interviews for ArtinHavana to the artist Yerandee González Durán
Yerandee: Yerandee González Durán.
AiH: When exactly did you start working with the artist's book?
Yerandee: I started taking it seriously in 2004, when I presented a proposal of this type in the City Hall. About 15 years ago. And then I was working in my studio a little without knowing, because in Cuba it wasn't a systematically worked practice at that time. I knew, of course, the works that had been made in the René Portocarrero Workshop, with the artists, between artists and poets, such as the binomial between Orlando Hernández and Ibrahim Miranda. But, in this specific case, it was a kind of illustrated poetry, a practice that is still done in limited editions. However, what I was proposing (as far as I knew) was not done by other creators at the time.
AiH: How did you decide to devote yourself to the production of artist's books? Did your previous work as a book restorer have any bearing on this?
Yerandee: Definitely the artist's book has a very wide range of possibilities. You can do millions of things: from an intervened book to making the book itself. In the case of Ponjuan, for example, we have the intervention of books: he makes masks with them; he proposes it, practically, as a sculpture mounted on a wall, the book becomes a support because it cannot be opened (in some cases). This is a possibility; when you look at his catalogues you will see a great diversity.
The comprehension of the book for me is given from some studies of the trade in relation to the making of a book, to the restoration, to the binding, to that kind of things. In the National Library the spectrum was opened to me in relation to this because I worked with some books, like "Los Ingenios" with engravings by Laplante, for example, that today could be catalogued as an art book; but it is a concept that did not exist in its time, because it is relatively new. And then I began to realize that there was potential there, because if there was room for engraving, there was room for photography, for painting, for audiovisuals, there was room for everything. The book is a container. And then that motivated me: a compendium where one could express an infinite number of things, using various artistic manifestations. That's where my interest in exploiting the artist's book goes.
AiH: And in your production, what is the predominant thing: to make the book, to intervene it, a hybrid...?
Yerandee: I've done several things. For example, I took part in a book from Germany, from the GDR; those that had that typical format of the Socialist camp: books with very attractive photographs. And then I disassembled that whole book and bound it upside down, turned upside down: like everything turned upside down. Here, I made some interventions. This could be an intervened book, although not properly because I disarmed it and reassembled it; but well, some specialists see this as an intervention. As I see it, intervention occurs when you think of something for the moment, from finding, for example, a book with a theme that interests you as a creator and whose reading you can manipulate, without changing the order of the book. That's why I didn't understand the work I just exemplified as manipulation.
This procedure is extremely attractive and I have used it, but I prefer to start from scratch.
AiH: What possibilities does the practice of the artist's book give you?
Yerandee: All, all the possibilities that an artist can imagine. You are not limited because it is a practice that gradually opens the spectrum and enriches your work, gives you new means to express yourself. In the reading of a book, the description of a landscape, not everyone imagines the same thing: you imagine it in one way and I in another. That's an advantage of this type of work, it gives an "open mind" vibe, and although a certain synopsis is shared, it's personal... That's why it's tasty, because you make your own film.
Putting on a business card, painter, limits you a little because if suddenly you wanted to add something more to your work, like an installation or a sculpture, what would you be then, sculptor? And the best thing is to open up a little and put on a visual artist. Something similar happens with the artist's book, since its morphology may imply more than one artistic manifestation. There is a tremendous diversity of realization; each creator puts whatever he wants and does it in the most varied forms (accordion, etc.). I stayed in the traditional position of the book because it comes very well with the latent cynicism in my work, from the point of view of the subject. It enriches the concept, what I want to express.
AiH: In terms of referents...
Yerandee: I don't think I could make any specific statement. I read all the subjects; I study from what the work in question demands of me that I am doing: be it aqua vitae, rum or alcohol, there is always a process of investigation.
AiH: With regard to the invoice, is it an element to which you put a marked interest?
Yerandee: Yes, of course. I have advocated many times for the office. The trade is important when expressing anything. Many artists send their works because they don't have the possibility of having studied certain trades or they don't have a great skill... In my case the subject of binding, of making a book, which has nothing to do with restoration, since it's another dynamic, brought me a lot. It's a trade that I've used to create a whole series of works that I like to do.
AiH: In other interviews he explains that he appealed to multisensory, so that his books are not only to see them, but also to interact with them.
Yerandee: With a painting or a sculpture you have to walk with your hands behind you. With the book you have that intimate character: you see it, you have it in your hands, you have a work of art in your hands, right? And you can enjoy it that way, you can touch it and do many things with it within the performance in which it can be circumscribed. And look, "perfomance" is also one of the manifestations that fit in there, inside the artist's book. Hanoi [Pérez Cordero] and I did an exhibition at the National Library where there was such a proposal. Where everything was inside a book. No longer only the 5 senses, because we also play with equilibriumception. I'll explain how. You talk about drinking a book from a literary point of view, don't you? Here you drank it from the literal point of view, because they contained a liquid... So it is literal and literary: I am drinking the book and at the same time I am "drinking" this knowledge. And the registers there can be interesting (from dialogue or monologue)... the text (I speak of text when transcribing the above) that is what would form part of your interpretation of that reading, under the effects of a certain substance.
