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Coco Fusco

Paquita and Chata, 1996, Digital photographs in 5 parts

Coco Fusco included in The Abyss of the Ocean: Cuban Women Photographers, Migrations, and the Question of Race, a virtual group exhibition curated by Aldeide Delgado at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, New York.

The institution's press release follows below: 

The Abyss of the Ocean lays bare the multiple Diasporic identities of Cuban women while confronting racist and colonialist stereotypes of their bodies.”

The Abyss of the Ocean: Cuban Women Photographers, Migrations, and the Question of Race focuses on identity and resistance through the creative practices of five artists living and working in the United States, Mexico, and Spain. The exhibition reveals the experiences and strategies of survival of María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Coco Fusco, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Gertrudis Rivalta, and Juana Valdés within the matrix of Latinx Art. Through their work, these artists challenge the concept of Latinidad and its relationship to Blackness in the modern/colonial project. Unsettling the totalizing definitions of Cuban, Latin American, and Latinx Art, The Abyss of the Ocean presents key photographic series produced since the 1990s. These photographs lay bare the nuance of the artists’ multiple Diasporic identities while confronting racist and colonialist stereotypes of women’s bodies. 

The Abyss of the Ocean reframes a reductive, continental view of the Latinx identity to one that is fluid and archipelagic. For French Martiniquan philosopher Edouard Glissant, the ‘great’ narratives of the world (culminating in 19th century European imperial expansion) reduce complexity by emphasizing unification and totalization—a continental consciousness. In contrast, archipelagic thinking engages with exchange, fluids, mobility, and border crossings, and challenges the continental imaginary that perceives islands as fragmented and isolated. The Abyss of the Ocean employs the archipelago less as a geohistorical constellation of islands, and more as an “analytical framework to interrogate epistemologies, ways of thinking, and methodologies informed implicitly or explicitly by continental paradigms and perspectives.”

In Disturbing Categories, Remapping Knowledge (2019), art historian Tatiana Flores argues that the term Latinx has been narrowly associated with people of color (predominantly with Indigenous heritage) such so that Black artists of African descent have been consistently excluded in exhibitions curated from a Latin American perspective. This exclusion is made even more evident by surveying international exhibitions representing “Cuban Art.” Since the late 1990s, curators have explored the topic of race and racism in Cuba (notably, the ongoing project Queloides), exposing the marginalization of racialized bodies in the discourse of the nation-state. The Abyss of the Ocean should be understood in dialogue with these curatorial projects, inheriting their legacy and broadening it.

According to art critic Suset Sánchez, the particular silencing of Black women in the exhibition Ni músicos, ni deportistas (Havana, 1997) reflects a major paradox within the radical intention of the exhibit, given that Black women in Cuba constitute a demographic who have disproportionately suffered criminalization, objectification, and the racialization of their bodies. If the perspectives of women artists have scarcely been factored in the curatorial vision of these projects, an archipelagic perspective within a decolonial feminist lens further unravels the “entangled histories and affective connections that would otherwise be obscured by dominant and truncated narratives.” Inspired by postcolonial Caribbean thought, a feminist archipelagic perspective centers racialized women’s experiences by foregrounding the aftermath of the abyss (of the slave ship, of the depths of the sea, and of the unknown).

—Aldeide Delgado, Guest Curator