18 NOVEMBER – 13 JANUARY
Over 5000 letters and they all start with My dear son.
Havana 21st August 2010
My dear son,
Today I went to the market and bought mangoes. It is August and as you know this month brings the most wonderful fruits. I immediately arranged them on the kitchen table; the entire house is perfumed with their sweet aroma. Of course I thought of you; I know you are here with me…
Havana 26th January 2014
My dear son,
Yesterday I went to see the National Symphony Orchestra. The entire program was dedicated to German classics. It was wonderful but there was no air conditioning in the theatre and the musicians were sweating up a storm. I imagine you would have enjoyed this particular contradiction. Maybe Bach never sweated that much in his entire life, ha ha ha…
Over 5000 letters and they all end with I love you so much.
The number 5 on my list of least used words in contemporary art is ‘love’. Believe it or not these days love is not really in vogue, hip or cool. I have looked repeatedly in museums, galleries and all sorts of exhibitions and rarely I saw or heard it used. How could that have happened? Who took it away from art? Have we all forgotten the primary reason why we make and exhibit art?
“I had long worried that I was incapable of having a profound experience of art and I had trouble believing that anyone had, at least anyone I knew.” Ben Lerner opens his book Leaving The Atocha Station asking himself, Are we able today of experiencing art profoundly? I believe that truly profound experiences are triggered by love. In the room 58 of the Museo del Prado a man suddenly broke into tears. In that moment our hearts began to sync.
Havana 5th March 2011
…I am so excited, finally tomorrow. I’ll have you here with me! I am preparing everything, cleaning the house, cooking the things you like. It’s still all a bit messy, but tomorrow it’ll all be perfect. This time I also have a little present for you. Don’t forget to call me right after landing!!! I am dreaming already of tomorrow.
I love you so much
Havana 21st December 2004
…I’ll always cherish that day we spent together in Santa María del Mar, walking along the beach, looking at rocks, laughing everything away. Forgetting that a day like today you are there and I am here. Take lots of care!
I love you so much
Düsseldorf, October 2017
Notes on Amor Amor
During the last 15 years I have longed to be in a different place, I deeply missed the warmth and humidity of Havana.
When a Cuban lives abroad and misses the island we say -it has a “Gorrión”-. A sparrow, a little bird that can’t survive captivity, that if put in a cage is very likely to die of sadness. The “Gorrión” won’t and can’t abandon you unless “set free”; but how to set free an imaginary bird? How to get rid of this strange feeling without being in the place where you actually want to be? Before answering these questions I tell you that neither freedom nor geography have helped me.
In case you ever miss deeply something and a sparrow clings to you, what you need to do is to enlarge his cage, this will take long years of hard and miserable work. The good news is that in the end the cage could reach the size of the largest forest you’ve ever seen.
Amor Amor at VAN HORN is based on some of the ‘things’ that during these years allowed me to enlarge the “cage” and in this way give more room to that little sparrow, for him to feel better and enjoy a better view, a fresher air.
Two letters (2004/2010) written by mother. These letters are among thousands she sent me, they all are rather ordinary letters, most of them casual descriptions of her intense cultural activities and long city walks. What is particular about them is what they actually did to me, allowing me to keep in touch with a reality that I couldn’t access otherwise. Through my mother’s ‘eyes’ I managed to see and feel what was across the Atlantic ocean, what in fact distance have forbidden me to experience. Only one letter would not have helped me to get closer to Cuba; because a single tree is invisible, it is only the forest that has the capacity to appear completely and irrevocably in front of us, the forest is the image and the tree the single word.
Amor Amor Besos Besos. Every object in the exhibition touches another, and that “touch” is what completes them. That proximity is a sign of affection, a friction that produces warmth and also knowledge, an ancient form of language called love. The oxygen bottles of the divers are objects that have caught my attention since I was a child. I used them several times to dive on the south coast of Cuba, in the vicinity of Trinidad. Those memories of ‘The Captain’s House’, a place where we loved to dive, have never left me. The silence of the depths, the corals with colours that no painter could ever have imagined. The golden fish dancing around our minuscule bodies and the oxygen bubbles intelligently searching for the surface to disappear in the morning light.
The oxygen bottles are perhaps the center of the exhibition, through them I have decided to introduce the issue of the gravity that exits in the exhibition space. In the same room, two long-format paintings “Las paredes del mar” highlight the architecture of the space and turn it into a kind of tunnel. A space of transit and therefore of temporary stay. “The walls of the sea” are two large ‘wave’ translations based on a excerpts of “Leyes del Gobierno Provisional de la Revolución” (“Laws of the Provisional Government of the Revolution”), a pamphlet published in Havana in 1959. This small document, though innocent in appearance, exposed the most radical and revolutionary directives that would come to define the social projects of Revolutionary Cuba. Placing a “new man” at the center of its new social idea, the pamphlet described the type of new nation that was to be born.
In a letter written on August 21, 2010, my mother tells me that she has bought fruits and that the smell they produce in our house makes her think of me. Seeing in a corner of any European city mangos, oranges or maybe bananas has always filled me with emotion, because I imagine that just by turning that corner I would see our endless orange fields. The fruits in this exhibition appear as what they are for me, an object that forces me to remember and transports me to another place. The real and fresh fruits placed carefully on these three colourful supports give form to three sculptures, which are not more than three skeletal objects that elegantly help me to draw a memory.
But what would be the fate of a memory if it were not painted? All the ‘informal’ paintings of Amor Amor are just that, memories. Memories of someone or something, but also memories of a painting. These paintings summarise my approximations to the Lezamiano concept of ‘The imaginary eras’, a cosmos in itself where the image is nothing else than the unfinished bridge that exists between history and poetry.
Diango Hernández, Brussels, Dec. 2017