Carlos Garaicoa. The Politics and Poetics of Space

I need to experience that contradiction between the city’s beauty and its terrible realities.

The exhibition incorporates several narratives: It tells about the city where people live and reside, about tall buildings founded on power and political ideologies, and about ruins of former greatness or buildings that were never completed. The beauty and contrasts of the urban landscape – its political as well as its poetic aspects – form a major theme in the oeuvre of Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa.

From Cuba to Spain

The exhibition reflects the artist’s experience of the cities in which he has lived. Garaicoa grew up in Havana, Cuba, a country full of contradictions. The Spartan way of life in communist Cuba and the utopian visions of the Castro regime ​​stood in stark contrast to each other. Today, Garaicoa alternates between living in his native country, and in Madrid, Spain.

Spain’s colonial rule over Cuba belongs to the past, and although the two countries still share a common language, history and culture, they have different histories with respect to democratic processes: Cuba’s communist regime has only recently begun to ease up, while Spain has been a democracy since Franco’s death in 1975. Today, both countries are severely affected by economic crises, struggling to maintain the welfare of its citizens.

Architecture as a mirror

According to Garaicoa, architecture is “a discipline that has played one of the most important roles in society and that has inflected politically, ideologically, and socially all the changes and events that have marked the course of our lifetimes.”

The ruins of Havana are witness to ideologies that have gone astray – to failed politics and power-hungry despots whose arrogance has created grandiose works architecture at the expense of individual suffering. The issue continues to be relevant, with the Euro crisis as a good example.

An urban stage

All these realities and extremes unite within the urban space. Architecture becomes a stage on which people play out their lives and respond to political visions and power through, among other things, demonstrations and graffiti – words and actions that convey the feelings of the city’s inhabitants.

Garaicoa’s urban archaeological explorations, his records of architectural structures and sarcastic jabs at the power elite, arrive in Oslo at a timely moment, as the capital’s landscape is undergoing a rapid and extensive transformation, and new cultural centres and apartment complexes are being built across the country. But whom are all these new structures intended for? Those important spaces where major and minor events give meaning to life – are they being created? Who is in charge of this development, and who will benefit?

World-famous artist visits Oslo

© All rights reserved | Foto: Oak Taylor-Smith
© All rights reserved | Foto: Oak Taylor-Smith

This is Carlos Garaicoa’s first exhibition in Scandinavia. During the past ten to fifteen years his work has been shown at all major international biennials, such as Venice, Havana, São Paulo and Documenta. The National Museum is proud to present a wide selection of Garaicoa’s more recent production, as well as works from the late 90s, including sculpture, installation, drawing and photography.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the National Museum in Oslo, CA2M (Centro de Arte Dos Mayo), Madrid, Fundación Botin, Santander, and Villa Stuck, Munich.

The exhibition is curated by Sabrina van der Ley.

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