Cuba's digital destination
Art seems to have reached a limit or end point in its relationship with itself. Some critics have focused on highlighting the crisis of its different manifestations or traditional media, such as sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and engraving. The more radical even point out symptoms of aging in expressions that only four or five decades ago were in an avant-garde position—performances and installations, for example—which created breaks with established conventions In reality, it is just an expressive exhaustion. Or what is happening is a combination of this phenomenon with another one linked to the brutal invasion of new languages derived from the most recent technologies in a wide field of human existence. If this is so, then art has been pushed by many external rigors, which could be recognized as identity crisis.
In Cuba, not many artists have assumed with their work, in a radical manner, the current crossroads of artistic creation. Among those who have, one artist unquestionably stands out: Fidel García (1981-). A graduate of the San Alejandro Art Academy and the University of the Arts, García, as well as the “Behavior Art Department” (Cátedra de Arte de Conducta) conducted by Cuban artist Tania Brugera, is also known as Micro X, a nickname he owes to the most picturesque and tense zone of Alamar, Eastern Havana, where the artist was born and has always lived, a matter that ultimately seems to make him more unique.
This artist has confessed that his first creative impulses were linked to a pressing reflection in relation to the space that he has had to live all his life. This is why, in order to delve into his work, it is indispensable to briefly know the genesis of Alamar. Unknown to the majority of the people, Alamar was in its beginning a bourgeois idea promoted by the surgeon and ophthalmologist Guillermo Alamilla Gutierrez. With the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the fate of the entire area changed abruptly. During the Missile Crisis, the town was used as a firing range and base for many combat units. In 1971, the so-called “Alamar Plan” (personally launched by Fidel Castro) was implemented. The plan was to promote the “microbrigades” movement, through which people would build their own homes.
Consequently, Alamar began to look like a proletarian ghetto marked by an architecture derived essentially from ideology and imported at that time from experiments which had taken place in the now defunct socialist bloc (especially in the USSR and the German Democratic Republic). The construction of apartment blocks from a strictly repetitive model produced a housing complex that over the years generated a certain behavior in its citizens—especially those with some creative interests—permeated by an enigmatic sense of transgression that appears to be linked to the effect brought about by inflexibility and control. The most important aspect in this process is having produced cultural phenomena, which without doubt give a breath of fresh air to the national life, ranging from interventions like the ones by the Ovni and Zona Franca groups to the work of the poet Juan Carlos Flores.
In this context and throughout the last decade, Fidel García has created different metaphors to intervene, in the most drastic manner, in the various authority structures. His art runs new risks and at the same time gets rid of others, which actually are the ones that today burden down many areas in contemporary art. We could say that he decided to work all the time with his back to an abyss given that, for some interpretations, the resources he uses (computer viruses, radio antennas, computers, voltmeters, among others) may fall outside of art. Without doubt, this risk is intensified when we discover that these resources in his pieces do not only have a symbolic function, as we have seen in other artists, but a range of actual intervention from which he intends to deconstruct or destabilize entire codes and systems designed to work with astonishing accuracy.
Among the most visible risks which Fidel García shakes off with the poetics we have been discussing are rhetoric, the exhaustion of expressive possibilities of some of the mediums that at some point in time were considered avant-garde, and especially the way of confronting what has been imposed and established by the whims of the State. This is shown in one of García’s works, in which, from two opposing positions, he tries to create a third territory where wisdom predominates, that is, common sense, capable of removing the effects of the past. For this piece, Fidel García chose two ideological voices—the radios of South Korea and North Korea, His conceptual discourse clear in his mind, he created an inductive mechanism (a small electric 8-volt drive) to obtain the ground that would produce the third territory. The exact moment when the ground was produced occurred when a sound or a voice from the radio of each of the two Koreas was activated. This work makes it clear that Fidel García combines disciplines such as biology, sociology, politics, information technology and communication.
Going back to the topic of Alamar, it appears that his first serious concerns regarding art were born there. One of the most attractive topics for him was how people needed to expand territorially in order to survive. This expansion in such a strictly planned place reached dramatic proportions and was at the same time packed with fervent ingeniousness. It mostly occurred at two levels: one comprising garages and other types of add-ons, and internal divisions. Another important detail which he does not seem to have overlooked is the way the people of Alamar interact with the people in the big city and their ultimate contributions to the latter.
In Fidel García’s trajectory, the systematic way in which he works is remarkable. The breaks that may occur in each of his pieces are always the result of a previous memory. He carries out his work in stages, and each stage leads him to new resources and new concepts, which almost always guide him to what seems to be his fixed idea, that is, the idea related to detecting faults in control mechanisms, and through direct actions, creating mechanisms to destabilize systems. Another thing that characterizes him is the tendency to avoid talking about himself in his works, to the extent of not signing his pieces, ceding that place to the phenomenon or the resource which he worked with.
In 2006, Garcia was granted the Batiscafo scholarship, which allowed him to develop a project called T.Error. This involved creating a large field of radio transmission antennas, so that when you entered that space, the only thing you could recognize was a laptop which displayed on its screen the law regarding telecommunications in Cuba. The most disturbing aspect of this piece was that the viewers were unaware of the fact that every time they tried to access the information contained in the law, it eliminated the main radial flow in the territory within a radius of 1km, thereby transforming the viewers into active entities.
His presence for two years in Tania Bruguera’s class seems to have contributed much to his current ways of implementing his bold ideas, as well as to the development of a capacity to continue making use of performance art only what is strictly necessary. Unquestionably, Fidel García has become a very useful source of oxygen within Cuba’s current art scene. November 2012