Heraclitus of Efesus showed the roads that western ideas were to follow up to our days. “The world –Nietzsche has said in the most beautiful of possible forms– has an eternal need of truth, and that is why it has eternal need of Heraclitus.” 1
Without pretending to reduce a work of multiple meanings –like that of Cuban artist Inti Hernández (Villa Clara, 1976) – to a reading that recalls the ideas of Ancient Greece, it is unquestionable that we, inhabitants of the west today, continue investigating certain archetypes that obsessed our early philosophers. We still ask ourselves about the origin and essence (what is true, beautiful, fair, good); about the inscrutable human existence, life and death that, like all opposites, would seem to exist in an immanent correlation. It was Heraclitus “the dark one”, like his contemporaries called him, who developed –retaking some ideas of Anaximander and the Pythagoreans– the dialectics of opposites, destined to reveal those great enigmas.
Both for Inti Hernández and for Heraclitus of Ephesus –saving the considerable distances– “beginning and end are one in the periphery of the circle”. 2 And it is precisely this image that enables Inti to create his poetics of “meetings”. If fire, earth, air and water repeatedly coincide in the cosmic circle of the Greek philosopher, in the artist’s orbit the meeting is an absolutely human one. The center of Inti’s sphere is man, his private and social existence. The human being thought as transparency, fluid, energy, i.e., as spiritual subject, and the human being recognized as matter, consistence, physical body, i.e., as earthly being. Man activates the contact between the glass and the water ( Encuentros, vasos I y II ); and, in the same way interacts with wooden structures and mirrors ( Lugares de encuentro, la serie ). The human being is the protagonist of these works, his presence invigorates the pieces and his reaction completes the author’s gesture.
Inti Hernández is a conceptual artist who –far from becoming estranged from the form– finds support in it, creates from it. The meaning of his projects derives from the design materials and the architecture itself. They are mainly minimalist pieces of exquisite finishing that attempt to dialogue with the spectator. His glasses present a text ring that closes in itself in which one can read Vaso del amigo/Vaso del enemigo (Glass of the friend/Glass of the enemy). While the public drinks from them it is experiencing the meaning of these opposites as unity, as complement, as part of one and the same fluid that reaches the lips. Inti provokes the interrelation of opposites and shows that one cannot exist without the other: they are relative terms, necessary conventions to procure the understanding of reality and communication among men.
In this tenth edition of the Havana Biennial he presented one of his latest works: Lugar de encuentro 1/8 , thanks to the collaboration of the Mondrian Foundation of Holland and the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten. Exhibited at the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress (Pavilion K, vault number three), it can be described as a wooden structure with mirrors, elaborated at human scale, that once more, involved the visitors. Indeed, the spectator could penetrate the small architecture conceived as meeting space with oneself and the rest; some staircase steps of arbitrary dimensions succeeded in making the participants submit their full senses to decipher the place and, in this way, they discovered the reiteration of their image in seven points that altogether form a circle. Our real presence became doubtful, our real body got lost among so many equals, our reflection mixed with that of the others that also inhabit space; glances and gestures mixed in that multiplicity of beings.
The artist has explained the following about this work: “A full understanding of the real is hard task, whether the real is a work of art, a building, a concept, a situation of disagreement or simply life itself. I am currently exploring these concepts (…) A place is a meeting place for both friends and enemies. It has to be a place open to discussion and dialogue. In them, each person is invited to explore the possibilities of the pact, the meeting, of a place for reconciliation”. 2
Inti Hernández is a creator of symbolic architectures, of “artistic” places that combine both personal and public space. Ever since his experience as a member of Dupp”, his works have been directly linked to the social and urban space. In such a way that the interest to combine private and public showed gradually in his performances and actions until achieving the projection of these atypical meeting places.
Apparently, Inti Hernández’ anxieties partially coincide with the question posed by Jurgen Habermas: “Are we not conscious of ourselves just because of the other’s glance?” 2 We do not know to what extent this might be true; meanwhile we contemplate ourselves in the mirrors and rethink the wooden steps. More than anything, Inti proposes a staging of human existence; he creates a small dimension that is fully contemplative and reflective, where there is space only for man. In the global era, many have lost the mirrors; they have lost their image… their space. . Lugar de encuentro 1/8 is a work of resistance.
2 Alexis Jardines: Los afanes del yo. Aproximación al estudio de la realidad epistemológicamente estructurada . Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana , 2005. Pp. 38.
3 Heraclitus: «Fragmento 76» in: Antología de historia de la filosofía . Pp. 64.
4 Inti Hernández. 28/11/07
5 Emerging group of young artsts founded by a group of students of the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) and their profesor René Francisco.
6 Jurgen Habermas: Entre naturalismo y religión . Ediciones Paidós Ibérica, S.A, Barcelona, 2006. Pp. 24