Abel Barroso: Un país, una ilusión

November 10, 2012 – January 5, 2013

 Un país, una ilusión  (A Country, an illusion)  was inspired by the idea of how countries and their borders are a created illusion that defines the world. Abel Barroso comments on the existence of geographical borders as capricious containers.

The central piece is, without question, Pinball del emigrante (Emigrant’ Pinball), an installation composed of seven pinball machines. While traditionally these machines are made with brilliant colors, lights and attractive accessories, Barroso’s are made out of naked wood, with no other paint than inscriptions in black, an intentional aesthetic selected a priori to remind us of the environment in which it was made. The machines are interconnected with a silhouette of New York City, profiled by its unique skyline. By using the city’s face as ‘backdrop’ for the machines, Barroso is making reference to the city’s inaccessibility, becoming an ideal place, a sort of ‘El Dorado’. Seven persons can simultaneously try to win entry to this chimeric place, with a happy ending dependent of several circumstances. Part of the success lies on the natural ability of each of the contenders, but also on their purchasing power to begin playing in the first place. Ultimately, it is largely dependent on fate. Traveling outside of the country becomes an obstacles course, and success would be the best possible outcome of many uncontrollable factors. The Emigrant’s Pinball Machine becomes a sort of virtual frontier between the first and third-worlds.

Another piece in this exhibition, Mi casa es tu casa (My Home is your Home) simulates a gigantic bird cage. Throughout time birds have become the symbol of freedom and free will par excellence. Many are assiduous migrants and do it at least twice per year with the change of the seasons. This ‘aviary’ of unnatural size has a world map outlined over it, with holes in different places for birds to enter and exit. This allows them to enter through a ‘country’ and exit anywhere they want in another part of the world, establishing an apparently casual and arbitrary dynamic of migration.

The last two centuries have been marked by a continuous migration that had socially reshaped the world. Today, it is common for anybody to have more than one passport and travel from one corner of the world to the other on the same day. Consequently, the act of migrating is very much part of the daily routine. Nevertheless, it implications are as deep as ever, especially for people moving permanently from countries in the third to those considered as first world. Barroso’s latest work deals precisely with the process of migration and its consequences, emphasizing on the process as a whole,the difficulties of the journey, and its perils. His works are also inspired on problems that people encounter before migrating and their ingenuity in solving them.Airports, planes, ships, and other means of transportation are essential part of his pieces, since they represent the actual ways to travel. He also creates machines that dispense visas or passports, as a solution towards “mechanizing” the expedition of those “travel permits”, and their availability to supply their demand.

There is intentional playfulness in his work is used to mask the seriousness of the subject represented. Barroso is taking advantage of the humorous tradition in Cuban art to bring attention to this dire situation.

Some of the pieces in this show were exhibited previously at his solo exhibition Cuando Caen las Fronteras (When the Borders Fall), presented in May at the Museum of Fine Arts, during the Eleventh Havana Biennial

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