Wilfredo Prieto speaks about subjects including his use of ideas derived from everyday situations, the performative and political aspects of his practice, his education in Barcelona and Trinidad, and his participation in Tania Bruguera’s Cátedra de Arte de Conducta, at Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana.
Many of your works contain common, mass-produced objects that are, in some cases, modified slightly. Can you speak about the idea of the ready-made or assisted ready-made in relation to your practice?
I wouldn’t call it ready-made, I’d call it “found-meaning.” The object or the action is simply the container of meaning. More than the formal, what interests me are ideas derived from everyday situations. This makes a difference given the interest of contemporary art in the meaning and explanation of reality as derived from the concept, not from the form as in Marcel Duchamp.
Some of your works have a performative element; others involve inanimate objects that take on an anthropomorphic role. Can you talk about the actual (or perceived) role of the body in your work?
I don’t consider myself a performance artist in the classic sense of involving the body in artistic action. But I do believe in a performative attitude that can generate an object, a language, or a meaning. In the end, as a creator, I am obliged to reflect, and reflect upon, all forms of reality through all working materials, whether tangible or intangible.
Why did you decide to base your studio in Spain and how has this affected your practice?
I have spent nine years working out of Barcelona, though I never had a physical studio there. That experience meant a change of context and culture that was distinguished by very different economic, social, and political situations, which influenced me to discover new ways of investing my experience, as a person and as an artist.
You studied in Havana and Trinidad, and participated in Tania Bruguera’s Cátedra de Arte de Conducta program. How did this training shape your practice?
I was very lucky to encounter incredible teachers and institutions such as the workshop of Tania Bruguera that you just mentioned, and those of Eduardo Ponjuán and René Francisco. With Francisco, we formed Galería DUPP, and were able to participate in the Havana Biennial while we were still students. I’ve always experienced my years of training as a period for experimentation and learning, one that I still pine after and try to continue.
Who has exerted the greatest influence on your art?
That’s very hard, but I’ll try to sum up (while leaving out a lot of equally important names): Cildo Meireles, Gerardo Mosquera, Gabriel Orozco.
There is often a political undercurrent to your work. Do you believe that art has the potential to create measurable change in society? How is this potential different from other efforts?
Especially in a period like today, when people no longer believe in it, journalism represents the commercialism of the banal, activism loses the essence of reality and instead perpetuates the errors of the system, and politics loses its logic, becoming a vicious circle. Art and philosophy are therefore in the best position to channel an understanding of our time.
Rauschenberg talks about acting in the space between art and life. In that spirit, tell us something about your daily rituals, art-related or otherwise.
Rituals have advantages and disadvantages. We’re always vacationing, but we’re never completely on holiday; we’re always working, but this becomes an obsession that is enjoyable. A journey, a conversation, a book, or a landscape can mark a new working environment.