My trips to the Dominican Republic are peculiarly unforgettable to me. Both gaily anarchist and extremely professional at the same time was the impression I had of the exponents of the autochthonous art scene whom I met over the years. The Dominicanos struck me as oscillating between the extremes of conservative bourgeoisie and eccentric non-conformity. I have always asked myself, which of the Greater Antilles islanders are actually the craziest: the Cubans, the Dominicans, or the Puertoriqueños? I still owe myself the answer…
Raquel Paiewonsky (born 1969 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, lives and works in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
Raquel Paiewonsky is one of those nowadays rare artists who predominantly use the aesthetics of the corporeal for her artistic purposes: «The work that I have been developing in recent years explores the relationship between our essence and our environment, the impact that cultural constructions and stereotypes generate on us; always refering to our instincts and the most primary aspects of our nature, and how it’s being affected by today’s changing contexts.»
With a decided zest for alienating all that is «naturally» corporeal, Raquel goes about her work, which she herself characterizes as «Mutantes». Accordingly eerie, sometimes menacing, but also amusing, is the effect of her whimsical and bizarre art. No social or gender-related stereotype escapes her grasp; she relishes in anarchistic delight when she upends and transplants hands, feet, eyes, or breasts; her metamorphizing hands turning them into biomorphic aliens that appear quirky, absurd, and surreal with their bizarre organoid props. By touching upon taboos and social attributions in terms of gender, gender difference, and potential transformation, her human transfigurations at the same time possess acute political and social sharpness.
Belkis Ramírez (1957–2019), Jorge Pineda (born in 1961), Pascal Meccariello (born in 1968), Tony Capellán (born in 1955), and Raquel Paiewonsky formed in 2008 the artist collective Quintapata (Fifth Paw), working together until 2015.
«We want the future of those who come after us to be fairer, but also to bring hope and to demonstrate that the future is really in our hands.» (Quintapata, 2009)
Quintapata worked with media, organized performances, and created video installations in order to realize their concerns, which frequently included issues of racial and gender discrimination. Soon they became successful, not only in their own country. My absolute favorite among all works by the Quintapata collective is «ADN», a four-channel video installation. The first time I saw it was at the Pabellon Cuba on the occasion of the Havana Biennial in 2012, and it was shown again a year later at the Venice Biennale. Hardly no other work of art made me instantly burst out laughing like this one did! The subject of «collective social behavior in an age of imposed social norms» has rarely been artistically treated in such a hilarious, sneering, witty way—and even long before our «age of COVID»…
Thou shalt chew gum—or not?
Four individual screens show newscasters who are reading out not the latest news, but rather an extensive set of instructions to be adhered to when chewing gum. A large bowl at the entrance to the video installation contains pieces of chewing gum, «chiclets», inviting the exhibition visitors to help themselves, chew the gum while watching the videos, and optionally stick it on the projection. After a while, this results in a kind of organic sculpture—the «ADN» (DNA) meanwhile contained in the chewing gum—of many small chiclets on the faces of the newscasters projected on the wall.
The recited texts add up to a small Dadaist masterpiece in its own right, caricaturing in the most amusing and humorous way and with unsurpassed absurdity and sarcasm the guidelines and sets of rules to which we are subjected today. I am quoting five rules here, pars pro toto, from this «Reglamento de Etiqueta y Protocolo para mascar chicles»:
l «Rule no. 15: No coveting of your neighbour’s wife without chewing gum.»
l «Rule no. 19: Never share gum with other people even if it has a bit of juice left in it.»
l «Rule no. 27: Never chew gum made in China.»
l «Rule no. 29: Do not store used chewing gum in your armpits.»
l «Rule no. 23: In Germany, one should not chew gum.»
Rarely has art been so much fun!