To tell you the truth, I was a bit overwhelmed by that event. At that time Venice is a saturated, abused city. Something like a woman that has been groped a lot . . . she remains beautiful but very molested. The coming and going there is usually overwhelming, but in those days it is even more intense.
I had the impression that the city could stop and disappear at any moment. The classic Venetian splendor has a counterpoint in the Biennial with its contemporary projects, with the audacity and boldness of contemporary creation.
When you observe that image of that city that seems eternal, that is referred to and documented in so much art, in so many facts and so many events . . . I had a feeling of déjà vu, as if something was happening to me again, a routine. However, it was the first time I was there, participating and seeing a biennial. I have had other opportunities to get to know Venice when it was full . . . but this time I perceived it bursting in a more profound sense.
I didn’t have time to see all of it. There were times when I just walked through the neighborhoods, discovering Venice.
I also realized that, like everything, it is tiring. The city is exhausting, and the art exhibited there is also somehow wears you down. Seeing so much at one time is overwhelming. If you try to program and orient yourself you must discriminate; otherwise you go randomly, because it is impossible to see everything. I planned to see some things, but saw others by randomly walking through the neighborhoods, discovering the city. Cruises on the Grand Canal. It seemed to me lapidary for Venice, those monsters invading the Grand Canal. I understand that perhaps in 2018 that will not continue to happen . . . they are like gigantic predators.
I visited The Gardens and toured as many national pavilions as I could. I also went to Damien Hirst’s exhibition. I admit that I liked it. I think it was a model showcase from the point of view of the production, of the museology. I enjoyed the intrinsically artistic exhibition of inventive work that appealed to classic canons. That vivification of the classic sense, artistically speaking, is an undeniable fact, even if it may seem a display of production. There is a lot of transience, gesture, and much of the ephemerality of contemporary art. I think Hirst was bold to present such an exhibition.
In The Gardens I also found many interesting projects. Particularly, in the central showcase, I was impressed by Olafur Eliasson’s performance installation: for me it represented another face of art at a point equidistant from Hirst’s, but I felt an intensive vibration. I also enjoyed the series of manipulated photographs by Hungarian Tibor Hajas. The German Pavilion frightened me; it gave me a special feeling of insecurity, of anxiety. That is the disparity of things that may be attractive, thrilling, for me . . .
Despite being perfectly integrated to the water and to the building, Lorenzo Quinn’s piece of the hands emerging from the Grand Channel and supporting a building seemed cold to me, completely the opposite of Olafur’s workshop. We artists very often make the mistake of presenting monumental pieces in such a saturated scenario. Of course that is a contradictory, complex theme.
How do you assess your own participation in Tiempo de la intuición and as part of the Cuban Pavilion in the Biennial?
At first I felt a kind of apprehension, thinking that the columns at the entrance of the library (so many!) might swallow my towers of pots. But once the towers began to rise I was highly satisfied with the relationship that emerged between them.
I loved the counterpoint with the classic world. The perception of purity of that classic world and of impurity as concept and image of my towers were two opposites that complemented one another. If I had imagined the large number of sculptures where my work was to be set up, perhaps I would have preferred to bring more towers. Perhaps the resulting contrast would have been much richer. I even had to buy a large Venetian coffee pot, and I was prepared to include it and extend the size of one of the towers.
Symbolically, the dialog with space proposed by the museology contributed to my piece, challenged it. In turn, it creates an exchange between my collections of pots and those unpolluted columns. Some people dared to walk between the columns . . . however, I think that if I had taken more I would have saturated the space . . . at least a couple more would have been interesting.
Many of my pots were decorated with heads, and also phrases; texts that established a parallel with the heads and the inscriptions on the marble pilasters in Loredan Palace. It was something special. It even suggested to me other works and aroused ideas of new projects I intend to realize.
I am very grateful for the participation. It was like a ticket for the last train, because you don’t know when another showcase will be held in in the context of such a scenario as that one.
How did you perceive the Cuban Pavilion in its entirety, from the point of view of the kind of project it presented contrary to what is common in Venice?
I certainly liked the Cuban exhibition and the group of guest artists was well chosen. Campo San Stefano Square is a very beautiful, principal, strategic spot, and one of the largest squares in Venice. It’s a pity that the exhibition lasted so few days, because for me it was a great experience.
The diversity of approaches and projects we have always talked about worked perfectly there. Time . . . wisely included the wide range of diverse ways of approaching creativity. It was a very ambitious project that was totally distanced from the idea of saturation that I perceived in the Biennial as a whole.
All the pieces adapted adequately to the many halls of Loredan Palace, in some cases efficiently and subtly integrated, as in Yaque’s case. Capote was wonderful in his space, Mabel Poblet’s forest was very well conceived . . . the corridors with the small cubicles were perhaps the least successful.
Carlos Martiel’s performance was impressive. The concept of that piece and the number of meanings, messages was very successful as part of the project. The man endured, it was agonizing to see him. And we were profoundly moved. The nature of performances many times involves such risks.
It was a personal and professional challenge . . . I could not be more satisfied.