By Patricia Calvo for China Brain.
Patricia Calvo’s work arises from an interdisciplinary space between art and anthropology. Through photography, archives and installations the artists explores issues related to permanence, disappearance, invisibility, destruction, symbiosis, and mutation.
During her fifteen-year stay in Beijing she has registered, through photographic archives and a series of found and produced objects, the social and architectural reconfiguration of Beijing and other Chinese cities, questioning the concepts of temporality and spatiality, problematizing the notions of past and future, and showing how the cities are radically built and destroyed in a performance of natural and artificial urbanization.
Intercontinental Memories is a work situated outside China –if only territorially– and, as in her previous projects, it is interested in digging further on the issue on temporality and spatiality, now through the idea of permanence. Intercontinental Memories is the artistic expression of the development of Chinese society in another part of the world, its currents, its mutations and its anchors.
The work is a visual registry of Chinese immigrants in Cuba during the fifties, a generation trapped between two revolutions: the Cultural Revolution from which they ran away, and the budding island revolution that they paradoxically found. China and Cuba represent two countries that have shared theoretical and political structures, but were culturally divergent. Calvo situates her project in that first generation of immigrants, most of them dead now, by visiting the Chinese cemetery, reviewing family albums, personal documents, everyday dynamics, newspapers, workplace identifications, personal objects, and rationing cards. She also explores their descendants, analyzing their physical appearance and everyday dynamics: the encounters and mis-encounters that befall migrants –what happens to migrants in faraway locations, unknown to them, where the promise of a better future becomes a permanent question.
Severo Sardy talks about the three ‘races’ that characterize Cuba: the Whites, the Blacks, and the Chinese. The latter remains hidden, shut off, almost imperceptible. It is precisely the quality of imperceptibility that interests Calvo in her exploration of what remains and what disappears. A permanence which is almost monolithic, as when one stares at a mask all day waiting for it to change its expression, even to show a grimace.