Thursday, July 23, 2009

TONEL'S COSMOS

Slayton: Soyuz, Apollo. How do you read me?
Kubasov: Very well. Hello everybody.
Slayton: Hello, Valeriy. How are you. Good day, Valeriy.
Kubasov: How are you? Good day.
Slayton: Excellent....I'm very happy. Good morning.
Leonov: Apollo, Soyuz. How do you read me?
Slayton: Alexey, I hear you excellently. How do you read me?
Leonov: I read you loud and clear.
Slayton: Good.

Alfredo Triff

COSMOS is an exhibit of mixed media by Cuban artist Antonio Eligio Fernández (a.k.a. Tonel) at Chelsea Gallery in Wynwood, Miami. Tonel, an important artist of the 1980's generation collaborated with DDT, a biweekly Cuban magazine that featured political and cultural satire and art. His installation El Bloqueo ("The Blockade", 1989), a 9-meter long assemblage of construction blocks shown at the Third Havana Biennial still has a reputation.

Known also as critic/historian, theorist and former cartoonist for humor magazines, Tonel's style mixes graphic design, caricature and kitsch. During the 1980's Tonel dabbled into Neo-Expressionism, but unlike other Cuban artists of the same generation with less conceptual skills, his work remains fresh and witty. To appreciate the artist's ability to percolate ideas through a -sometimes acid, sometimes detached- humorous filter, visit this Website (with artworks from the mid-1980's to the mid-1990's). Image #10: Lenin, what to do (1991), shows a postcard-like scene with the distant image of a grim-looking Lenin at the beach, checking out a group of bathers (a pun on the Bolshevik leader's 1905 treatise "What is to be Done?").


Then there's Tonel's titling,
sort of out-of-sync, usually at the bottom of the drawing, feeding on political & ideological conceptual appropriations, making the whole composition a restless, reverberating signifier whereby the statement meets the thingly object through crosswording & double entendre in the mode of not meeting it. Tonel's early Corazón, Con Razón (1985) evokes a warm -and a bit didactic- local Cuban saying: ("Of course, Sweetheart").1


Nota al pie ("Footnote") is a big plywood sculpture of a human leg supporting a life-size figure (Tonel's portrait) standing on the leg's foot. Without the
title, the piece misses its "other half" -as it were (Nota al pie is COSMOS's pièce de résistance).

Interestingly, Tonel provides written statement for COSMOS: The show tries to connect the events taking place miles away and above the earth with some of the realities of the post-Cold War period, from the expansion of suburban life with its quintessential golf courses and golf carts to the triumph of neo-liberalism, free-market ideology and world (or perhaps cosmic) trade (...) The effects of the gravitational law has clearly played a role in all of these developments, affecting the rockets that are still being launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan as well as the golf balls that fly over the artificial green grass of North American golf courses, not to mention the ups and downs of mighty superheroes.2

Lunokhod 1, Lunokhod 2, above, shows the original 1970 unmanned Soviet spacecraft (left drawing) next to an American golf cart. The superimposition of two vehicles (one meant for the moon's rugged terrain, the other for the smooth & manicured surface of the golf-course) suggests an amusing politico-economical dissonance, which does not bring back the Soviet-American Cold War head on. It's more like a rhetoric of sorts being played in neutral sidereal space. 3
Tonel imagines a Soviet cosmonaut landing on the moon, above. It may be pure coincidence that COSMOS is still up as the country celebrates the 40th anniversary of America's first landing on the moon. We live a very different world from that of 1969. Nowadays, technological feats are received with much indifference by a desensitized public with little tolerance for the old-fashioned enthusiasm that followed the space and missile race of the early 1960's.4





With the Cold War behind us, the constant tooth-gritting geopolitical crises of yesteryear have faded into bland Twenty-First Century nostalgia. Why? Immediately after the demise of the Soviet empire, post-Capitalism promised a Neo-liberal paradise known as GLOBALIZATION. Unfortunately, the economic and institutional changes that took place since the mid-1990's have not only been insufficient for prosperity; they are even counterproductive. The rise in inequality of income since the end of the 1990's translated into wider social differences, financial short-termism, uneven growth and the production of luxury goods for the well-off.
Tonel's art feels akin to a moment in history -after the fall of ideologies, between the 1960's-1980's- of détente. This is how curator and critic Aleš Erjavec characterizes a particular kind of art being produced in the ex-Socialist European countries, China and Cuba during the 1980's and 1990's:
"Postsocialist or late socialist art and culture exhibits a number of common, often interrelated, traits: Conceptualism, postmodernism the conscious or spontaneous use of what are today considered to be postmodernist techniques and procedures, profuse employment of socialist and Communist imagery, the use of national heritages and of folk, traditional, and mass culture, and frequent use of what I term a “binary” artistic approach, which results in works in which two realities (the aesthetic and the ideological, or the literal and the metaphorical) retain their mutual incompatibility."5








Along with Tonel, Erjavec includes, amongst others, artists Sándor Pinczehelyi (Hammer and Sickle, 1973), Komar and Melamid (The Origin of Socialist Realism, 1983), Yu Youhan (Untitled Mao/Marylin, 2003) and the more aggressive An Artist Who Cannot Speak English is No Artist (1992) by Mladen Stilinovic. What happened then?

After the fall of the Soviet Union, as the Eastern European countries and Russia moved from Socialism to Capitalism, their societies shared the burden of social problems presented with Capitalism: rising unemployment, crisis of values, loss of identity, commercialization, nationalism, even a resurgence (irony of ironies!) of sympathy for the former political system. The Postsocialist countries undergoing the transition away from socialism began to display not only similar kinds of social and economic stagnation, but also a specific kind of art and culture. Gerardo Mosquera writes an essay for Erjavec's book, entitled "The New Cuban Art." However, the Cuban critic prefers "Post-Utopian" instead of "Postsocialist." The socio-economic and political shift from Socialism to Capitalism that Erjavec presupposes in his analysis (of the Eastern European bloc and the ex-Soviet Union) doesn't apply for Cuba. Castro was weary of and always resisted perestroika. During the 1990's, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba retrenched into an ideological fundamentalism known as "Special Period." 6
Mosquera acknowledges that in Cuba Erjavec's transition got truncated. It can hardly be called "transition" the migration to the US and Mexico of most of the artists of that genration. Mosquera concludes: "The artists react to the collapse of a dream, but are at the same time part of it. Here we live in the ruins of past glories, among the rubble of the city and the utopia."

Aside from the seductive imagery, humor and technique, one wonders what's the drive behind Tonel's COSMOS. Though he is a recognized artist from the generation of the 1980's living outside Cuba, his output still reflects -through themes and realization- the Postsocialist condition whose vestiges have become a realm of memorabilia.
Despite Tonel's admission that COSMOS deals with superimposed realities, the work is permeated by a narrative that savors specific memorial signs, charmed with the distance -not necessarily the referent itself. It is as if he avoided the present. Isn't this what nostalgia is all about?

In The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym takes a look at the aftermath of Postsocialism. Boym finds two kinds of nostalgia: Restorative, which puts emphasis on nostos and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps. Then, there is reflective nostalgia, which dwells in algia: longing and loss, the imperfect process of remembrance.7 Tonel's work is invests too much in humor to fall victim of nostos, a
--> condition which according to Boym, "enforces an emerging conception of patriotism and the national spirit."

There is no doubt that these images are charming because as Boym admits "cultural identity is based on a certain social poetics, a cultural intimacy that provides a glue in everyday life." In a certain sense Tonel's iconography compensates our separation, nearing an intimate experience, making longing available through humor. One feels one is coming home, never mind is not your home, by the time you reach it you already forget the difference.

COSMOS projects a desired past moving -beyond the present- into a future which could reactivate the present. Ok, we know the present is never what we've thought it would be, so one longs for a symbolic future (in order to resist the present). It all bears the mark of the empty promise of Postmodernism. Metaphorically speaking, it's too late for art to liberate society from oppression. We all stand as specters on the margins of the true winner: non-symbolic, factual, straight history. It turns that the struggles and narratives of history are repressed all over again, which only contains the potential for the return of the repressed.
The struggle failed and the dead died a second death, not only physical but also symbolic.
_________

