by Yocari De Los Santos
Deeply intense, encapsulating in vigor, and pertinently powerful are the ways that I would describe Afro-Latinx, Cuban artist Carlos Martiel’s Monumento II (2021), a performance commissioned by the Guggenheim’s Latin American Circle and organized by curators Pablo León de la Barra and Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães. On November 10, 2021, with a stern face, immobile, handcuffed, and nude, Martiel stood atop a 50-inch-tall pedestal in the center of the museum’s rotunda, temporarily becoming a monument to the historical violence and racism inflicted upon communities of color in the United States.
Martiel’s practice involves placing himself under extended periods of duress to shine light on how centuries of oppression has shaped the lived experiences of migrant, Latinx, Black, Native American, and other groups that are considered minorities. Early in his career, his work concentrated on the lived experiences of Black and immigrant populations in Cuba, but his focused has since broadened to include the United States, where he has lived since 2013.
“No documentation can describe the limitations and discomfort that affects the body during an actual performance,” Martiel said several days after his activation at the Guggenheim. “In the case of Monumento II, the situation was quite uncomfortable because the whole time, while standing on the pedestal, I was in an internal struggle to maintain my balance and endure the back pain that began to form from being handcuffed. During the performance, I tried to keep myself as upright as possible and make the least number of involuntary movements so as not to take away the solemn and ceremonial character of the work.”
(more info here)
The Guggenheim Blog