But for the most part, a Latin sensibility infuses much of the exhibit, maybe because the fight for free expression is still so raw to so many from points south.
A black-and-white print is hung very low on one wall, an image of debris on a street, made up of torn newspapers and forlorn shoes. Shot in 1960 from Colombian Leo Matiz during the height of the period that would become known as La Violencia, it is what remains of a protest violently suppressed.
Taking up one back room is an installation as visceral as Blass’ drum set in the front. In a dark room, a large megaphone faces a transistor radio, both on pedestals, with a spotlight shining from the loudspeaker. Your own voice, when grabbing hold of the megaphone, activates the piece, which includes a video on the side wall. Mexican Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has recreated a public art piece he made in Mexico City in 2008, when he asked people to remember the protests and hundreds of deaths that occurred in 1968 ahead of the Mexico City Olympics — their recorded messages and remembrances emanate from the transistor. With Voz Alta (or Out Loud), the artist wants to make sure such testimonies continue to be heard.
Other pieces are far less verbal or audible. There is a small, unobtrusive monotone work from the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a gray jigsaw puzzle in a plastic bag, maybe pieces of the artist’s past. It might be hard to connect Mexico’s Gabriel Orozco’s photo of a globe in a garden to the unsaid/spoken theme, except that it is commentary on globalization and colonization — but who cares, it’s a beautiful piece. The same could be said for American Mark Dion’s installation of a wildlife outpost, covered in pictures documenting fauna in natural habitats — more commentary than exploration of communication, but maybe that is a fine line.
In a graphic installation from Antonio Vega Macotela, a version of which was shown last year at CIFO, the Mexican artist has hung newspaper coverage of the epidemic of murders overrunning his country. Kneel on pads he has placed on the floor and look up to the printed materials — coded messages might be revealed.
The best-looking sculpture in the exhibit is a wooden bookshelf made of plywood with maple veneer from the Cuban collective Los Carpinteros. Its lovely contours collapse in the middle under some powerful, unseen weight, making it incapable of fulfilling its duties to house books.
One piece remains unspoken, but that will change when a video of an event from the well-known Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera is installed. In December, she held a “news conference” in Key West, announcing the re-establishment of a revolutionary party first formed in 1892, in the same place.
Throughout the entire exhibition space, which includes 38 works, the eerie sound of Beckett’s video follows you. It’s only fitting that the minimalist playwright who understood the ultimate paradoxical nature of language would get the last word.