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Sandra Ramos

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Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, La Habana. 11 Bienal de La Habana. 10 Junio, 2012.

I.NAUTILUS

This exhibition should be dedicated to Jules Verne: this is the second time that on a national level our small island holds an art show which anticipates and heralds a political event. Sandra Ramos’s vision, so close to that of the eminent writer, keeps watch on the future for the nation. On the verge of an announced migratory reform, the artist does not wait for policies or mediations; instead, she takes the lead with impetus and builds a bridge: a real, palpable, perfectly passable one, linking two geographical points which have been in long historical conflict.

The bridge is as stunning as the Nautilus, and its strength and the safety of its engineering can be verified by anyone walking along while enjoying the sea images from an irrefutable crossing of the Strait of Florida. Most likely, on either pier, Havana or Miami, a friendly hand will be there to greet him/her.

The harpooner Larsen must have been fascinated when he gazed at Captain Nemo’s fantastic Nautilus though not as much as readers were a century later when they corroborated how many of its features were found in modern submarines. And far more surprised are we, mistrustful and cautious citizens of today, used to fighting the odds, waiting, as though in breeding grounds, for a better life. Could this bridge be a real prediction?

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Puentes: entre lejanías y cercanías llevadas a cabo. XI Havana Biennial. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). Havana, Cuba.Images from the Exhibition

Writers should complain when we are reproached for not knowing how to deal with artworks per se, and rather write about their contexts. But, in the last thirty years, national artists have left us very few possibilities indeed! Even though I would like to relish the lines of the design of the bridge, the subtlety of the imagery or the luminous transparency of the walkway, I have no choice but to inquire: why a bridge?

A bridge that resembles a Nautilus in its premonition-like vision. A bridge, so that currents can flow in two directions. A bridge to soothe the sorrow of being separated. A bridge to inaugurate a way. A marine utopia, a technological feasibility, a political volition.

I wish there were a bridge not only for the Strait of Florida but for every geographical point in dissension; for every place where it is necessary and advantageous for people to step across. For those countless places where man wants to try his luck, take shelter, work or join his brothers. I wish there were bridges, thousands of surprising and mysterious bridges that like Nautilus would carry us into the deep waters of freedom. Not some little freedom marked beforehand in a spot on the map by some dominion, but the kind that like a cloak of communicating vessels, would take us sailing anywhere.

II. THE BRIDGE OF YOUR EYES

By the bridge of the eyes I go in and out of the world. A bridge which resembles a large window, outgoing and indiscreet. Everything enters by it: colors, shapes, people, cities, nature. And by means of synesthesia, also scents, noises and tastes. The bridge of my eyes lets the world get into me but I cannot help that some of me leaks out as well.

Throughout the bridge of Sandra Ramos’s eyes runs an inner labyrinth. As the eyes look over the repeated silk-screens, identical except for the hand drawings on them, the narration unfolds: a strip of pain, heartbreaking sorrow endured by people who no longer have names, a tragedy brought about by the very sea she wants now to have crossed by a bridge. A teardrop that nobody saw, a wail that nobody heard, a stentorian scream, a doubt and terror: everything flows through that optical causeway which seems to have focused insistently as if stacking up, once and for all, the more than enough reasons for building a bridge. There you can find the tearful mother, the unacknowledged fear, the unrestrained cravings, the postponed dreams, the string that breaks, the whims of the sea…

III. THE CLOSEST POINT

The southernmost point in the United States is a buoy situated in Key West, which has become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the State of Florida. Although it does not indicate the exact geographical coordinates – the actual South limit is located in adjoining lots which are not accessible to the public – the colorful buoy is a favorite spot for thousands of visitors. They flock there just as if it was a warm Antarctica, to touch with their own hands the border of a country and have their photos taken as trophies of the crossing. Curiously the buoy bears not only the inscription Southernmost Point but also a peculiar and unusual corollary: the distance that separates it from Cuba. Besides, those who sight the horizon from that shore also go there to daydream of platforms, roads, mounds, ferries or even fantasize about reaching out their hand to greet the blue, which although invisible knows it is heard.

(Some time ago, while we were watching how cigars were rolled in Ibor City, a historian from Tampa told me that centuries ago, the most important place in Spanish Florida was La Habana.)

IV.HUMIDITY

The passports have gotten wet. All our care was not enough and unexpectedly they have filled up with sea and clouds. The humid landscape we left behind during the crossing has amazingly impregnated their weak leaves with more strength than all the frontier stamps. We have also cried. At some time of the day, out of happiness, great fulfillment or grief; some tears have softened their foliated pages.

Seen like this, all together, like a big family, the faces get blurred, the names are lost and the law stamps vanish. Pain cannot be measured. However the numbers are built, or whatever tendencies mean, behind each moistened passport page, or behind those others that were torn, lost forever, forgotten at will or hated, lays a trace of irreparable torment.

Always the waters. Those sailed by Captain Nemo’s Nautilus or those that have soaked these identity leaves, stamping dates, destinations, returns or categorical goodbyes which, seen like this, all together, as time goes by, look dark and incomprehensible. Seas have no demarcations, lands have no borders.

V.CITIES

“Girls look the same” says one of Fito Paez’s songs. In Madrid, Mexico, Havana, New York… The belt sometimes is worn loosely on the hips and some other times high, highlighting the breasts. And even if they cannot be told apart, even though we all belong to the same kinship of man, your memory betrays you, makes you distinct, and speaks on your behalf without saying a word. But it feels so good to blend with the rest, that they do not know where you come from or that you crave for the smell of some food! You walk along a huge avenue among hundreds of people that are the same as you, that have the same amount of chromosomes that make us eat, sleep, mate and die. But deep inside, in our memories, we can afford to feel that we are unique. Unique as the corner where you can have cold guarapo with some drops of lemon juice.

There are wonderful things everywhere. Cooling down in the shade among the trees of the Plaza de Armas, sitting on the Malecon (Breakwater), cross Times Square in amazement, get lost in the immensity of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, stroll along Alcala in the evening when it is lit for Christmas. We do not live in style but we just passed by and the lights invited us.
And indoors, inside the house or the humblest apartment in the outskirts of the city where we have wound up, there is some space where we reminisce: what we were like when we grew up overseas, that which insists in lying invisible within us and that makes us so different in the broad avenue where we all walk the same.

We have photos, many photos of the places where we have been: the first arrival, frightening and incomprehensible, the first rental and the first job; the first time we went for a walk, so that it would look as though it was no big deal, we are still alive and nothing more. Look at them, the photos are over there, in those books that like accordions, expand and contract, breathing at the pace of what our lives have been.

Corina Matamoros.
Havana City, February 2012.
Traduccion: Lic. Rosa Maria Quesada