Carlos Garaicoa: being urban I SÃO PAULO

To what extent can architecture be understood as a society’s “frame”? What roles does architecture play in a context of urbanization? How does it bend to eventual political, ideological or even social pressures? These are some of the questions that surround and structure the work of Carlos Garaicoa, a multidisciplinary Cuban artist whose work is being celebrated at  Porto Seguro Cultural Space from February 7 through May 6.
With Rodolfo de Athayde as curator, the exhibition Carlos Garaicoa: being urban brings together 8 works by the artist. Between installations, videos, photographs, scale models and drawings, the works present the creative journey of the author, for whom the city plays a fundamental role. The Cuban constructs a poetics in which to contrast social, economic and political issues that directly impact the formation of the subjectivities and knowledge of the contemporary world.

“Garaicoa’s work is—literally—the physical construction of models of utopian or real spaces along with an unusual combination of symbols that also constitute an acute exercise of the knowledge of human phenomena in their contemporary context par excellence: the modern city,” the curator says, emphasizing that the show gains strength in São Paulo, “a city that symbolizes urban and architectural utopia worldwide.”
For the artist, every utopia is constructed so as to overcome the limitations of the present. Paradoxically, however, it is born already portending its own surpassing. The project of an ideal society reaches a point of crisis the moment it articulates itself as a grandiose urban program. Such questions are constantly evidenced in the work of Garaicoa, who acknowledges the contradictions intrinsic to the different currents of modernism as catalysts for change and social transformation.
“I think architecture is this space where I can discuss existential, political and historical ideas. I have a great interest in photography and the representation of urban space in general, but as a means to approach other issues, closer to fiction and history,” says Carlos Garaicoa. “Following this drift, I found myself approaching architecture and, finally, needing to work with architects, collaborating with a large team, trying to convince them all the time that what we are doing is art and not architecture,” he adds.
The show encompasses works that range from those related directly to the artist’s original Cuban context to productions that originate from Garaicoa’s way of seeing the world’s different realities, including the Brazilian. An example of the first case is the installation Fin del Silencio [End of Silence] (2010), which displays a set of tapestries that, together with two projections, highlight the signatures of traditional pre-revolutionary commercial establishments in Havana, capital of Cuba—resignified by the artist.
[Below is the complete description of the works in the exhibition]
About the Artist
Born in Havana in 1967, Carlos Garaicoa has always been interested in man’s interventions in public space. In his youth, he worked as a draftsman in the army, producing maps. The techniques he learned during this period were used in his artistic production, begun in 1989 when, at the age of 22, he entered the Instituto Superior de Arte.
From his first works on, he has reflected on the uses of the city and the possibilities of constructing alternatives to the hegemonic models. The theme is constant in his production, marked by the use of different supports such as video, sculpture, installation and photography.
His work is in the collection of renowned institutions such as the Reina Sofia National Art Center (Spain), the Guggenheim Museum (USA) and the Tate Modern (UK). In Brazil, Garaicoa participated in the São Paulo Biennial in 1998, 2004 and 2010. His installation Ahora Juguemos a Desaparecer II [Now let’s play to disappear II] is part of the Inhotim Institute collection. The artist’s work has also been honored by shows in important Brazilian cultural institutions, including the Caixa Cultural Rio de Janeiro, the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage and the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo.
Today Garaicoa is one of the most respected artists in the contemporary international circuit, although he maintains a referential creative link with Cuba. His work opens up a range of universal themes, reflecting the experience of a life of continuous travel, dividing his residence alternatively between his studios in Madrid and Havana. The artist also founded the artist residency program “Artist x Artist”, which stimulates a reflective
 dialogue about art and other themes dear to contemporary culture, as well as promoting new artists.
About the curator
With a degree in Philosophy from Moscow State University (M. V. Lomonosov), Rodolfo de Athayde is a curator and cultural producer. Founder of “Arte A Produções”, he has been responsible for more than twenty exhibition projects over the last 10 years.
As curator, he was in charge of exhibitions with great public and critical repercussion, such as Los Carpinteros: Objeto Vital [Los Carpinteros: Vital Object]Construções Sensíveis: A experiência geométrica latino-americana na coleção Ella Fontanals-Cisneros[Sensitive Constructions: The Latin American geometric experience in the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros collection]A Virada Russa: A Vanguarda na coleção do Museu Estatal Russo de São Petesburgo [The Russian Turning: The Avant-Garde in the collection of the Russian State Museum of St. Petersburg]Islã: Arte e Civilização [Islam: Art and Civilization]Kandinsky: Tudo começa num ponto [Kandinsky: Everything starts from a dot]Arte de Cuba [Art of Cuba], among others.
About the Porto Seguro Cultural Space
