After a quick look around the Surface Works exhibitions at Victoria Miro gallery, Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa’s work, exhibited in the adjoining Parasol Unit Gallery, was notably different in its presentation. I was asked to take my shoes off before entering the exhibition space, which at first seemed odd, but the slightly bored though polite invigilator, explained, ‘it’s a better experience to feel the work through your socks, or you could cover your shoes.’ I opted for the feely experience.
Spread across the floor, in the dimly ground floor space, was an arrangement of impressively detailed tapestries, that from afar struck the eyes as concrete. But of course, these were soft to walk on, and somehow contradicted the idea behind the collection. Fin de Silencio (End of Silence), 2010, is a body of work that combines both tapestry and video installation and reflects on ‘the city’ as a physical infrastructure, social network, and political space. The exhibition comprises large-scale installations, sculptures, video and photography and documents city landscapes, particularly his hometown of Havana. The works are steeped in provocative commentary and reflect a frustration with social, economic and political issues.
Weaving a critical response to the reality of present-day Cuba through the poetic discourse across these jacquard-loom tapestries, the work reveals a dichotomy between these once magnificent terrazzo floors and ‘decadent’ stores (many of which are closed today) and their fall into neglect and ruin. Pitting utopian ideologies against dystopian ruins, repression against expression, the local against the global, Garaicoa’s investigation of the urban environment is built on dualities. [Parasol Unit]
The exhibition is on until 3 June 2018