For his current solo exhibition, Diango Hernández (*1970, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba) has conceived a completely new installation extending along the first room of the ground floor of the Kunsthalle. This ambitious work combines a variety of media to construct an elaborate narrative that involves a number of sometimes common and sometimes deeply coded references to the history of the twentieth century, as well as to the developments in art that followed the dramatic and now to a large extent mythologized history of the revolution in Cuba.
Hernández’s take on revolution is based on the analysis of its iconography and of the rhetoric of its propaganda, as expressed in everyday language, political slogans and poster art. The installation uses domestic objects such as chairs and other office and home furniture, household objects, found images and vinyl records, all pierced by an iron water pipe, which simultaneously connects and destroys the objects set in the room. The pipe begins at the far end of the room, where it runs from two industrial tanks set atop an old fashioned kitchen cupboard, right to the very entrance of the room, with a water tap, dryly sticking out from an oil-painted door, standing free in the space. The system of bent and crooked pipes protects and controls the balance in the room; the design holds the space in a stiff totalising embrace. The domestic cosiness gives way to a unified appearance of state infrastructure.
Some years ago Hernández was involved in setting up the ‘Ordo Amoris Cabinet’, a group of artists and designers who conducted Situationist research into the politics of everyday life in Cuba. The practice of ‘Ordo Amoris Cabinet’ involved close reading of different home-designed objects and ad hoc solutions invented by the citizens of the country, where permanent shortage of goods has become a norm. Replacing the centralized water supply by water containers with pipe systems in apartments, building radio antennae from wires and scrap metal – such examples of non-labelled design convey a powerful political message, they speak of a need for independence, which can be expressed, within the all-controlling state, only modestly, on the local level. As living communities in Cuba endlessly come up with new practical solutions that improve their standard of living and create a minimum of self-sustainable existence, the bureaucratic system of real socialism implodes and petrifies in caricature of the revolution.
This history of the inevitable self-effacement of any progressive vision is told in the next room, where a chair is attached to the wall with many cables. It leans back, the cables keep it in precarious balance, roof tiles piled up on the seat create a necessary counterweight. The chair plays an important role in the paintings of Andrzej Wróblewski, a Polish artist, who in 1945 was a strong believer in the promise of Communism, and who died in 1957, bitterly disappointed and still trying to find an artistic form that could carry the “emotional contents of the revolution”, as he titled one of his abstract paintings. The chair is an instrument of martyrdom for an anonymous individual, of “enchairment”. It signifies waiting and torture, a certain elevation and possible deprivation of rights.
In the first room, the large sketchy paintings and small precise drawings by Hernández relate to a number of works by Wróblewski, such as his famous “Shootings” series, dealing with the atrocities of the 2nd World War. The fifty almost identical drawings, on pages torn from an old German balance book, represent a poorly dressed man who raises his three arms to his face, as he closes his eyes, perhaps trying to protect himself from the fire that will soon consume him and the empty space around him. In Hernández’s work, gain and loss, suffering and enthusiasm are reconsidered from the vantage point of the post-revolutionary moment. The exhibition culminates in the melancholic video piece at the end of the second room. The black block letters on the billboard announce ¡VICTORIA! and then fade one by one into the clean white background. What is left in the end is a pattern of large bricks on the impenetrable wall.
This exhibition is supported by:
GRISARD MANAGEMENT AG
Online review (in German) at
Videocast of the opening at