The Porto Seguro Cultural Space is a platform for widely diverse artistic and cultural manifestations with an emphasis on contemporary thinking. Conceived as an integral part of the Porto Seguro Cultural Complex, composed of cultural space, theater, restaurant and coffee shop, the initiative carries out actions across a diversified range of artistic expression.
The proposal is to offer the public a complete and innovative experience of art through various activities: exhibitions, ateliers, courses, workshops, symposiums, fairs, festivals and whatever can be done in partnership with art circuit agents. The Cultural Space develops educational activities related to topics addressed in the exhibitions.
List of works in the exhibition Carlos Garaicoa: being urban
Fin del Silencio [End of Silence] (2010)
A set of tapestries that, in addition to two projections, highlights on the floor signatures of traditional pre-revolutionary commercial establishments in the Cuban capital, Havana. The work alludes to a past marked  both by an abundance associated with certain groups and also by social inequality. The original texts and symbols are altered and resignified by the artist: Reina [Reign, imperative of “to reign”], for example, becomes Reina destruye o redime [Reign, destroys or redeems]; while La lucha [The fight]becomes La lucha es de todos [The fight is everyone’s].
Portafolio [Portfolio] (2013)
An installation in which Garaicoa displays eight brass plates engraved with words that appeared on the flags and banners of recent popular demonstrations related to the economic crisis in countries like Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Italy, among others.
Wer im Glashaus sitzt… [If you have a glass house] (2013)
The installation features a representation of the iconic Haus der Kunst building in Munich, built during the Hitler government to house “true” German art, as opposed to the so-called avant-garde art, which the Nazis called “degenerate art “. By using translucent glass and metal to construct the work—materials widely used by modern architecture—, the artist subverts the Nazi logic of construction in stone and in neoclassical style. The work is an antithesis of the original building, which in this modernist version gains airs of the avant-gardism to which it was opposed.
Infamous Hidden Houses (2014)
A series of four drawings depicting homes of sadly famous personalities of the contemporary world: terrorist Osama Bin Laden; US financial fraudster Ruth Madoff; Spanish businessman Francisco Correa, accused of countless corruption crimes; and Austrian Josef Fritzl, a figure who won international notoriety for having kept his own daughter in captivity for more than 20 years. With a markedly subtle style, the artist outlines such buildings, often covered with lush vegetation, as if nature were helping hide these places of refuge from the public eye.
Aniversário [Birthday] (2015)
The installation features a collection of stamps inspired by a 1940 specimen designed by Richard Klein, a German artist sympathetic to the Nazi regime. Starting with a photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler’s personal photographer, the stamp marked the commemorations of the German dictator’s 51st birthday. In the installation, the artist presents a set of 37 stamps, elaborated from portraits of international political figures. Each stamp in the exhibition is placed under an individual magnifying glass.
Partitura [Musical score] (2017)
A large installation developed over the course of 10 years with the participation of more than 70 street musicians. The work consists of a set of pedestals with tablets and headphones, distributed throughout the space as in a symphonic orchestra. Each device features an individual musician and different instruments and specificities, including strings, wind, percussion, voice and composition. In the center, occupying the place of the conductor, there is a small stage with three screens and speakers, through which the musicians’ interpretation can be appreciated as a whole.
Saving the Safe (Banco Central do Brasil) (2017)
An installation that shows a sculpture of the Central Bank of Brazil in gold which, placed inside a safe, makes reference to one of the main tensions of contemporary society—the crises generated by the financial market. At the same time as it incites desire, the priceless jewel represents the idea of an institution which can also exercise violence, precisely by making itself and its interests secure to the detriment of individuals and the difficulties they experience—caused in part by institutions such as these, inevitably bound by financial market fluctuations and global speculation.
Abismo [Abyss] (2017)
The animation studies the convergence between the theatrical gesturing in Hitler’s speeches and his well-known obsession with classical music. The melody that serves as the basis for the work is an interpretation of Quatuor pour la fin du temps [Quartet for the end of time], a work composed by Olivier Messiaen while confined in the Stalag VIII-A prisoner of war camp. The work was performed for the first time in 1941 by Messiaen and three other imprisoned musicians in the concentration camp itself, before a stupefied public. The hands reproduce Hitler’s most common gestures in his inflamed speeches. This alienated mime of a sterile orchestra conductor is presented in dissonant coexistence with the avant-garde sonority, born in resistance to captivity.
Exhibit information
Carlos Garaicoa: being urban
Opening: February 6, 7:00 p.m.
Exhibition dates: February 7 through May 6
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Sundays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Free admission

Espaço Cultural Porto Seguro
Alameda Barão de Piracicaba, 610
Campos Elíseos—São Paulo
Telephone: (11) 3226-7361

31.01.2018 | by martalanca | carlos garaicoa