Jorge Mañach´s Indagación del Choteo¹ has rightly emerged as one of the founding writings of Cuban culture. This fundamental Cuban —heir to the most incisive and perceptive elements of the island´s sociology— has immersed himself in the symbolic reconstruction of a vague, lateral, oblique and, mostly, “reyoya” ² communicative strategy. I still wonder if this innate tendency to mockery, irony and even sarcasm has propelled our cultural assets or undermined our credibility in the eyes of the other.
This leaning towards irreverence without stepping on sacrilege, the ability to disagree without arousing suspicions, the ingenuity to reveal truths that are half-absurd and to expose absurdities that are half-truth, have placed us in a comfort zone of continuous simulation where “say” and “stay” are synonymous and what can´t be cured must always be endured. The current exhibition, Choteo de la indagación3, is obviously inspired by Mañach´s text. It aims, however, to emancipate that “choteo” 4 from certain reductionist strings to grant it the benefit of the doubt, even if it entails the exposure of sensitive issues.
The term “artivism” has been used in contemporary art theory and criticism to refer to the merger of art and social activism, and to recognize art projects loaded with powerful social content that overshadow the traditional aesthetic function of art. Despite the efforts of artists, art critics, and curators in taking this kind of action seriously, the sublime aura of art strives to weaken the spirit, minimize the significance, eliminate the traces of every possibility of transformation; as if everyone knew that art —to be art— can never be harmless; as if every inquiry arising in the fields of art always led to the mockery of inquiry itself.
That said, it appears that a swaggering stigma threatens to seize the very nature of art, leaving no other choice, but resignation, to erase the endless differences between art and life. The intention, however, has remained for over 50 years now. In 1965, Beuys attempted to explain art to a dead hare, while Kosuth “redefined” it through a chair. Both actions contributed to a seemingly reduced gap between art and life, and to an apparent recovery of a missing stage during the process of defining art. Still, it was no more than a simulation, a utopia. Art has never been reality; art is not life —not yet—, and not all roads have led to that Rome.
Today, public opinion is manipulated and dismissed with the same cynicism that indolence and lassitude soak through human sensibility and emotions are stimulated with resorts that harden the threshold of human perception. When humans accept their role as their own predator, and sorrow and cruelty permeate our daily “food” intake; there is no room for wonderment, emotion and shudder… neither is there will to change the world for a piece of art. Choteo de la Indagación presents works of art that got rid of pointless metaphors to reveal an explicit discourse… and still, they are works of art.
Personally, I´d rather believe that someday, Beuys’s and many others’ ideas will come down from the stiff pedestals where they are exhibited, will blur the boundaries between art and life, and will succeed in lifting the curse of mockery off artistic inquiry.
Teresa Bustillo Martínez
Translated by: Odeiny Gavira Tejeda
¹Inquiry into mockery.
²Spanish term to refer to a true Cuban, someone born in Cuba.
³Mockery of inquiry.