Henry Eric Hernandez: The Art of Turning Words into Images
Gorria Workshop Gallery (GWG) is nestled in San Isidro neighborhood, right in the heart of Old Havana, which could witness the birth of an art district in the near future. During two months, this space will be housing the exhibit entitled “Relato: Insolente-Historia Mansa (Story: Insolent-Gentle Story)”, by Cuban artist Henry Eric Hernandez, which is made up of 15 artworks. Drawing, graphic, ceramics, video installation are combined to take us closer to a wide range of characters and draw our own conclusions on one of the main aspects in the career of this trans-disciplinary artist: the relation between history and power.
PanamericanWorld visited GWG and talked to this creators, who got his PhD at Madrid’s University, has published three books. He has been granted scholarships by The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Christoph Merian Foundation and The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.
What’s the idea behind Relato: Insolente – Historia mansa?
This is a rhetoric project on a matter I’ve been tackling for a long time: the relation between History and Power. The way Power controls historic narratives and how this historic narratives carry a power space.
For this exhibit, I reviewed my entire documental archive and I worked with a concept that has caught my attention: the fictionalization of history, the way historic accounts always includes fiction spaces or fictionalized stories.
I’ve been working like an oral historian. They generate their own archive and they later work on it. Over the past 15 years, I’ve been doing independent documental movies and, in 2008, I published a book with Percival Press publishing company, “Otra isla para Miguel (Another Island for Miguel)”, which included a DVD with six short documentaries, 15 minutes each. That work comprises the documental production in the 2000-2008 period. After two year, I retook that archive and began this project, which has taken six years.
One of the pieces in the exhibition is made up of phrases authored by women that are members of a bigger history. I was interested in taking a specific phrase that, once it is extracted from an anecdotic context, gains that slogan tone.
The gentle history is in the center of the project, where history becomes souvenirs. I work with some book boxes, covered by velvet, which contain personal documents. One of the pieces shows a notebook that was written by a man at the age of 8, back in 1964. This man grew up, grew old. That’s a personal document, but it is also a collective one since it is part of the national story, from the personal point of view.
There another artwork, a ceramic piece, with a phrase issued by a widow that lost her husband in the Ethiopian war. Before her husband left, he told her: “I rather have my children saying that their father is a martyr, instead of a coward”. The artwork’s title is “Placebos que ayudan a vivir (Placebos that Help People Live)” and it speaks of the way this rhetoric has been a placebo at spiritual, personal and human levels.
I’m interested in the text. Text is part of all these artworks. Text is not just a complement, but it’s an image. Words become images, when you write down what you orally say it gains strength at image level.
How was the relation with GWG?
Critic David Mateo invited me to GWG, within the framework of the launch of Art Crónica magazine, which included an interview I gave them. I saw the place, I thought it was spectacular, he introduced me to Adan Perrugorria and that was the beginning. Such spaces as this one have a great impact on the Cuban culture. These are alternative spaces, where contemporary art is fostered.
How about the workshop given at the Higher Art Institute?
I’m giving a workshop there, entitled “Transdisciplinaridad, arte y ciencias sociales (Trans-disciplinarity, art and social sciences)”. When I was working to get my PhD, on the representation of political pilgrims to Cuba, I read a lot about visual studies, visual anthropology from communication, communication studies, hermeneutics and sociology. After this experience, I was interested in combining art and social sciences.
Depending on their work, I recommended the students a series of texts on anthropology, sociology, cultural record, in an effort to boost their thoughts. The first edition of the four-month workshop comprises two exercises: the first one is related to the thinking and each student writes an essay. It is all packed with a notebook, so they can take notes and read as a space to study. The other exercise is the open lesson we will have in GWG, a three-day exhibit and I’m going to invite boldface names from the realms of art, critics, curators, collectors, so they develop a critic exercise of the exhibition.
After “Relato: Insolente-Historia Mansa”, I’ll have a display in Santander, Spain, in a space named “Palacete del Embarcadero”. It’s going to be different from this exhibit because it’s related to a ceramics project I carried out in Morocco after I was granted the scholarship by the Jackson Pollock Foundation in New York, 2010. Moreover, I have several spaces in collective exhibitions with Cuban artists in the second half of the year, in Hong Kong and Mexico.