One of the most urgent demands of those who have something to express is to have a space from which they can speak to others. That space can be limited to a podium, a stage, a gallery, a page, or time in front of the television cameras or the radio microphones.
Ah, if I had a space!
But what usually happens when such a space is acquired is that it is achieved under the condition that we not say precisely what we want to express. Then a mechanism begins to operate that drives us to protect the acquired space so as not to risk losing it. Even taking care that it doesn’t fall into worse hands.
It’s clear that the first thing is to win the space. I know a group of rock musicians who never found a theater where they could play because, from the very beginning, they warned of the possibility that there might come a moment when they would lower their pants in front of the audience or curse into the microphone. So it’s clear that no one who cares about their job would take the responsibility of offering them a space. I know a minstrel whose songs are very critical of the situation in Cuba, but when he has been live before the cameras and microphones at the Anti-imperialist Stage he sings against the war in Iraq or in favor of the just struggle of the Palestinian people.
I have many friends who work as journalists for national newspapers. I know how they think and everything that makes them uncomfortable. At times I’ll run into one who asks me quietly if I’m not aware of the daring adjective I used in my last commentary on a certain situation. I say don’t read it and then he tells me, like one who recounts a daring deed, that he managed to slip in the word “insufficient” to describe the results of the latest potato crop. He believes he has made bold use of the space they have given him. It’s not that he’s a coward, it’s that only a few months ago they fired a colleague who went too far.
Once we find an adequate space we begin to be conscious of the opportunity. It’s not the same being the National News commentator on television as it is being the person interviewed on a radio program that is broadcast for a few hours to an audience in a town in the interior of the country. Nor is taking Radio Reloj by force, pistol in hand, the same as having an opportunity to use the microphone because a good friend or a relative who doesn’t want any harm to come to us has given us a chance.
Recently the plastic artist Sandra Ceballos had the brilliant idea of launching an exposition with the provocative title “Curators, Go Home” whose main purpose was precisely to open the doors of her group space to those who would have difficultly being accepted by the academic curators of art.
Ah, if I had a space! And there it was, open and democratic as the sea, the living room of the private home of Sandra Ceballos.
But the official institutions of the Ministry of Culture, especially the National Council of Plastic Arts, reacted as reactionaries react. In a wave of institutional indignation, arguing that politically incorrect people had been invited to the opening, they warned potential participants that to go to the show would be taken as an apparent act of civil disobedience.
Docile and obliging, committers of original sin, some artists wasted no time (the accusing finger, the rent garments) in denouncing the heresy.
The owner of the space—completely within her rights—decided to postpone the exhibit and finally resolved to go ahead with the opening, implying that the rock group, those who never found a space, would not be present. The most provocative pieces were withdrawn “so as not to immolate Sandra’s space” and nothing more happened.
A springboard is a space that we use to launch ourselves into the pool. A space that is achieved for a certain purpose can’t be preserved in exchange for renouncing the objective: Once on the springboard, we can only jump into the water.