Aluan Arguelles Sets Up a “Chart Room” in Havana Gallery

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva

From the series by Aluan Arguelles titled "Nautica"
From the series by Aluan Arguelles titled “Nautica”

HAVANA TIMES — People frequently talk about the garbage left on river banks, coastal areas and lakes, but we seldom look past the first impression this makes on us, to the evidence of human activity it reveals. Nature, of course, is not at all grateful for these kinds of practices, but artists can rummage through any sea of waste to find vestiges of life.

In the solo exhibition that recently opened at the Espacio Abierto Gallery, Aluan Arguelles attests to this [1]. Acting as something of an archeologist, he has used his camera to compile images of objects left amid weeds, reefs and wild plants.

Like someone after a clue or sign, Aluan approaches every object through extreme close-ups. Pieces of footwear, tattered fabrics, truck-tire tubing, water bottles and other objects are extracted from their wild surroundings to become the objects of a photo series (Nautica) which seeks to describe the trajectory of a journey. The artist’s intention is clear and always on course: to seek out information about a violent migratory process. I use the word “information” in every sense of the word, for, in addition to this rigorous documentation process, the artist gathers testimonies from people who have gone through this trying process.

From the series "Nautica"
From the series “Nautica”

Unedited, the texts are exhibited as part of a large mural that has been spontaneously assembled on one of the gallery’s walls. They are accompanied by notes, maps of Cuba, official statistics and jottings made by the artist and other colleagues in the course of the investigation. The testimonies tell a regrettable story that is ongoing.

Immigration is the central axis of Aluan’s work. The different media he uses in his work have included painting, video, engraving and (for the first time now) photography. All of these media serve the purpose of expressing a phenomenon close to him, as a Cuban and human being.

Cuarto de derrota (“Chart Room”), the title of this, his most recent exhibition dealing with the subject, comes from the maritime term used to describe the area adjacent the helm, where the nautical charts are located and where the ship’s position is calculated and traced [2], and conveys the work’s intention to tackle the migratory issue from that perspective.

From the series Nautica.
From the series Nautica.

From this chart room-gallery space, Arguelles expounds on the path charted, installs his instruments and establishes the basic coordinates of the journey. But his interest in researching and plotting the landscape makes his path more flexible than the ones commonly traced by vessels. His interest in exploring makes it possible to change course along the way.

His message is not ecological but commemorative, deliberately alluding to loss, without sentimentalism. Luckily, Aluan choses to steer clear of nautical iconography. His impulse is that of the avid collector looking for recognition for the texts others have bequeathed him. He studies them, adapts them to his medium, abstracts them and manages to capture the unique and perhaps decisive moment they contain.

  1. The exhibition opened on October 15 and will be held until November 9, 2015. The Espacio Abierto Gallery is located at the main offices of the journal Revolucion y Cultura, on Calle 4 (between 11 and Linea streets), Vedado.
  2. Taken from: