18 Sept. – 26 Oct. 2013
6 Albemarle St. London W1S 4BY
It is very early in the morning. The grass is covered with cold, dense dew. We haven’t even moved a hundred metres and my boots and trousers are already drenched and cold. The morning mist has turned my legs into two moving blades of grass. I try to walk as fast as I can and not to shiver, and I long for the sun to come up and make everything evaporate. An hour later, like we do every morning, we are all standing to attention like soldiers, each one of us facing an infinite furrow of exuberant tobacco plants. With our hoes in our left hands, we all shout in unison: “We will be like Che”. The tobacco plants and the weeds around them remain inert; our cry does not even move one leaf. Our voices quickly dissolve. It is worse each morning to work in silence.
However, today I hear the same instruction, like a continuous, infinite echo that refuses to leave its cave. Throughout all those years I learnt how to differentiate the voices of my companions and today I manage to break the unity. I hear each voice separately and I am able to recognise each one of our faces as well as our minuscule bodies.
Who amongst us is like Che? No-one!
Who wants to be like Che? No-one!
Who would have wanted to be like Che? No-one!
Diango Hernández, 2013
Diango Hernández links personal and collective memory, blurring the line between conflicting poetic and political points of view. Born in Cuba and now living in Düsseldorf, Germany, after having travelled the world, Hernández has acquired a reversed perspective on colonialism and political structures. An outsider everywhere, as much in Cuba as in Europe, he has invariably been shaped by his communist education. Hernández believes that all art is autobiographical but also incorporates the collective organised structures that give shape to history.
This exhibition at Marlborough Contemporary, comprising all new works, draws on his past experience while growing up in Cuba. For example, when children reached 12 years of age, they would be sent to a boarding school until they were 18; the students worked in tobacco fields in the morning and studied in the afternoon. They were learning to be New Men and New Women, or so they were told. The teenagers were taught quotations of Che, including the words that triggered this body of work: ‘To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and woman… Revolutionaries will come who will sing the song of the new man and woman in the true voice of the people…’ (Che Guevara)
Creating a new man and a new woman, as a utopian concept, was not only perpetuated by communist regimes. It comes as no surprise that Hernández also references Germany and Italy’s fascist pasts. Hernández’s new drawings feature textured images due to the particular treatment of graphite on wood. Their source is a German porcelain factory catalogue of the 1930s: Allach produced appealing, low-cost porcelains, accessible to every house, due to concentration camp labour.
On the other hand, Hernández also goes back to the architecture of the boarding schools in Cuba, ‘H’-shaped structures which share striking affinities with a project by the Italian architect Castiglioni. For his exams at the Milan Polytechnic, the architect created an ‘H’- shaped maquette for a fascist building. Of course, Castiglioni was making a critique of the regime as his choice of material suggests: his building was made out of cheese slices. Inspired by this contradictory coincidence of a building structured for rebellion and the communist education system – in Cuba, the ‘H’ buildings were gendered; boys and girls occupied separate wings and met in the middle to study – Diango Hernández has created a cheese maquette of his own.
The New Man and the New Woman at Marlborough Contemporary is Diango Hernández’s first solo exhibition in the UK. Hernández will have solo shows at Mostyn, Llandudno and at Kunstverein Nürnberg in 2014. He has participated in many group shows in international institutions, such as MOMA in New York and the Hayward Gallery in London. His work has been presented at the 2005 Venice Biennale, the 2006 Biennales in São Paulo and Sydney and the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. A major solo exhibition was held at MART, Rovereto, in 2012.
source: Marlborough Contemporary, London