José Manuel Fors: Dry Leaves Time is the element of narrative, as it is the element of life: it is indissolubly linked to bodies

in space. Thomas Mann Jose Manuel Fors belongs to the generation of visual artists who rediscovered photography as an important means of aesthetic expression in the 80s. This rediscovery was fostered by the conceptualistic tendencies that were beginning to be incorporated into Cuban arto Within those tendencies, the photographic image was ceasing to function as an end in itself and becoming a part of a broader iconological system, one in which its appearance and contents were often modified and manipulated. These uses of photography amounted to a two-pronged attack against both an aesthetic based on a priori documentalism, as well as against a unique notion of reality. Starting from a pluralistic criterion of reality revealed the inability of photography to capture the real as a totality. By demonstrating that the documentary essence of photography can be subverted, the criteria of realism on which this documentary essence was built were also being subverted. Thus it is easy to understand the importance that the changes that took place then still have for the new generations of photographers. But the fact is that the work of Fors does not have followers among the new photographers. He does not appear to have had an evident influence, as was the case with artists such as Gory and Marta Maria Perez. The reason for this might be found in the thematic specificity of Fors' works, to which he has remained faithful for almost 15 years and in which an aesthetic has been consolidating which is so individual that it has turned the artist himself into a rara avis within the contemporary visual arts in Cuba.

Most of his photographic mosaics and installations have nature as the fundamental theme. Grass, trees and earth have been the objects Fors has taken as a pretext for an aesthetic discourse whose objective transcends mere representation. Associated to the particularity of the theme comes the conceptualistic vision of the aesthetic phenomenon and what might be described as an economy of form, a kind of photographic minimalism. Thus Fors not only revitalizes the theme of nature in contemporary Cuban photography, but also renews the place and significance of nature as an object of representation in Cuban visual arts. Fors shot his first photographs in 1982 and 1983, at 8 time when he was still unfamiliar with the laboratory side of the art. He photographed broken benches and old things, all associated with a poetics of waste, but he also used photographs of trees which he took from his father's files. Hojarasca was one of his most complex works in that period and it was certainly the one that marked the watershed in Fors' career as a conceptual photographer. The work was an installation that Fors presented in one of his exhibits, Acumulaciones, and which was later photographed to be presented as an autonomous two-dimensional piece. These photos constitute a landscape treatment of the object conjugated - by combining it with elements evoking the landscape - with a landscape representation as such based on the insertion of the object (plexiglass cubes full of dry leaves) in a natural contexto This experience was very interesting, particularly as an extraphotographic action applied to photography. And this extraphotographic element is perceptible in most of his later works, particularly thanks to the rigor with which Fors selects, places and relocates the objects he is going to photograph, and the way he extends the process to the manipulation of the photographic image through inversions of color and the effects of the repetition of images. With Hojarasca, Fors began to use photography as an instrument for appropriation rather than as a documento If his only interest had been to document a work of ephemeral/and art, he would not have subjected the image to the manipulations that give them an aesthetic autonomy with regard to the referent. For the artist, photography


is technically a means for appropriation, but it is also a medium in which he relocates the thing appropriated. That relocation is spatial, but it is also temporal. Fors is interested in the many manifestations of time: the erosion of things and of nature. His ecological bent is not as much a denunciation of the attrition of nature by culture as it is a metaphor of the attrition of time. lt would only remain to be ascertained if he considers time a cultural or a natural phenomenon,i.e.,as a convention or as a dimension of existence which is ¡ndependent of consciousness. I am more inclined to consider his works within the second option because the first would have Iinked him with the question of historical time (as happened with most of his generational cohort: Gory, Torres Llorca or Leandro Soto, among others). And it is obvious that history is not what interests this photographer, at least not as a process exterior to objects and to nature. He is interested in an intimate time of things and a Iife and death cycle which is somehow ahistorical. That is why he is also concerned with the erosion of the photographic document, its attrition as an object and its persistence as a fragment of individual memary. The temporal transcendence of the object in the photographic image, its persistence as a remnant of the past, its contact with a metaphysical field which is the commemorative space that opens in the image. Fors works with memory as an aesthetic material, operating, on the one hand, onthe natural milieu as a kind of archaeologist looking for remains, fossils and evidence (see his series Tierra Rara, 1989). On the other hand, when he resorts to the family archives to make his works (as in Homenaje a un silvicultor, 1985, or Historia de familia, 1995) he is digging into his own affective memory, he is rescuing his own past and his own personal history. Juan Antonio Molina La Habana, 1996 Translation: Carlos López Cruz and Esther Tato Borja