist, both known and unknown at the same time. We had news of him as one of the members of Tócate, singular proposal curated by Elvia Rosa Castro; in which his piece Pensamiento histórico (2013) reflected his artistic concerns through the body as protagonist of his creations. So in his latest exhibition, the body terrain becomes landscape of his universe. This exhibition was a success in Otero career. “For long time now, we have not appreciated something like this,” it was one of the comments made about the exhibition. By this time we approach the study of Jorge Otero to learn more about his origins in arts and his recent work.
Critics have classified you as a photographer, but when you complete your studies at the Academy of San Alejandro, you perform the first personal exhibition, Fisiología del Anticuerpo, but in engraving.
I graduated from the San Alejandro Academy in the engraving specialty, however now I am dedicated to photography. When I finished my studies at the academy I made the exhibition Fisiología del Anticuerpo (2009) that announced my interest in working with the body. on that time I presented from abject aesthetics, that is to say, the twisted, sore, sick body. In this exhibition, a seed of my interest for photography was already there, because in Fisiología … I was inspired by the pictures of pathological anatomy books that had – with their own aesthetics – in bad quality that later on I reproduced starting from the engraving techniques (mainly the drypoint) in gigantic plates that I never printed; then what I deploy in the halls of La Casona are the wombs as an unique work. Engraved and mounted pieces on transparent partions so the viewer would be reflected in a world where pain and abject made their presence. With this exhibition I inquire on issues such as otherness and I enter into sexual positions in a very subtle way, also I propose aesthetic models not governed by the canon; these generated images establishing a double reading with our social action. I think also this work with the body help me to perform the piece Asepsia (2012) for the controversial exhibition Sex in the City held in the gallery Acadia in January 2013.
When did you begin the use and experimentation with the photography?
My interest to explore the universe of photography begins since San Alejandro’s first years, but by the lack of a camera and the inability to access the complicated scaffolding of darkrooms and typical chemicals of analog photography delayed my entry to the photographic world. My stay at the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA) allows me to approach digital media; however, since photography depatement was closed during the five years of study, my training was completely self-taught. It was in far from that institution where I learned the ABC on a nature photo course (topic that has nothing to do with my interest) but among its teachers the iconic Felix Arencibia was there. Thanks to this course one can be seen the digital environment and the virtual universe are important discursive elements within the work of my first photographic series (La ejecución de la cera and Epidermis).
The body has always been present in your creations. Why is this interest?
Working the body theme was a very personal inclination. It is a topic that catches my attention from the aesthetic, conceptual and discursive views; the body can be read as a text. The twentieth century rescues the representation of the body in all its dimensions, from the aesthetic to the performative. Not only is boarded and taken as a tool but its ends up being a topic of plastic and theoretical research. However, in my opinion, fashion institution and the media are the protagonists of the revaluation and splendor of the body in Western culture. Considering the beginning I must say that the body appears in my work since my beginnings at San Alejandro, perhaps from a more visceral level, in which the force I felt from international artists of the nineties like Cindy Sherman, Joel Peter Witkin, Andres Serrano, among other ones.
La ejecución de la cera (2007) and Epidermis (2008) are my first photographic series in which the body is the center of attention. In them I inquire on the body-fashioned relationship then I reveal from a body cult, an almost rebellious social stance. These images also have a social character than the pieces from Fisiología del Anticuerpo, since by this time that Emos fashion is implanted in our country with unstoppable forces- a global phenomenon that motivated me and inspired me to work on pieces that reflected times lived by the young society of Cuba from my very different views.
I start from this event that comes to us from Europe like so many fashions, imitating patterns that have nothing to do with the macho latino concept. I use the female model as the most sensitive sector right now; I distorted the figures trying to create a stereotype that is canceled by its individual body parts.
In your last job, works belonging to the War Hero series you search on the daily life of an individual who does not know that is hero of battles. In the recent displays we do not only find photos. Talk a little about your experience with this series.
War Hero is a series of photographs intended for exhibition in Havana Gallery. These pieces do not try to that explore a topic, but how these are specified when they are appreciated in the gallery space; hence the role of museology. I made several of the pieces shown before that exhibition, because my interest was to reinforce the idea of the exhibition as speech. For this occasion, I present video pictures, objects and installations. For example, we have Horizonte (2014), timely piece, almost foreboding, which is about the position of the nation towards the outwards, that is to say, it refers to relationships of divided families and the wearing out of a struggle that takes half a century. By using the object is very consistent, and disposal in space gives a geographical visuality in which a ubiquitous enemy mapping is perceived against whom battles have fought with the machete which is the material used, it appears worn out, rust which causes to draw somehow our identity. Just next, we found Paisaje Nacional, a piece that alludes to the sugar cane harvest of 70 ‘and it refers to utopian projects in which we have engaged, hence the use of the text. Hematoma (2014), is a piece that moves away from the photographic setting but redeems my training as an engraver, it is a dry printing of a rusty machete.
War Hero, then, meets several demonstrations that allow the viewer to become aware that the speech is not only about the body; I use the body as a tool to reflect on a subject that is facing issues of identity, nation and traditions. It’s a series that talks about what is happening now, the future of our society and what it means to be Cuban today.