Well, Claudio, I don’t have a camera and you have taken the photos, most of the time without permission and under threat (like you have no computer and work on mine which is fucked), you’ve become the official photographer and almost the only one for my blog, so I decided to interview you. Of course you are a tremendous artist but if I didn’t need your photos maybe I wouldn’t interview you.
- Let’s see, tell me how you stopped being a biology professor at age 25 and changed your life radically to become a painter, and later a photographer.
Well, thanks to a strange nervous depression that even today I haven’t yet fully discovered the causes of, I began, from a strange viewpoint of my inner world, to need to forget thoughts and emotions that were not agreeable and to avoid questions about myself that seemed like they would never have an answer. I tried to create spaces that were opposite in a certain way to what was happening to me. However, inevitably, starting from there, this strange inner world state, I added a surrounding reality, also an enemy in many respects, but over all because I couldn’t avoid it, many nights I simply couldn’t sleep for thinking about things and at some point I started to do them, and the capacity of vibration this gives is so beautiful and indescribable that today I don’t want to be an artist, I want to be a bohemian.
- What are your views and your impressions on the plastic arts in Cuba today? Do you feel a part of any movement or trend?
We are in a dark era, many artists have been from the beginning of this shit, and not only do they fail to produce work, but also they part ways with their teachings. A state corrupted plastic arts, for shit, pressure, money, possibilities, therefore an insincere and ultimately mediocre plastic arts. In addition, the plastic arts cannot exist when Cuba doesn’t exist. What exists is the software of Fidel Castro, and some of my friends and I want to believe that we are still a rebel pixel.
I’m inserted in my own arterial pressure, spitting blood through my ideas, my photos, my glance and each of my pores to the daily stupidity, created by you know who and followed by another whom you know.
- What do you think of the Cuban intellectual?
That like always, the intellectuals in the top tier today must remain in the sewers believing firmly in a tomorrow. The statistic of those of the top tier must be around three, I remember today that Bulgakov, in The Master and Margarita, said that Christ reminded him of Pontius Pilate whose greatest sin was cowardice, thus is demonstrated the arrogant absence of balls.
- Some artists have criticized your unconditional intellectual and moral support toward PPR [Porno Para Ricardo, a rock band]. Could you explain a little why you feel so committed to the group and why you're criticized for it?
I think that they can’t forgive me for deciding to be a groupie, I think the majority of Cuban self-proclaimed intellectuals are given the luxury of giving opinions when in reality they’re not permitted to relaxedly listen to both the lyrics and the music of PPR, when I have discussed it in private circles the majority can cite two, three, four themes and their arguments don’t have an intelligent analysis, and they know almost nothing about the reading levels that I bring. Therefore there are two principal reasons, one, ignorance, two the intrinsic capacity, since to me a single number was enough. A third possible cause, could be perhaps the fear of not saying what they think so as not to face future complications. There’s a lot of intellectual sanctimony.
- I understand that your mother kicked you out of the house when she learned about your relationship with the group. Where are you living? What do you think of her attitude? Do you feel abandoned?
I can’t ask my mother to share my ideas, I understand the reasons for what she did although I don’t share the drastic rupture of our relationship. I know that one day everything will be clarified and forgiven by both sides. Certainly my mother along with other mothers and families have not wanted, have not been able or have not had time to form a new political culture and pry out information about it. A mother also sees the possibility, many times, of strange and macabre ways, she thinks she’s done the right thing, she’s been consistent and it isn’t yet the time to talk about these things. Tomorrow I will start living in the house of a friend, I have been living with my girlfriend, who is no longer my girlfriend, who took me in, in every sense. I am not abandoned, thanks to this I am surrounded very closely by people whom I admire and we like each other.
- What Cuban artists and foreign do you count among your teachers?
Such a list would be very long and pedantic, thankfully humanity relies on artists, philosophers, writers, poets, beggars, alcoholics, prostitutes etc. who impact with magnificent bursts in the minds of certain people, and these are the sensibilities creating a continuous wave throughout history. Some time ago a very important teacher, who could not imagine that she was an important reference point for me, said: from the worst teacher, one learns.
- You’ve had a series of collage paintings for some years now, called 13, which is a bit mystical and political. Could you explain?
These collage paintings don’t all include the number 13 in their composition, those that have the number pertain to a numerological joke that I invented because I felt like it and that is 50 percent prophetic. I assumed just for the hell of it, taking into account that for many cultures and religions thirteen is a fatal number, that Fidel, a symbol of misfortune, was born a 13. Thirteen is half of the 26th of July. Divide 13 by four plus 9, therefore, for karmic reasons that I invented, our bearded one, as you put it, should fall into disgrace, according to my calculations, in the 49th year of the Revolution, which corresponds to 2008, not allowing it to reach the round number of 50 years in power. Sadly, this joke of prediction does not address the terrible successor of the same lineage. But at least, on this date, our man suffered one of the most famous intestinal rackets, an internal bursting that ambiguously isolated him.
One of the objectives of this explanation, I confess, is hidden and is to increase the interest in these pictures and so to raise their price. I never thought I could benefit with infantile treachery from the misfortune of others.
- Why did you stop painting?
The answer is as personal as it is extensive in the sense of a good public speaker. I do not pretend to explain everything that invaded me in the manner of a magnificently poignant photograph... almost never can we choose which obsessions we are going to be authentic victims of.
- Are you going to emigrate? What did you feel after the departure of Leandro, your colleague and your friend who has influenced your work? I consider that my political and economic culture are still limited and in spite of this, when I compare what I have learned in these last years, I believe that we live in a country of the blind and with this news I don’t feel anything good. Inevitably when you start to awaken, you realize that each one of your analyses makes you a slave of responsibility, so in this obligatory way you are going to suffer certain things on that path and the gain is that you have a guide. Apparently it’s a path of no return whose clothes are constantly basted-together convictions. Many people considered intellectual figures, artists and principal politicians, if they have something with a new impact it’s their emigration, and in addition, they haven’t left a structure of responsible substitutes for the function they had. This analysis is far from being a judgment, I also understand that in the history of a country, five, ten or twenty years is nothing, but for an individual it’s their whole life and it’s very clear that they could foresee that there were no perspectives for this country. Once in a photography course Enrique Pineda Barnet told us the definition of a pessimist: a well-informed optimist.
As for Leandro I still do not have full awareness of how we are going to mark this separation but from the first minute of his departure, I knew that we both were suffering. Simply, Leandro is irreplaceable, the most famous one of my life, too spectacular, a genius of feelings.
- What do you think of blogs?
In general I don’t think that full political democracy exists in any country, the Internet is a vehicle with great democratic possibilities and yet, inevitably, everything is subject to manipulations, because we have the worst of those interests, that are unconscious, that sometimes are not very clear. Today I see the blogs as a fount of more reliable information because they pass through the filter of individual subjectivity and independence.
- Tell me what you're doing now and what your plans are for the future.
I am planning a series of portraits that support and at the same time surpass a series I did with Leandro with ham, lettuce and peas. Also we are in the first stage of making audio-visuals of a documentary and fictional character, with deep subversive components. It’s time to put art ahead of politics, and not politics ahead of art.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.