In her practice Lorena Gutiérrez Camejo incorporates varying media and creative strategies that articulate her experience of life in Cuba and, in particular, reflections on “power.” Power is peculiar concept, revealing itself in overt and obscure ways. Without being explicit or overstated, Gutiérrez Camejo’s work triangulates power relations, the position of the individual, and social relations in situations of the absurd.
The shadowy intersections and dynamics of power are contained in all situations and images that Gutiérrez Camejo creates, but she never reveals a specific victim or victimhood. For example, in Soliloquio del zorro Acero (EN translation 2013), the floor is covered with the open jaws of fifty fox traps. Navigating the space becomes a metaphor for “the risk implied by living,” in which any relaxation of vigilance, any ill-considered or false move, potentially has in dire consequences. The floor-space between the set traps signals: you can avoid being trapped…
In El estado de necesidad (EN translation 2014) she again deals with the issue of consequences, of being cycled through or falling into the cracks of systems that are designed to support but end up subjugating the individuals they purport to help. This diagram and large-scale installation, based on one of the articles of the Cuban penal code, conveys the sheer luck of missing the institutional traps. The work captures the hyper vigilance that goes into self-preservation and avoiding punitive punishment. It reflects the policing that enforces self-policing and the silencing that encourages perpetual distrust Not saying that which must not be said, the not touching that which must not be touched—Gutiérrez Camejo renders into the abstract the throat clamping thought, which one is not allowed to have, should never have, and is always immediately found out.
A more recent work, UPPERWORLD, (2015) deals with the impunity of the powerful by presenting it as an absurd spectacle. Everywhere in the world where white-collar crimes occur, the result is a public spectacle, in which average workers watch as the politically connected and wealthy fleece them with no consequences. In this image series, Gutiérrez Camejo replaces the visual cues found in photographs on the front page of the financial section with the exaggerated language of the fashion spread. In the exhibition installation of the work, these dramatically staged protagonists obfuscate the “scene of the crime,” while in an accompanying performance you, my dear spectator, are invited to done a white collar—if you can reach it.
Presented in the 10th Berlin Biennale is Gutiérrez Camejo’s eloquent ¿Dónde están los héroes? (Where are the Heroes? 2015/2016). The work is a three-by-five-meter painting composed of ninety-nine individual paintings. The composite work recalls the patterns and colors of the military rankings or “ribbons” worn on uniforms, marking achievement and active engagement in military encounters. Through the question in its title, the abstracted surface pattern transforms into a charged but open-ended statement, leaving viewers to ponder an answer.