critical texts


FRÉMEZ: the symbols explode
Reynaldo González
FRÉMEZ: the symbols explode
Frémez, the Cuban graphic designer has intended to endow the conventional capitalist propaganda symbols with a new meaning. The result : a confrontation between ideas and language, in an opening searching the visual effect as well as the ideological one. A black boy, crying, comes across a woman's chain, like dancing a tightrope. In his hand he holds a settler's hat. On both tips the chain is hold by the impeccably, made up hands, of a model, looking at us with the inexpressiveness expression of mannequins. The two faces makes evident an unavoidable polarization: the defenceless instability in the boy, the cold efficiency in the model. If the visual language of the first half of the 20th century looked for consolidating the standarization of certain symbols (which multiplied with a velocity also contributed by the century), the second one have consecrated them until reaching an unusual synthesis. Today a poster can (and uses) to substitute speeches of innumerable words, to glorify a motto, to make irrefutable or acceptable a lie, to forge a truth, always in a land of ambiguity where clumsiness is only the unforgiven. From the beginning it was started from a visual simplification, from a functional summary whose results were, on the long run, surprising. A model offers to us in a stereotyped pose and with an expression of insane languor. A target, or dartboard, dominates its chest. An airplane falls down from the center of the target and it leaves its corresponding smoke, trail. If highly developed societies attended the systematic emergence of propaganda as a sociological phenomenon (as well as psychological: the inner acquaintance as "truth" of elements which are only sale propositions), until reaching to a hypertrophy which substitutes the taste, the senses, and it finishes taking possession of the individual while transforms into necessity of acquisition what is offer necessity; in our Third World propaganda should (and can) become an ideological, or policy making, weapon. It is to evidence the contrasts between both societies (overdevelopment and underdevelopment), it is to induce so much as conducting. And, for further effectiveness, a constant search obviating the common places, even when work is performed a priori, with common places, is forced: the model, the object to be sold, the coined sentence, the badge, the well-known face. It is to look for unexplored angles for a better performance on an avid but demanding sensibility which wakes up, it assimilates and it is saturated with similar speed. Two faces: a Vietnamese woman and a typical western model. The Vietnamese woman nose bleeds. The model makes up her lips. The red of the blood and that of the lipstick is the same one. The yellow color depicts the Vietnamese's race as well as a strident environment aureole for the model. It is the moment when the words have reached the inexpresiveness height by force of repeating, and the ideas - transformed by exhausted ideologists into a fatuous hermetic metalanguage - slide as on a too polished surface. The graphic image adds new connotations to its traditional possibilities, at a time that it should refute its recurrent symbols. It becomes a novel language, even when is supported by old resources. It goes beyond the initial language frontiers. It moves with an effectiveness which has gone maturing trhough the systematic work of the media, when acting on the péople´ sensibility and educating it. A model exotically decorated is sat in an exotic wicker armchair, next to an exotic (and exciting) tiger which can perfectly be compared with "the primitive people´s wild vitality", or with a phallus symbol that slips down - and it is a very peculiar understanding of strength and primitivism coined by the cultural metropolises. In the foreground: an Asian girl transports a smaller boy who remains sleeping, or dead. The symbols were already created and introduced in the massive retina (that guilty graphic memory of our time), through television, cinema, illustrated magazines, covers and wrappings of products and a thousand forms of commercial propaganda. An entire perfectly structured supporting structure - until their independence as contemporary phenomenon: the mass-media paved the way to a frontline of ideas. The Third World man received a systematic sedimentation of symbols that although belonging to developed societies, to their way of representing us, they invade and they spread over. It has begun to see, and it only waits that theirs senses dilate for looking in particular, for associating and for reaching conclusions from their position. Taking possession of that suporting structure, infiltrating, assaulting it and beginning to move it against their promoters, such seems to be the most suitable tactical step for the other man, in this moment ; the one who makes posters;. A good selection of elements, a distinctive comparison is required. Moving the symbols, synthesizing - or ignoring, for being useless - the same words. The rest depends on its capacity and on its limitations. The reproduction of the work is assured. Its "message" it will arrive, today, to more spectators. It is - if we paraphrase an old culinary sentence - "to turn the omelette": to transform the spectator into reader. A dancer lifts her leg, offering it ; she leans and she offers. In the low foregroung, a North American woman holds her nation flag, which nowadays is a symbol, more defining than defined. With the flag she has intended to hide what the dancer's frantic can-can wants to offer, but she can not. Silkscreeen is among the means which allow more possibilities, at least in Cuba, and it has been the vehicle selected by Frémez for a series of wordless posters. His purpouse: to retake the symbols and to give them a new meaning, but not forging their early meaning, the equivalence contibuted by an utilitarian look. Sweet-toothed, a girl, leans out to the upper side of the picture and licks the frame of the picture at the lower part. This picture shows the impoverished, weakened and half-naked bodies, and the piercing watch of several "natives". (nothing else so easy to differ among contemporary symbols than the categories of "native and developed", in a tacit understanding that they are antipodes.) An unavoidable reasoning is imposed before these images: the ill-fated symbol, the North American flag with its spreading and the ambitious sum of its stars, it cannot cover the dancer's infantile offering, no matter how much the old woman's expression intends a worthy austerity. That girl who allows herself the mischievous happiness of sucking from the upper level to the natives (their halfnakedness, their impoverishment and weakness ?), she is the heiress of both, a wealth and a comfort which make her guilty of her innocence. The looks of the exploited, here, neither ask for mercy, nor interrogate. They simply expose. The model's frivolity can not reach to hide the tragedy, its antithesis. The rouge of the lipstick, a symbol coined by decades of commercial propaganda (the lips of Ava Gardner, Liz Taylor, Brigitte Bardot. . . ) it is the link to make evident a difference that the great cities comfort can not impede, because it sustains the previous. And if we have accepted the model as a consumption society symbol, placing her the bull´s eye in her chest and operatng a device which makes the airplane descend (another contemporary symbol. The falling down of invading airplanes, but this it is theThird World contribution ), we make only an inversion, a comparison of elements facilitated by mass-media. A model, the affected top of sophistication and the most careful inexpresiveness caress her chin. Her eyes are protected under a big black hat. Her gear is misleading. She spreads her legs as only models know. The designer has looked for a girl who tries to satisfy her hunger and he has placed her there, precisely there, in the perfumed knee advanced by the model for tempting us. Everything is obvious. Intention does not hide. The artist is not considered diminished because his message is explicit. The moment is, also, of integration to a world of symbols. Before the impossibility of erasing from graphic memory of a time the instituted symbols, of "closing" to a penetration wich already has become inner, the artist opts for making them explode. These symbols (beauty, staus canons) that overdevelops throws to the Third World, can be transformed and be returned just as a boomerang. Once becoming aware that we are in war, we appeal to the old axiom: " In war, everything goes." Reynaldo González Bohemia magazine, Havana, March, 1969