By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES, April 6 — The first thing that happened on Tuesday (April 3) as part of the XI Havana Youth Film Festival was the opening of the exhibit by James Prendes titled El hombre Nuevo (The New Man).
Prendes is a fairly unknown photographer but has an unquestionable quality, plus he’s playful. This is why his work turns out to be so entertaining – a game of tag between images and words.
Each photo is accompanied by a title that reinforces or completes it. Although the photos “speak for themselves,” it isn’t until we read the titles that the author conveys his true intention.
In this way, James Prendes playfully questions one of the most recurrent and readdressed myths of the revolution: the dreamt of “new man,” supposedly the ultimate result of the political and social transformations in our nation.
To accomplish this, he turns to the art and irony embodied in several sacred “revolutionary” icons and fetishes, as well as in unattainable utopias.
One photo is of a man sitting in a shoeshine chair placidly reading the “Guidelines” reform document of the Communist Party. The title is Disponible (available), which here in Cuba is the official euphemism for anyone who has been laid off.
El Retiro (Retirement) speaks of the quashing of the individual and the role of myths.
El Chivato (The Informer) shows slightly cracked venetian blinds, behind which we know there’s someone watching.
An old album cover, letters in Russian and a picture of John Lennon are featured in El Enemigo (The Enemy).
A doctored photo of Marilyn Monroe dressed up as a Cuban Young Pioneer is titled Conquistando el Futuro (Conquering the Future).
These are images that question, stir up feelings and make us think about the need for myths.
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