Agnieszka Gratza on Carlos Garaicoa
“It’s one of the happiest works I’ve ever done,” Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa commented casually as we stopped in front of the video – a hybrid mix of filmed images and animation. playful – which connects the discrete parts of its installation. Partitura (Score), 2017/2021. Presented for the first time at the Azkuna Zentroa de Bilbao, which commissioned it, this collaborative piece draws on the contribution of some forty street musicians filmed in Bilbao and Madrid. Here in San Gimignano, snippets of their varied performances can be heard through headphones and viewed on tablets carefully placed on hand-drawn sheet music in the lower right-hand corner of the desks filling the area of the 1950s cinema stalls that Galleria houses. Continued.
A familiar presence in any cityscape, street performers are by no means cheerful, unambiguous figures. The effect produced by this phantom orchestra, whose absent musicians were all, so to speak, confined to their posts, is somewhat frightening. The feeling of alienation and lack of communication is compounded by the fact that the conductor’s desk, which is accompanied by its own score covered with fanciful notations vaguely reminiscent of Paul Klee’s drawings, is placed behind rather than in front of the ‘orchestra. The stands themselves face the back of the video-animation component of the work, projected through a triptych of screens. These rest on a wrought iron balustrade attached to a circular stepped platform, which is also fitted with cubic benches for visitors to sit on. Presented as the “first interactive work” by Garaicoa, Partitura indeed engages its audience only passively. While there is an interaction itself, it involves the street players and Garaicoa’s longtime collaborator and compatriot Esteban Puebla, who has composed a score based on their varied musical offerings. This score was then performed by a handful of musicians, including Garaicoa’s wife, clarinetist Mahé Marty, who appear in the video triptych.
Other more recent works presented on the stage above the stalls and in two contiguous spaces also explore the fractured nature of urban environments – an ongoing concern for the artist – encapsulated in the flotilla of shattered car mirrors in Soñamos in the rayada area of a crystal (We dream on the scratched surface of a crystal), 2021. Different shapes and sizes, each mirror has its own aphoristic inscription – for example, A CONTINUOUS RUPTURE IS A CONTINUOUS [sic], or SOMOS DE UNA NATURALEZA INCONCLUSA (We are unfinished nature).
Although far from being a metropolis, San Gimignano is a city of towers, the silhouettes of which together form an urban skyline. Of the seventy-two such structures that the medieval walled city once boasted, fourteen survive. Presented around the stage of the old theater, the “Ciudad archive”(Archive City), 2020-2021, with its neon illuminated signs resting on cabinets full of drawers designed to evoke apartment buildings, thus resonates with the context of the show. The same goes for the nine elongated paintings, mostly monochrome, on birch wood from the “Vertical” series accompanying Vertical encuentro (Vertical Encounter), both in 2021, the latter being a sculpture in marble, alabaster, wood and other materials, nodding to the unbuilt tower of Vladimir Tatlin. With reference to Russian utopian architecture and Brazilian neo-concretism, the six exquisite cut-out designs from the series “S / T (Bend Building)”, 2021, are presented, almost after the fact, on opposite sides of the upper balcony in a place that speaks of retrofuturism at the heart of the show.