Cuban artist Reynier Leyva Novo‘s work has attracted international attention, for example at the Venice Biennale 2011. Northern Swedish city Umeå is perhaps not what an international art crowd would expect to be a venue this artist would choose, but it is not so surprising when you take a closer look at ambitious Bildmuseet which now presents the artist’s first solo exhibition outside of Cuba.
With a great interest in the history of his country, Reynier Leyva Novo explores, questions and stages different versions of Cuba’s past. He focuses in particular on the period around the liberation from Spain in 1898. His art invites the onlooker to reevaluate Cuba’s history and our interpretations of it. One of his pieces, The scent of war (Los olores de la guerra), consists of a number of perfumes named after generals and the places where they led their troops.
I like a lot about this idea. However I am somewhat confused by the fact that the fragrances cannot actually be smelled by the visitor to the exhibition. What is then the point of having created a fragrance? Is it the idea of a smell that is the point? The ability of our mind to create that by itself? Why then have fragrances? And if they have been made, why not the people smell them?