Alexandre Arrechea(Trinidad, 1970)

The art career of Alexandre Arrechea began twice: first around 1991 and again on 4 July 2003. (The accuracy with which the artist has recorded the second date has always aroused my curiosity). The thing is that Arrechea was not always an independent artist. For 12 years, he belonged to the famous art group called Los Carpinteros, of which Marco Castillo and Dagoberto Rodríguez were also members.

White Corner

With this work I suffered a strange and enlightening deception. I got excited about an interpretation of it that turned out to be far from the artist's real purposes. I fantasized that the fight of one black person with a bat and another black person with a machete (both performed by the artist himself), was a representation of intra-racial conflicts or, at least, mistrust within the black population of Cuba or any other place. I included the white wall as a silent, indolent witness or as a supposedly neutral spectator in the face of this problem, which would then introduce a new conflict, this time of inter-racial nature. How many times, when there is a fight between two black people, have we heard a white person say disdainfully: "let them kill each other”? And this indolent exclamation can be repeated when hearing the news that the black population of an African country attacked and killed hundreds of other black Africans for tribal or religious issues. Yet Arrechea wrote to me that the work referred mainly to an inner conflict between his old stand as a member of Los Carpinteros and his current work as an independent artist: "White Corner is, then, one of those pieces that examines that whole process of change and re-conversion. Therefore, the installation is a cry of independence regarding my previous work and of personal conflict

(…) The video shown on that wall arranged in an angle is a perfect ambush, in which there are few possibilities for one Alexandre or the other Alexandre to survive. Only one will be the winner.”

Why, then, did I choose this work for the Afro-Cuban collection knowing that its subject was not, in fact, intra-racial nor inter-racial conflict? Why did I not think that it could be about violence between two people (of any colour) or simply about distrust, a widespread syndrome in our society where, in the face of the ghost of surveillance, nobody dares to speak with total honesty for fear of being accused of being a potential dissident or counter-revolutionary? In fact, the first individual work of Alexandre Arrechea was called El Jardín de la Desconfianza (The Garden of Distrust), and was made in Los Angeles between 2003 and 2006. Its central element was a tree in whose branches the artist had installed video cameras that recorded and sent images of the viewers to the internet. Even knowing this precedent, my imagination was diverted by the presence of two black people waiting for an imminent attack. Was this really a misinterpretation, a prejudiced misreading? As the artist later warned me, all his works are designed to have many readings and, being a black artist, it is unavoidable for the racial problem to be present. But it was not the core of his concerns. Should it be so? Is he forced to address that subject in response to viewers and critics’ expectations because he is a black artist? Would that be my second fiasco, the second betrayal of my white subconscious? Or was I finally beginning to understand the real functioning, the subtle strategy of the works of Alexandre Arrechea?

Year: 2006
Technique: Two video projections on brick walls, colour
Size: 8 min (loop)

Theme: identity violence race