By Antonio Correa Iglesias
While there is a visual production that, being Cuban and contemporary, is anchored in technical automatism, in the glossy patina, in the recurrent figuration, in the empty image, in an anxiety to monetize rather than to create something truly new, there is another one that consolidates its processes of inquiry with the sole objective of finding that which constitutes us ontologically. The elusive question for ontology catalyzes here a nature in terms of inquiry, once it does not pursue an attitude as vindication.
One of the things I most admire and respect in Ernesto Benítez is his sullen vocation, his deep argumentative syllogism, his will to discern between Doxa and Episteme, but, above all, his processual methodology in the conception of a work. Each of these delimitations establishes a narrative in function of distinguishing, but, above all, exploring the increasingly ephemeral margin that separates us from a life as fiction in which, as Byung-Chul Han has well collated, we have to reconstitute ourselves no longer as human beings, but as avatars of our existence, once “digitalization, above all, exacerbates the derealization of the world by decosifying it”.
Leaving aside the seminal nucleus of cultural studies and other disciplines, Ernesto Benítez interpellates the hubbub that has arisen around identity, in order to liquefy the inferences and recognize that more than the search for an identity, precariousness as identity has been placed as an explanatory principle. Therefore, the will to re-install our center in the virtual space, conjectures not only the failure of humanity as subjects of thought, but our claim to explain from the studies on otherness, otherness, subalternity, gender and raciality, a founding condition that escapes the binarism of Western culture.
To atone for any regulatory effort that conditions us to assimilate Western culture is one of Ernesto Benitez’s obsessions; and it is so insofar as an abstraction established from an imaginal domain has pre-supposed the terms of an identity that, if it exists, would always be definable from two poles in extreme tension.
In his ontological inquiry as a processual source, Benítez abandons the relational quest; the preponderance of the network has created the mirage of interconnection from an [egoic] center traded for a necrological hedonism. The other has ceased to be the constitutive complement of an existence and has been transmuted into the subject of abomination. The forced mixture of these “identities” enhances euphemism as a nominal and conceptual practice in a culture where phallocentric management has segregated an understanding of thought and sexuality that has marginalized everything that is not white, male and heterosexual as support for a binary structure established as opposition. The other is imposed on us as an interface of a grid in which we must co-exist, therefore, individuality is diluted in the search for an exasperating collectivity, which ends up being an identity metastasis.
What makes us think that the irrelevant, the fatuous uneasiness should pass for naturalness? What makes the other think that his vain presumption should be considered relevant? Why does dysfunctionality acquire so much significance today? Why is a gesture devoid of sign and meaning elevated to the performative condition?
The ontological is, for Ernesto Benítez, the pretext to crumble the apocryphal assertion about our existence. The fact that we are on this side does not mean that we exist, that is why Ernesto Benítez does not pretend a visual search perse, in any case, he pretends to theorize from the image as epistemology. Benítez discards any reminiscence, as well as the cultural modes on which we have established a narrative as status. The anomaly, the orphanhood, the silence, the repugnant seriality, the tautological prevalence of the unnamable, the imaginary established as indecipherable signs, the venerable, are pillars on which a work is built that, even today, wants to continue exploring, recomposing passages, adjusting visual codes, reestablishing problematics, with the sole purpose of reflecting “on the empirical need to readjust a praxis in order to restructure its configuration and redefine the meaning of its discourse”.
Ernesto Benítez clears the memory and does so because he recognizes that the accelerated changes in a society have subjugated a subject who knows he is alien to himself, although he still struts in a chronic, entrenched selfishness, which only anticipates the disintegration of moral values in a society that is in a state of collapse. What we have been, what we have become, what we could have been, articulate the suspicion of a visuality that builds an image as if weighed down by bitterness. Whoever pretends candor in Benítez’s work should be warned in advance. In any case, Ernesto Benítez, through his images, secretes in the mire of impurities, the fetid and viscous fluids that have amassed the solitary and passive frustration of an existence plagued by absence and remorse.
