How to disassemble a Nation 4

Blog Art Spy > Art Spy report

A monument is a cold and dead structure, so are ruins. And only dead people should inhabit them.

Cuba is a nation-monument. The already dead and scarcely revitalized structures reflect the decadence of the present days. These surroundings can be even seen as a relic; owned by the community as a whole and therefore, by no one in specific. The imposition of living in the ruins provokes the sensation of living in an eternal battlefield, and to be always afraid of an external aggressor. This is a way of live that we Cubans perform in all levels, personally and collectively. In a conext like this, ordinary gestures are converting into evident micro-expressions of a national phenomenon. Artists also appropriate them to discuss about the fracture that those expressions are evidencing.

In her work Cubiertas de deseos (2008 – 2013) the artist Grethel Rasúa[1] records the process of embellishing several facades of residential buildings in Havana. Cubiertas[2] is the chronicle of a quotidian behavior, registered first in a video format and then expanded with 45 photographs.

The house-fronts (as our face in relation to the soul) are reflecting the interior of the structure and in consequence, ourselves. But in Cuba the reality overwhelms us. For common people it is impossible to gain access to the materials that they need for repairing their houses. The scarcity forces them to limit themselves to merely disguise the devastation of their homes, which is a consequence of the incapability of the institutions to prevent abandonment. By painting their facades, Cubans want to clean and nurture the surroundings: a the materialization of the deepest desire of living properly, that simple but so fundamental. It is a helpless fight against time; it is, at its core, the negation of the reality. 

 Renier Quer, Búnker (2006), video still  

 Renier Quer’s[3]video-creation Búnker (2006) shows another viewpoint on this subject. He interviews an octogenarian man who lives in the basement of one of the monuments dedicated to a hero of the Independence War in Cuba. Which one? It is not revealed, because it is not really necessary; the meaning of the work is not related to it. Its core is in the old man’s speech which represents the essence of a generation, elucidated by the repetition of axioms: I am happy here; I will be here until I die; I feel safe here and have no lack of anything; it is important to be pleased with what it is given and to no think in a future you shouldn’t be thinking… These are maxims inherited from the political discourse that was used to involve generation after generation in the construction and maintenance of a social project and to blindly believe on the idea of the personal sacrifice for the common wealth. While the old man talks, the camera simply registers the habitat, as if trying to find a correspondence between the old man’s speech and the reality that actually surrounds him: but it doesn’t. In this sense, the title Búnker cannot be more suggestive. A bunker is a subterranean construction used to defend ourselves from the attack of heavy artillery. When the interviewed says: this is my trench, my battle front, we wonder: against what? And this is the moment, when the entire paradox is unveiled.

A monument is a cold and dead structure, so are ruins. And only dead people should inhabit them. This is, for me, the final statement.


[1] Grethel Rasúa (1983) has graduated of the University of Arts in 2009 and of the Behavior Art Cathedra in 2007.

[2] In Spanish language, the word cubierta can be used like an adjective or a noun, so by translating the title of Grethel’s work, we could limit its meaning. In all the extension, it would entail both Covered with desire and Desire covers, implying the characterization of an act and the objectification of an impulse.

[3] Renier Quer (1983) has graduated of the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts in 2004 and of the Behavior Art Cathedra in 2008.

How to disassemble a nation 5 How to disassemble a Nation 3

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.
By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More Information (Spanish)