AiH: The titles give clues about concerns related to our context, what we are experiencing at the moment, and in a way they will remain as a chronicle.
Yerandee: I'm working on the book from a self-referential point of view, mostly. They are the references that anyone of my time, or a little younger or older than me, could have. And I move across a broad spectrum in that sense. One could even touch on the subject of social anthropology in some cases. Because, that is to say, everything in the end has to do with anthropology and social issues are very interesting.
Receipts is nothing more than a book of receipts intended as a collection in the manner in which they are archived in a common library (economics treaties). This other, for example, is a volume of 9 volumes called the "Encyclopedia of the Drunk", which are nothing more than little boxes of rum consumed by me and by some friends... at a certain time; the 9 books have to do with the 9 books of the History of Herodotus. And well, there's already a story there, which is not simply that of a box of bound rum that has already been consumed, that has already been metabolized; it's been taken to an artistic level. In that sense there are also ¨"Pollo x pescado¨", "Un librito para Eva" (made with small boxes of smoked rib soup).
Other books that already have to do with part of history... For example, "Brief epistolary found", conformed from letters that I found in the garbage. So I made a small edition of fragments and some woodcuts. The result is like a little book of love, beautiful, simple. Books so, when you interact with them, you feel like they've taken the piss out of you. (Referring to "Because weight has been made for something").
Or for example, what we had talked about before drinking a situation, that it was a "sui generis" library because there are all the senses, and other elements, such as what I told you about equilibriumception: you don't find the normal axis.
Many lack "text", but the text is given by another way... there is another type of reading there. You can talk about visual literature, like visual poetry. Because from an image you create a story.
AiH: Could you tell us about the prize you recently received from the Dutch Embassy?
Yerandee: It was a call launched by the Dutch Embassy, in relation to Three Kings Day (their National Day), and the theme was the bicycle. Imagine, we have history with the bicycle... And what happens, the prize was given to me because my proposal was different; really many of the artists appealed to sculpture (in various formats and sizes), material painting, photography. That was what I saw there mainly exposed, because there was an exhibition with the works. On the basis, among other things, they demanded the use of recycled material. Then I used cartons of soda boxes that had some circles that I found suggestive and I made the paper and the valve of the bicycle. Because in the end it was an escape valve, in Cuba, the bicycle theme. And for this very reason, the meaning it had for Cubans in the 90's, I printed rubber marks on it (with my daughter Marina's bicycle), so that I could reflect on the footprint through a fingerprint. The piece is called "Chronicles of a cycle", and it is the story of a cyclist walking around the world, through different landscapes. Suddenly we were on the moon with that story. And I also included a photograph of my uncle Hito, Cardenas, because the connotation of the bicycle in Cárdenas is known. I developed this idea because it seemed to me that it responded to a whole general character; because, if I had approached it as painting, it could have been an exhibition. It also included the sculpture (the valve), the graphics.
AiH: Some future projection...
Yerandee: For some time now I have been developing a project in which I will be involved for a period. I have approached several artists in the Taller Experimental de la Gráfica (some of them are well-known people in the world of Engraving such as Carlos del Toro and Rafael Zarza, just to mention two of them), who have shown interest in this type of collaboration. My idea is to see how they work and, above all, how their work could perfectly depart from the two-dimensionality of their work, to tell a story through the strategies of the art book. The procedure is as follows: for a time, I don't know, it can be a year, I see constantly how they are working, the work they are doing and I come up with ideas that they, of course, don't understand two-dimensionally. This word is a little strange because they do understand perfectly what they are doing, but I'm understanding something else, so that's where their work comes in with my realization through the dynamics of the artist's book. For me this collaboration has a connotation: to be inclusive within a book.
The first work in this sense was the book "La nube de Saínz" (Saínz's Cloud), because Saínz, the artist with whom I worked, always walks, as they say, in a cloud; and also, because in the process of observing him work, I was coincidentally when he engraved a cloud on the wood (as part of the xylography he was doing). I recreated a story from the downloads of the plate of the lost block woodcut he was doing - downloads to remove the ink and leave it clean for the other color -; the remains of MDF - wood he was gougeing - and the shavings of the cloud he had engraved on wood to make a piece; recycled material, which is discarded in all cases. One of the editions of this woodcut is exhibited with the resulting book.
Parallel to this line of work, now I have a project to make a book about the "rice with beans" that the Cuban has become today (speaking of mestizaje). In that I refer to Fernando Ortiz, in relation to the study he made of the race, the mixture; Lidia Cabrera; Argeliers Leon, among other scholars. I will also incorporate Samuel Feijóo in some way into this work.