H A M L E T L A V A S T I D A
Two Two Three Nine
April 29–June 18, 2022
We are very pleased to announce the exhibition Two Two Three Nine by Hamlet Lavastida, which will take place from April 29 to June 18, 2022, as part of the Gallery Weekend Berlin at our gallery in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Hamlet Lavastida, born in Havana, Cuba in 1983, is one of the most influential Latin American artists of the younger generation. Together with other intellectuals, he initiated the 27-N democracy movement, which last year caused the largest mass protests in Cuban cultural history.
When Lavastida returned to Havana from a residency in Berlin in September 2021, he was arrested and imprisoned for three months. After weeks of torture-like interrogations, he was expatriated and deported to the EU. Since January 2022, he has been living in forced exile in Berlin, and at the end of June 2022 he will take part in documenta fifteen in Kassel within the Instar project at the invitation of the artist collective ruangrupa.
Two months before documenta, the exhibition Two Two Three Nine will give Gallery Weekend visitors the opportunity to take an in-depth look at Lavastida’s artistic practice. On display at Crone Berlin’s over 150-square-meter space will be more than 45 new works that the artist has created since his expatriation and that reflect both his personal experience and the themes of repression, dictatorship, and abuse of power in general.
At the center of the exhibition is Lavastida’s manifesto Penitentiary Republic, around which he groups a cosmos of diverse works in a wide range of techniques and genres. Alongside his signature cut outs are video works, stamp drawings, and photo wallpapers. They all come together to form a room-filling installation in which art and agitation merge, in which aesthetic and political aspirations enter into a symbiosis, and in which the will to design is grasped in terms of both form and content—following the artist's conviction that, on the evidence of worldwide upheavals, wars, threats, and historical falsification, one cannot be separated from the other.
With the exhibition Two Two Three Nine, Hamlet Lavastida refers directly to his prosecution as co-founder of the 27-N democracy movement. "Two Two Three Nine" is the number assigned to him by Cuban State Security when he was arrested in Havana last September. It replaced his name in prison. To this day, it is the only identity his homeland grants him.
In the exhibition Two Two Three Nine, Lavastida now processes his experiences as a political prisoner and civil rights activist, at the same time using it for an artistic protest against the oppression and equalization of individuals in totalitarian systems.
The front section of the exhibition features abstract-looking paper-cut works that in fact illustrate the concrete, everyday cruelty and tyranny of the Cuban regime: They are based on aerial photographs of partly secret prisons, camps and re-education centers in Cuba, which Lavastida was able to locate, track down and prove in arduous research work.
The stark, graphic prison and camp views are mounted on walls with signets and icons that Lavastida created for the protest in his home country. They exist as stamps with which he devalued or revalued Cuban banknotes, and as stencils that can be held on house walls, doors, fences or bus stations in order to paint over them, leaving signs and codes of resistance.
The middle part of the exhibition is dominated by a large-scale typographic work, also conceived as a cut-out stencil for a political-artistic campaign in public space. The text is the self-incrimination of the renegade Cuban communist party official Anibal Escalante, forced by the Fidel Castro regime with brutal torture in 1969. In it, he admits his misconduct and praises Castro's rule as the only possible path to the "new man."
In the back of the exhibition, the artist presents another wall of activist icons combined with prison aerial views. In addition, a video work is on display in which Lavastida animates his typical cut-outs and transforms them into moving images: The viewer experiences Stalin and Fidel Castro doing a dictator dance, fed by propaganda photos of the Cuban Revolution and the Soviet power apparatus.
Works on View →