1This is what Luis Camnitzer writes on Tonel in his book New Art of Cuba(1994): "With punch lines minimized by banality and twists reduced to the effects of puns (mostly understood locally), Tonel's work sometimes evokes the covers of New Yorker magazine, with all the trappings of visual joke, but without the joke." Regarding Tonel's way of "joking around," I find Camnitzer's observation that Tonel's puns are for "local consumption" besides the point. Most jokes are "local," since they are intended to be understood within a community of speakers.2Tonel refers to the Apollo Soyuz mission of 1975. It turns "Soyuz" has another -more sinister- political meaning: It refers to the alliance spearheaded by the hard-line Soyuz faction in the USSR Congress and by the archconservative Russian Communist party during the 1990's.3Lunokhod 1 was the first of two unmanned lunar rovers landed on the moon by the Soviet Union as part of its Lunokhod program. The spacecraft which carried Lunokhod 1 was named Luna 17. Lunokud's present location is only guessed by a few kilometers. 4In 1957, Americans were startled to learn that the Soviets had put Sputnik I, a 2-foot sphere weighing 184 pounds, into orbit (Sputnik means "fellow-traveler"). The Sputnik success meant that the Soviets, not the West, had the glory of launching what was immediately called the Space Age. At the time, it was a vast gain in prestige for the Communist powers and a terrific morale blow to the West. 5 Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition: Politicized art under Late Socialism (University of California Press, 2003) 6 During the 1960's and 1970's American Pop and Conceptual Art had little impact in Cuban art. Pop left a mark in Cuban poster art as political propaganda and in graphic illustration, but it did not caught up with painting. Conceptual Art did not appear until the 1980's. During the 1960's and 1970's Pop in music and painting was suspected as ideological diversionism. 7 Thinker Paul Ricoeur -following Freud- also suspects nostalgia as a type of melancholia (See Freud and Philosophy, Yale University Press, 1970).

136 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy a lot the article. Just a detail: Tonel wasn't a member of grupo Puré. This group was integrated by five members(Ana Albertina Delgado, Adriano Buergo, Ermy Taño, Ciro Quintana y Lázaro Saavedra).
janet

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks, Janet. It's fixed.

Anonymous said...

Nice Triff: I didn't know much about Tonel. Is the exhibit still up?

Susan.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, AT. By defining the concept of post-Utopian, Mosquera has been accurate. I would add "fossil art", because is vestige, and doesn't make progress. Interestingly, the generation of 1980s evokes past as previous generations of displaced Cuban artists. Everything seems to indicate that is “afuturismo”, a syndrome of bleak future provoked by Castrismo.

JR

Feminista said...

Nice post. I think it’s difficult to leave one’s comfort zone, whether it’s painting or any other artistic endeavor. And yes, nostalgia, like souvenirs, is comfortable and attractive. Think about it: As our history becomes less and less palatable what’s the only choice? Look back.

miamibourbaki said...

Susan: I believe the show is still up.

Thanks JR. I like afuturismo!

Feminista: A comfort zone it is, but in Tonel's case a complicated way of dealing with one own's identity, though this is beyond the scope of my post.

Garrincha said...

thanks for this post, man.
it was about time!

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with this sort of conceptual art and much of what is made of artists who base their reputation on ideologies.

There is not much to see these days that counts as art anymore.

miamibourbaki said...

Anonymous: Go and check out stuff. It happens all the time.

Anonymous said...

generic xanax xanax and breastfeeding - yellow xanax pill mg

Anonymous said...

generic xanax xanax dosage range - buy xanax spain

Anonymous said...

where can i buy xanax online legally xanax side effects day after - get cheap xanax online

Anonymous said...

xanax online buy xanax online no prescription mastercard - can you overdose xanax alone

Anonymous said...

generic xanax xanax side effects memory loss - buy xanax xr no prescription

Anonymous said...

Brokersring.com - Learn how to turn $500 into $5,000 in a month!

[url=http://www.brokersring.com/]Make Money Online[/url] - The Secret Reveled with Binary Option

Binary Options is the way to [url=http://www.brokersring.com/]make money[/url] securely online

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online cheap no prescription klonopin or xanax for anxiety - xanax pills what is it

Anonymous said...

buy cheap tramadol tramadol high many - buy tramadol online no prescription

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax effects duration - xanax quotes

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online 100mg tramadol withdrawal - tramadol hcl 50 mg high

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax overdose how many milligrams - xanax side effects palpitations

Anonymous said...

order tramadol buy tramadol overnight delivery - tramadol hcl headache

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol dosage in the elderly - buy tramadol no prescription

Anonymous said...

alprazolam xanax buy alprazolam online no prescription needed - xanax dosage yellow

Anonymous said...

xanax online generic time release xanax - zoloft for xanax for anxiety

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online buy tramadol london - buy tramadol online in usa

Anonymous said...

generic xanax xanax 2mg purepac - xanax and alcohol grasscity

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol 50mg vs 100mg - tramadol 50mg for pets

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax bars.com - generic xanax .25 mg

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol for dogs how much - buy tramadol online echeck

Anonymous said...

carisoprodol without prescription carisoprodol soma sun - carisoprodol soma 350 mg

Anonymous said...

buy xanax without prescriptions buy xanax online europe - super cheap xanax

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online where can i purchase tramadol with a mastercard - tramadol online overnight cod

Anonymous said...

alprazolam no prescription generic xanax mylan a1 - generic xanax rating

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax overdose effects - xanax rx

Anonymous said...

xanax online generic xanax names - order xanax online review

Anonymous said...

generic xanax xanax dosage extreme anxiety - xanax withdrawal using valium

Anonymous said...

carisoprodol 350 mg carisoprodol 125mg - carisoprodol 350

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol usa tramadol online no prescription usa - where can i buy tramadol online usa

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online buy tramadol online fedex delivery - tramadol journal

Anonymous said...

xanax online signs of xanax overdose - xanax 2mg

Anonymous said...

order alprazolam no prescription xanax pill blue - order cheap xanax no prescription

Anonymous said...

soma carisoprodol much carisoprodol soma - soma carisoprodol schedule

Anonymous said...

xanax online effexor xr withdrawal xanax - how much are xanax 1 mg worth

Anonymous said...

generic xanax buy xanax online discover card - drug used get off xanax

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol 50 mg strength - can you buy tramadol over counter

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online rx tramadol sr - 100 mg - buy tramadol online fedex

Anonymous said...

buy carisoprodol carisoprodol online - buy carisoprodol cod

Anonymous said...

xanax online pictures of generic xanax pills - xanax overdose children

Anonymous said...

carisoprodol 350 mg carisoprodol buy online - carisoprodol side effects constipation

Anonymous said...

carisoprodol 350 mg erowid tramadol carisoprodol - carisoprodol joint pain

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol high liver enzymes - tramadol dosage neuropathic pain

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax and high blood pressure medication - 1.5 mg xanax high

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol 50 mg vs percocet 5mg - buy tramadol for dogs

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online buy tramadol no prescription free shipping - tramadol vicodin addiction

Anonymous said...

buy carisoprodol buy carisoprodol fedex - there drug test carisoprodol

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online buy tramadol online cod no prescription - tramadol for dogs drowsy

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol addiction blue light - tramadol hcl 50 mg addiction

Anonymous said...

buy cialis online buy cialis online us - cialis online blog

Anonymous said...

cialis online where can i buy cialis brand name - viagra vs cialis reviews

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax pills called bars - xanax side effects grapefruit

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online cheap no prescription xanax generic walmart - xanax come up drug test

Anonymous said...

buy cialis online cialis это - buy cialis saudi arabia

Anonymous said...

buy cialis online generic cialis 36 hour - cialis online test

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax 4mg bars - xanax 1 mg and weed

Anonymous said...

generic alprazolam drug interactions trazodone xanax - dosage equivalents xanax klonopin

Anonymous said...

cialis online best online pharmacy cialis - buy cialis sydney

Anonymous said...

xanax online taking xanax recreational drug - xanax xr 2mg vs xanax 2mg

Anonymous said...

buy cialis online cialis yahoo answers - cialis best price

Anonymous said...

cialis online buy cialis online - buy cialis viagra

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online xanax liver - how long will 1mg xanax last

Anonymous said...

cialis online cialis kosher for passover - price of cialis at walmart

Anonymous said...

can you buy tramadol online legally tramadol 50mg ratiopharm - tramadol overdose 1500 mg

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online can you buy tramadol over counter usa - tramadol 50mg not working

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol 50 mg online - generic tramadol no prescription overnight

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol 50 mg ketorolaco 10 mg - tramadol buy online usa

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol dosage neuropathy - buy tramadol in usa no prescription

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol cod fedex order tramadol online reviews - recovery from tramadol addiction

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol withdrawal taper - generic tramadol hcl

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#51438 tramadol 50mg side effects dogs - buy tramadol pay with mastercard

Anonymous said...

http://blog.dawn.com/dblog/buy/#blog tramadol buy europe - tramadol 50mg tablets controlled substance

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#63987 buy tramadol for dogs usa - buy cheap tramadol online cod

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol 50 mg with ibuprofen - best place buy tramadol online

Anonymous said...

tramadol online tramadol hcl usa - tramadol zyrtec interaction

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol 50 mg to get high - tramadol 100 mg get you high

Anonymous said...

http://blog.dawn.com/dblog/buy/#about-us tramadol 50 mg maximum dosage - buy tramadol overnight with mastercard

Anonymous said...

http://buytramadolonlinecool.com/#73892 tramadol 50 mg for humans - buy tramadol online overnight delivery

