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Socialist Surrealism

FotoFest curates the work of a brave new generation of Cuban photographers

A few photographers, however, represent a given social situation within a world of contradictions. Katie Garcia Fayat, addressing the private ironies of the marriage ritual, photographs a young woman on her wedding day. Her lavish dress, really more like a frilly Barbie-doll costume, is garishly out of place in her poor village. Such an outlandish display of past customs isn't realistic for her family, which probably spent every last penny it had on the ceremony.

Alternately, Eduardo Munoz's series uses the zoo and slaughterhouse as critical metaphors for the nature of life and society and a reflection on the horrific realities of Cuban life. The most shocking works in the exhibition -- shocking because they are unflinching -- are his images of horses about to be or already slaughtered as food for a few monkeys and a wolf in the zoo. In One Day Yes, One Day No, Munoz creates a visual narrative by moving quickly from a photograph of a horse with its head covered by a burlap sack to a closely cropped shot of a single terrified eye. At the beginning and end of the series are images of severed heads: Monday is suspended by its ear, and Friday, mouth slightly ajar, rests on top of a brick wall, blood dripping down the sides. According to Munoz, the heads are thrown in the trash rather than used for food. Munoz's series is not only an effective parable for suffering, sacrifice and violence, it is also commentary on the tenuous balance of life in Cuba -- not to mention a total derangement of the basic food chain.

"The New Generation" is an assemblage of photographs that bears witness, frame by frame, to a passionate state of affairs. By raising fundamental questions, it also opens a door that may be very difficult to close.

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