Carlos Martiel, “Hacerse Olvido” (2017) (courtesy the artist and Y Gallery)

Havana-born artist Carlos Mariel does the kind of stripped-down durational performance work that’s the best argument for the power of the form — its immediacy and intensity perfectly embody why some ideas need to be (can only be) transmitted in this way.

His minimal, gutting performances employ a few elements to crack open history, politics, and emotions, revealing how these are inseparable from embodied experience. This year’s “Hacerse Olvido (To Become Forgotten),” for example, had exactly two components: Martiel, and a rubber inner tube. Splayed across it, nude, on the gallery’s concrete floor, Martiel’s figure was a haunting evocation of the numberless nameless people who’ve drowned in the attempt to cross the shark-infested, tempestuous Florida Strait from Cuba to the US over the past half-century. (Not for nothing, he performed it in Havana.) In 2016’s  “SOS,” Martiel stood in the center of a Caracas gallery wearing bloodstained clothes donated by eight Venezuelan dissidents.

Monday evening at Y Gallery, Martiel performs a work with his signature mix of wrenching clarity, physicality, and cultural freight: “’Continent’ … reflects on the way black bodies are sequestered, seized, and abducted; and the consequent plunder and despoil of the cultural and material wealth of the African continent.” Rather than leaving this history in the past, Martiel insists on its urgency for colonized and post-colonial contexts today.

When: Monday, November 27, 7-8 pm (Rescheduled from Wednesday, November 22)
Where: Y Gallery (319 Grand Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan)

More info here.

Laila Pedro is a writer and scholar based in New York. She holds a PhD in French from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and is currently at work on a book tracing artistic connections between Cuba, France, and...