By EDGAR ARIEL
January 12, 2023
Leviathan is the title of the exhibition with which Cuban painter, draftsman and installation artist Ernesto Benitez (Havana, 1971) returns to Havana since his last presentation there in 2019. The exhibition can be seen from January 13 until January 17 at the Zambrano Hall of the Hispano-American Cultural Center, located at 17 Malecon Avenue, between Prado and Capdevila, Old Havana.
The personal exhibition is, according to the press release, “a curatorial project conceived on the basis of a single installation”. The presentation will be ephemeral and will gather “dozens of garbage bags emptied of any content other than air, which will gradually deflate completely”.
The formal representation of Leviathan will be a metaphor for the “relationship between authority and power that has always existed at the center of sociological analysis”. In general, the work reflects on “power without authority and on the authoritarianisms that emanate from absolute power, power without limits, excessive greed and ego”.
Leviathan takes as its initiation point the thought of Thomas Hobbes, one of the founders of modern political philosophy. From the title, it takes as its fundamental intertext the book Leviathan, published by the Englishman in 1651.
Authority, continues the cited note, “by its implicit character of exemplarity, has been based on the Platonic values of wisdom, which are associated with prestige, respect, trust, the ability to reach consensus and consent. Authority constituted then and constitutes today a kind of recognition that does not allow self-imposition, but must be granted and bestowed”.
Hence, Leviathan asks: “When and under what circumstances does the exercise of authority degenerate into authoritarianism? What leads us, once in power, to confuse discipline and obedience to rules with blind meekness? How do we overcome consensus to land in imposition, exclusion, scorn, denigration of the different and dissenting, or the repudiation and exclusion of dissidents? On what arguments is the violence of those who only seek to cling to power justified?”
One of the notions that hatches with this exhibition by Benítez is the “philosophy of trash” (“philosophy of culture?”). An ecology that forcibly disidentifies the dissident subject. “Allusion is made here to the disciplined will, to the dispensable nature of the subject, to uniform collectivism and the Machiavellian anonymity of the hypnotized mob.” It also alludes to “a being that is annulled, ignored, devalued, neutralized, substitutable, recyclable: a being that is no longer”.
Ernesto Benitez, who has been living between Palma de Mallorca and Havana for more than a dozen years, belongs to a generation that began its creative path in the 1980s. He was a member of the Arte Calle group, one of the most subversive artistic projects in Havana at the end of the 20th century. His last exhibition in Havana took place during the XIII Havana Biennial in 2019.
Now, with Leviathan, he wonders, “When will we stop playing the assigned role of mere passive actors? Where are we headed?”
Published on the Culture and Society Web Platform Rialta MagazPor EDGAR ARIELine