REVOLUCION ENERGETICA-INSTALLATION BY ALEXIS PARRA (PUCHO)
Opening in Galleri 69 Toftes gate 69 in Oslo, Norway on Friday 21st 2006 at 20h.
The exhibition is open Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd from 12 to18h.
Alexis Parra (Pucho) invites the audience to experience aspects of Cuba different from the picturesque rendering of his island home often presented in Europe. The 11 million inhabitants of Cuba are accustomed to a reality where shortage of food and daily necessities is the norm. Daily life is influenced by the ideology of the Revolution of 1959, as well as afro-Cuban religion and culture.
Pucho’s installation ”Revolution Energetica” is based on the current official campaign to save energy. Electricity is an unstable commodity as it is, and the efforts to save are met by a certain public irony. Pucho adapts a metaphorical view on the subject as well as documenting the campaign when it reached his home in Havana. He places photographs from his own family’s life into an atmosphere of propaganda and religion creating an environment reflecting his view on life in Cuba today.
Religion, electricity and pork- a view on culture, information and emotion
Interview with Pucho by Kristin Bergaust
Pucho, what are the elements of your installation?
P: It is a construction of many different materials that represents diverse sentiments from my daily environment. My Orisha santo is invented by me, with reference to my experience of my African grandmother as a child and what I see around me in Havana today. The image of El Senor (The Lord) is connected to this, as another reference from my background. Also my family is present through photos from my home, old and new, and lamps with energy-saving bulbs. Of course the television is an important feature in my installation, as in many Cuban homes.
You present a mix of religious beliefs by combining the Santo and Jesus Christ?
P: It is more about a mix of culture. In one sense it is my personal mixed view on my background. I know I have one African grandmother and one Indian indegenous grandmother, maybe mixed with some Spanish. I put them both in this installation. As to religion, I was born in the Revolution and lost some of the beliefs that are not shared by it. My parents on the other hand got a new life from the Revolution and they believe in this ideology which seems to produce a quite moralistic attitude to life. Even if I don't engage directly in practicing it, I live in between different experiences and understandings of religion and other values.
Is religion important to contemporary Cubans?
Religion has always been a vital part of Cuban identity. But now many seems to want to be part of religion as a kind of signifactor of new individual identities, people choose between many different practices regardless of tradition or background. Some are practising afro-Cuban religions, but also Evangelic or Chatolic, Jehova's witnesses, also Eastern practices and philosophies. Maybe to better their life-situations, people search for some meaning or change in their life. It can be understood as some antidote to what society is offering.
What is the government's position on this?
This is confusing, just as this eclectic practice. The Revolution has had different periods in relation to religion. In the early stages,until the 1980ties, religious practices were censored. When the economy went down as a result of the downfall of the Soviet Union, the system changed and both religion and dollar were legalized. And don't forget that the pope John Paul visited Cuba in 1998 and Fidel on that occacion installed the celebration of Christmas by giving people time off work on the 25th of December.
Another important feature in your installation is electricity. Why are you so interested in this?
P: I was trained as an electrician many years ago, but apart from that the function and malfunction of electricity has been a central problem of our daily life, in the life of the family as long as I can remember. Even in the central part of Havana where my family live the supply of electricity is very unstable. Along with keeping up sugar production this has been the problematic area in the economy.I have so much experience from being without light and electricity, eating without seeing, no TV or radio possible. You need a little light to enjoy life. The food is not too good, and not so much and you feel the water running from the refrigerator on your feet as you cross the floor. The streets are dark, public life is closed as well.
People do not live from bread alone, and the unstable supply of electricity is also a metaphor for spending your human energy in trying to survive.
From what I know of you and other Cubans, you are all occupied, not to say obsessed with food and eating. Your installation has a perspective on food that is partly hidden to us. I think about the photo of the dead piglet in your fridge.To Scandinavians this seems a grotesque image, even if the dead little pig seems to smile?
P: To us it represents affluence and high status. We sometimes say we suffer from ancestral hunger. The pig is the main image of the Cuban food. We have rice and black beans, but when we have some pig as well it is happiness. With a leg of pig you have a big party.
Why do you use your family photos as part of the installation?
I always worked with them. My family resemble any other family, and I think I can transfer my experience with them to others
Cuando mi amo me trata bien me tiene vendido o me quiere vender
So you are putting together some important elements of your reality in creating this work?
P:I don't think it is reality. I am only moving pieces of information and have the opportunity to transfer these elements into something that carries emotions that I want to present to other people.For me it is now possible to say "you" in my bad English instead of "companero" como se dice en espanol, (comrade, as it is called in Spanish)
I am not going to ask you what will happen when Fidel dies. What do you think of this?
P:Thank you Kristin for not asking me this question.The first time I left Cuba at the age of 38, a lot of people in Europe asked me this question. I don't know the answer of course, but I read somebody said something about this: I suppose somebody will bury him
"La fiesta estaba mortal, habia una pierna de puerco"
The party is deadly, when you have a leg of pork (popular expression)
"Si dios fuera negro mi compay, todo cambiaria, fuera nuestra raza la que mandaria"
If God was black my friend, everything would change, our race would manage everything. (Cuban song)
Oslo 16th April 2006