An island is a fixed unit. Unlike nation states on the continent, it requires no territorial definition, naturally isolated from the rest of the world by the sea. Accordingly, the only real borders are those on the level of the elements, whereas political boundaries are based upon invented systems and a balance between countless cultural mechanisms is needed to sustain them. By contrast, the clear-cut geographical unity of a territory constitutes a concentric situation in which cultural attention focuses less on the peripheral external edges and the associated constant differentiation of the Self from the supposed Other and rather on the coherent unit of its own culture and its internal heterogenity. On the one hand, this detachment from the world creates the idea of the island as a paradisical place of freedom, within whose easily surveyed bounds it may be possible to dream up and potentially realise a utopia. Simultaneously, on the other hand, it inevitably creates a longing for confraternisation with the rest of the world.
In Marina, Diango Hernandez takes the reference to his homeland of Cuba as the starting point for his artistic explorations. In doing so, he is obviously not concerned with conveying purely factual information, nor with analysing social structures or political conditions. Rather, the exhibition should be understood as an artistic approximation of the multifaceted issues connected with the cross-cultural concept of identity.
Through the motifs used in the exhibition, the oscillation between concrete references and abstract factors becomes evident, multiplying to form an overall picture that is as open as it is poetic. The title Marina already alludes to the translation of a maritime situation into the exhibition space, while at the same time pointing to the harbour as the place both of return to one’s home and of yearning departure. The frieze, which is made up of many elongated rectangular images of waves, is modelled upon an ocean horizon, creating a physical experience for the audience in the exhibition space that reflects the abovementioned isolation of the Caribbean island state. Furthermore, the waves are a motif that appears again and again in Diango Hernandez’s work. He takes abstract words from Fidel Castro’s speeches: Applause, Revolution, Cuba reverberate through the room, immediately dissolving in the pictorial abstraction’s purity and lack of bias. By contrast, the fruit attached to the chandelier becomes a synonym for the linkage to the Western World, considering that it is free to circulate as a commodity in the free-market economy, while advertising the sweetness of life in the tropics. Both the window and the benches are directly linked to the architecture in Cuba’s capital of Havana. The window – which has always symbolised gazing out of a closed unit into the distance – is modelled on the shape of the windows in the artist’s apartment. The colours, too, are the same there – but not only there: they are standard colours that can be found in every corner of the island. The benches are based upon seats in Havana’s Capitolio. They refer to the ambivalent relationship between Cuba and the United States of America conveyed by this state building, which is modelled upon the Capitol in Washington. In contrast to the original heavy wooden furniture, Hernandez’s alternative design looks as if the benches were really destined for the beach. This is suggested not only by the pastel colours, applied in quick brush strokes, but especially by the embedded fine white sand, upon which viewers are able to sit down in order to imagine themselves upon a Caribbean island.
Text by Anna Czerlitzki.
Diango Hernández - Marina
Galerie Barbara Thumm, April 30 - June 4