Inside Installations: Mapping the Studio II

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Display view of Letter to the Censors

Carlos Garaicoa
Letter to the Censors (Carta a los censores) 2003
Minimum space required for the installation 6500mm x 6500mm

Architectural model 1400 x 2250 x 1150 mm (150 kg)

Light boxes (each) 187 x 205 x 57 mm
© Carlos Garaicoa

Photography Tate Conservation

Letter to the Censors 2003, by the Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa, inhabits a theatrically-lit, red- carpeted space in the centre of which is an architectural model in the style of a classical Havana cinema from the 1930s. Small light-boxes displaying black and white photographs of old Cuban cinemas surround the model. Inside the cinema are projected the titles of censored films from around the world. The work creates a particular environment for the viewer to enter, with the different elements working together as a whole. The installation makes references that are both specific to Havana and global in their exploration of how countries censor their own creative production.

Photograph of a decaying Cuban cinema shown on one light boxes

Photograph of a decaying Cuban cinema shown on one light boxes
© Carlos Garaicoa

Making of the Work at Volume!, Rome 2003

Making of Letter to the Censors 2003 at Volume!, Rome 2003
© Carlos Garaicoa, Volume! and Rodolfo Fiorenza

The artist has said:

This is a project that is trying to capture the destruction of […] neighbourhood cinemas from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s that had been abandoned to ruin and oblivion. The work will consist of several […] photographs of some of these old facades in Havana. These photographs are a documentation of the actual state of these cinemas, as well as of a nostalgic reference to the importance they once had in our daily lives. They demonstrate the separation, the distance […] from the images themselves.

A second part of the work, a model of a cinema designed by me, wants to push a little more on the subject, as on its screen we will watch a movie without images: a list of censored movies towards the history of cinema. Together with the devastation of the old cinemas, the actual collapse of spaces created for images – a sort of image realm. The image of decay projected by the old buildings only confirms the role of the black screen, the absolute image absence. The perfection of the new cinema model, with all its red velvet chairs, contrasts its inaction. It only conquers us a space, not to watch, only to not forget.

Carlos Garaicoa, Press Release, June 2003

This case study explores the evolution of the presentation of Letter to the Censors and the relationship between the conservators, the curators and the artist in developing solutions to enable Tate to collect, loan and display this installation. The case study follows the early life of Letter to the Censors and offers an insight into the work that is carried out behind the closed doors of the museum.