Circular motion interpreted by Cuban artists
The concept of circular motion is being explored by seven contemporary female Cuban artists through an exhibit of video installation’s titled “Circular motion: Subverting Circumscription,” which was developed to touch the essence of the materialization of our own human bodies.
The exhibition located at San Francisco’s Meridian Gallery intends to break the predisposed stereotypes of Cuba and applaud young artists’ capacity to convey personal and collective emotions as well as social, political, economic and historical aspects of Cuban society.
When entering the gallery, a stunning image of artist Jeanette Chavez, welcomes visitors. The moment of interaction between this powerful image titled “Self-censorship” and the viewer, is constantly interrupted by the presence of Susana Pilar Delahante Matiezo, whose video faces that of Chavez.
Matiezo’s silhouette is seen running naked through three white panels—her footsteps encompass her presence, which become more like a ghost in the gallery.
“The Foundry,” a six-minute video, was shot in a student residence in Montreal. The building was an old World War II foundry [a factory that produces metal castings] that once produced artillery. Many people died there due to poor working conditions, explained Matiezo.
“The atmosphere was strange … [and the video signified] an immediate reaction, it did not have a preconceived concept,” said Matiezo, who currently resides in Germany. “The movement is related to the way I was trying to adapt myself to the situation, but at the end it didn’t work. It starts with a specific way of walking, and then, the walking starts to deform and deform.”
“This piece was in my head and I didn’t know what to do with it,” said Sheeka Arbuthno, the San Francisco-based curator behind the exhibit. “I came back from Cuba and I started to look for their [artists’] portfolios. … I started observing this circularity. I noticed a similarity in each piece I noticed circular motion, whether it is continuous as an emotion or not, I wanted to play with it.”
This is how the idea of circular motion started, with Matiezo’s piece, which Arbuthno described as “meaningful.”
“[The Foundry] was just created in the moment,” Arbuthno said. “She didn’t think about the piece and to me that shows the depth of her as an artist, to react to a space and come up with this piece.”
The idea of movement and communication can be fairly represented by Chavez’ self-portrait video in which she binds her tongue. The image radiates the power of voice, yet the acquisition speaks for itself. Chavez has described her “Self-censorship” piece as “my Monalisa”—a video that has opened a lot of opportunities for her as an artist.
“Self-censorship” was shot in Havana after the censorship of a college art exhibition where Chavez had to speak in front of camera for one minute.
“After that incident I questioned myself: ‘Why the idea of censorship exists in a general level?’ said Chavez, who is currently studying in Frankfurt. “[‘Self-censorship’] is not poetic, it is very direct. Individuals are manipulated by this history of power, and they are submerged in subordination. The idea of illusion always fails and doesn’t exist due to restricted behaviors.”
The sugarcane economy and boxing are portrayed in “Clots,” by Adriana Arronte Rodriguez, who currently lives in Havana. Inside a boxing ring, Rodriguez gets into a physical conflict between her body and enormous slabs of rock candy.
“[‘Clots’] expresses, historically speaking, an impulsive and undiplomatic personality of the Cuban society, which is combined by its affection (related to candy). I think that it reflects, in a subjective way, the existing social relationships in my country [Cuba],” Rodriguez said.
While this piece conveys aspects of Cuban society, others simply started with an individual emotion that became a collective feeling. Marialena Orozco walks on a 40 meter-long carpet in her piece “Path,” which has a “symbolic reference to the passage of life.”
“We walk through it full of uncertainties, being watched by others as a gateway, fragile and vulnerable,” said Orozco, whose video was shot in Canada, but who is now currently living in Havana.
None of these artists have ever been in the U.S., however, their art has now reached San Francisco. Thanks to globalization and the new means of communication, they were able to send their work to Arbuthno, and generously contribute to the making of this article.
“All of these artists considered themselves residents or citizens of Cuba,” Arbuthno said. “They have not emigrated, but two of these pieces were done in Canada, in two different times; [the] other two artists are currently in Germany studying. Artists do have a unique position in Cuba.”
The show will be on display from Oct. 4 through Nov. 24 at Meridian Gallery located at 535 Powell St.; gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.