Carlos Garaicoa

Carlos Garaicoa’s (b. 1967, La Habana, Cuba) art has been a long dialogue with the city. It aims to reposition unnoticed urban sites and objects into spaces of artistic discourse, and, in more general terms, to build formal abstractions of cities’ patterns and their paradoxically physical souls. He has said: ‘I see the city as a huge text, of which I am a fragment and, simultaneously, a medium for this text’s interpretation and deconstruction. Objects and spaces are claiming something I am also urged to tell, which confirms a sort of mystic and ludic sense in every image.´.

His work began as a poetics of Havana. This city is a unique place: a museum that keeps the historical evidence of a magnificent past, a living ruin, and a symbol of the downfall of Utopia. The artist’s sensibility has been shaped by his initial interventions in Havana’s amazing urban landscape. But his work has evolved from a ‘sociological’ line to the more formal and poetic approach of his current installations. Some of his videos, photographs, drawings and installations take a critical stance, reflecting on history and social processes. In other cases the work aims to sophisticate the urban subject into a refined aesthetic rendering.

Carlos Garaicoa works with the surface of his photographs to create a ghostly visual record of the past within the present...

The images become palimpsests: we see the present invaded by the skeletal forms of the past, in a silent, uncanny testimony to what is inevitalby lost and supplanted in the endless process of urban redevelopment.

The 800-year-old city of Liverpool is changing so rapidly that time itself seems distorted, compressed. The city’s buildings – some of them barely a generation old – vanish overnight, and as the sun rises new structures emerge from the dust of demolition. These occasions of erasure and re-inscription, palimpsests of the urban landscape, were the subject of Carlos Garaicoa’s project for International 06.

In the summer of 2006 Garaicoa made a series of topographical photographs which, in the finished work, find themselves invaded by alien, skeletal structures – the ghostly forms of buildings past. Working from archival images, Garaicoa has made CAD drawings of these lost buildings and, using coloured thread, stitched them to the surface of his photographs.

The resulting works are charged, self-divided objects in which disparate materials and languages overlap and interpenetrate. The smooth, technocratic space of the record photograph is prised open by Garaicoa’s spectral interventions, which adapt themselves, parasitically, to the perspective of the scene. Garaicoa exaggerates and undermines the photograph’s vanitas qualities, its poetics of what has been.

He invited us to mourn what is lost without forgetting the social, economic and political shifts that underpin the ongoing transformation of the city.

Carlos Garaicoa at Liverpool Biennial 2006

Mixed media 
Exhibited at The Open Eye Gallery

Supported by

Virgin Atlantic