Honoring his origins in “Street Art”, the residual, which is nothing more than the consummation of the primordial, is one of the unifying elements in his work. We cannot forget that Ernest Cassirer emphasized the meaning of human action in which everything is reduced to a symbolic action in order to give certain autonomy to the cultural story.
Perhaps that is why Ernesto Benítez distills everything that pretending to be substantial, ends up ratifying the unusual lightness of an existence. Everything is reduced to its essences, the black charcoal that makes the hands rough, the feathers of a disemboweled animal, the oils of sacramental anointing, the ears of corn drained of all traces of humidity, the knives corroded by the rust of blood spilled in suicide, the paper, its pulp, its ashes, the books subtracted from the biblical nonsense that was the Tower of Babel, the sweet honeys of the moorings, the viscera exposed for decomposition, the consecration of the heart, the scallop shell, the foundations of thinking consumed by the purifying fire. Isolated elements that, in their consummation, exhume breath and give body to an image, to a work plagued with rituals and anxieties. And what better concept than that of anxiety to bring together a visual exploration that tears apart its reality to submerge itself in the interstices of the necrotic body that is Western culture; a culture that has often made artifice, as Eric Hobsbawm said, a tradition invented as an immemorial rite.
Benítez’s work accounts for these and other calamities, from his drawings, to works such as “Ara Sagrada” [Diptych] of the series “En Cilicio, Polvo y Cenizas”  where he reduces to ashes the books “The Republic” by Plato, as well as the “Discourse of Method by Descartes”, pillars of continental thought, or in “Arca de la Vida” [1994 -2004] where he turns a boat into a coffin, laminated in bronze and fabric, or in “Semilla de Luz” , Benítez exhumes once again the breath of a generation transcended by exile, flight, the loss of its immediate referents, and of course, death.
Ernesto Benitez’s work is far from being a backdrop consumed by a fastidious admiration. In any case, his work is a resonance box that necessarily refers to a Delphic course read with the mournful chords of Missa Nasce la giojamia by Palestrina. I find no better resource than this to set the scene for a work that gives an account of a personality that refuses the semantic swamp and questions the historical nature of the human imagination. Benítez discards intimacy to enter, absolutely, in a chilling dimension that shelters the being for death. This has been a constant in all his work and his most recent show is proof of it.
The years, the inexorable and irreversible time [Prigogine] has played in his favor; far from accommodating him in the starched comfort of a living room, Benítez attacks and charges his “ResetWork” Nit de I’Art 2022, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, with a minimalist symbolism. They are works that give a “twist” to abstraction, which we had already seen in his studio for the series “Fe de Erratas” and “Alas de Cuervo” ; however, the materials are the same as always: wormwood, fennel, anise, ashes of incinerated philosophical texts, aesthetic books reduced to cellulose pulp, personal documents guillotined on canvases with useless floral motifs that he stubbornly recycles.
Ernesto Benitez opens and digs into the scars of historical discursiveness, the fields of art and thought are his delirium, his deepest obsession. He lashes out against them, but he lashes out above all against the aberrant exclusionary naturalization of Western culture. The wounds that have healed falsely, bleed, and only with blood is remedied what with blood has been imposed by decree of armor and sword. The dichotic causalist and teleological structures, the sclerotic binariety, the time of the clocks, the beautiful, the methodical, the canonical forms and figures acquire in Ernesto Benitez’s work a relevance from what I like to call the genealogy of lucidity. Perhaps the notion of genealogy is definitely the precise concept to show the work of this man who, from art, has entered into thought, with the sole purpose of “reproducing” the primordial order of things before the existence of language.
 Byung-Chul Han, Non-things. Bankruptcy of today’s world, Taurus, 2021. P.65
 ‘ResetWork’: Cuban artist Ernesto Benitez exhibits in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. https://rialta.org/reset-work-el-artista-cubano-ernesto-benitez-expone-en-palma-de-mallorca-espana/
Published on the official website of Aica Caraïbe du Sud | Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art