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#38471 tramadol dosage dosage per day - tramadol withdrawal management

Anonymous said...

http://blog.dawn.com/dblog/buy/#blog tramadol 50 mg how strong - tramadol 50 mg dogs side effects

Anonymous said...

tramadol online no prescription tramadol addiction buprenorphine - tramadol dosage in the elderly

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#62431 tramadol addiction more drug_side_effects - buy tramadol online 100mg

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol buy tramadol cod fedex - order tramadol cod next day delivery

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#97734 get cheap tramadol - buy tramadol line usa

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#51602 buy tramadol online from usa - tramadol 50 mg once a day

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol 50mg grasscity - tramadol high dosage

Anonymous said...

tramadol online how to buy tramadol online - tramadol hcl 50 mg street value

Anonymous said...

tramadol online pharmacy tramadol dosage use dogs - tramadol 50mg usage

Anonymous said...

http://blog.dawn.com/dblog/buy/#blog tramadol addiction and pregnancy - tramadol tylenol high

Anonymous said...

learn how to buy tramdadol buy cheap tramadol online cod - how to buy tramadol online

Anonymous said...

learn how to buy tramdadol tramadol 58 93 dosage - purchase tramadol dogs

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol buy online - where to buy tramadol online forum

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol cash on delivery where to buy tramadol online - buy tramadol in europe

Anonymous said...

learn how to buy tramdadol tramadol 50 mg dose for dogs - tramadol for dogs withdrawal symptoms

Anonymous said...

learn how to buy tramdadol tramadol 50 mg for ultram - buy tramadol no prescription cheap

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol no prescription overnight buy tramadol online from usa - buy tramadol usa next day delivery

Anonymous said...

ways to buy ativan online ativan side effects iv - buy lorazepam online with mastercard

Anonymous said...

http://buytramadolonlinecool.com/#63102 buy tramadol online us - buy tramadol online visa

Anonymous said...

http://buytramadolonlinecool.com/#51726 tramadol hcl side effects 50mg - tramadol for dogs with liver disease

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol where to buy tramadol online usa - tramadol for dogs expiration date

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol cod online tramadol quinine - tramadol overdose 1500 mg

Anonymous said...

ways to buy ativan online withdrawal of ativan - ativan yahoo

Anonymous said...

buy ativan online how long does ativan withdrawal last - ativan and alcohol overdose

Anonymous said...

http://reidmoody.com/#53287 what is ativan generic name - ativan gel dosage

Anonymous said...

cheap ativan ativan zopiclone withdrawal - ativan much get high

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online xanax 83 - does xanax show up thc drug test

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online xanax with no prescription needed - high does xanax make you

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online xanax overdose 1mg - buy xanax online cheap no prescription

Anonymous said...

http://staam.org/#21236 buy tramadol online prescription - cheap tramadol no prescription overnight

Anonymous said...

http://staam.org/#10699 can you buy tramadol online in the usa - tramadol 50 mg buzz

Anonymous said...

http://ranchodelastortugas.com/#50698 xanax online no prescription india - xanax withdrawal after one month

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol 200 mg no prescription - buy tramadol 6914

Anonymous said...

xanax without prescription xanax generic vs brand name - xanax for flying

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol tylenol dosage - tramadol generic for ultram

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online drug interactions lexapro xanax - generic xanax pill identifier

Anonymous said...

http://staam.org/#50589 tramadol hcl 100 - cheap tramadol next day

Anonymous said...

alprazolam 0.5mg generic xanax does look like - xanax bars no prescription

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol 50 mg with alcohol - tramadol 50 mg how many to take

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online tramadol addiction home - generic tramadol hcl 50 mg

Anonymous said...

http://ranchodelastortugas.com/#50698 clonazepam vs xanax high - 2mg xanax enough

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online mister wong tramadol 100mg - buy tramadol online usa

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online how get high xanax - xanax side effects libido

Anonymous said...

buy xanax valium online florida street value for xanax 1mg - can overdose xanax kill you

Anonymous said...

alprazolam without prescription xanax generic pics - xanax 1mg buy online

Anonymous said...

buy xanax online xanax bars wholesale - xanax on employment drug test

Anonymous said...

xanax generic xanax overdose icd-9 - medication given xanax overdose

Anonymous said...

Wow, this paragraph is good, my younger sister is analyzing these kinds of things, therefore I am going to let know her.


Feel free to visit my homepage costs of dental implants

Anonymous said...

acheter cialis internet acheter cialis france cialis cialis cialis