Juan Miguel Pozo Cruz is a Cuban painter and performance artist who resides in Berlin. He is one of the collaborators for The Lab Magazine and Generator Hostels’ #Regenerate14 event.
JUSTIN TYLER CLOSE—Aristotle said, “Pleasure in the job, puts perfection in our work.” Do you love to paint? Explain what it feels like.
JUAN MIGUEL POZO CRUZ—My paintings are a result of a long research process. There are also physicals margins – you can understand them as pleasures but also pain and anger… I guess that this is linked to pleasure too.
JTC—Where are you originally from?
JMPC—An island in the Caribbean. It’s fantastic!
JTC—Why did you come to Berlin?
JMPC—Whenever people ask me about Berlin I tell them it’s the best city in the world; there’s no money here and it seems that people do not care about it. We have fun and we have bike lanes. Berlin is a constantly changing, with people doing interesting things, or not. Here people come from everywhere with a suitcase full of projects and dreams. There are ex-military, drag queens, photographers, performers, hairdressers, VJs, DJs, punks, of all nationalities. There’s no time for rivalries. There is too much physical and mental space here.
JTC—Tell me about Das Hotel?
JMPC—I want that to be part of my legendary life in this city. It happened as things always happen in this city – with a dose of enthusiasm that exceeded our pockets. I remember that I wanted to stop painting for a year, have a holiday, devote time to reading and other activities away from the art market. Then I met Carsten Zoltan. He had the idea to start a bar. I suggested to him some features that contributed to the style of the place and we started to work on it. The success was immediate. My involvement with this place has become part of my own identity – another language to say things to the city that is very similar to art.
JTC—I know that you’ve studied philosophy, and one Plato quote that really sticks with me is: “Wonder is the feeling of the philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.” How important is it for you to just get lost and where do you search for inspirations?
JMPC—I’m working with one very singular idea for a very long time. All my work is founded on a basic question of aesthetics for beginners. Can art transmit something? And if so, what is the mechanism to achieve that. For me, art is a kind of complicity between the viewer and the work. Something that we can tentatively call a “fictional or symbolic pact.” Which leads me to another question – I tend to be better with questions than with answers – what makes a work of art (contemporary or not) interesting?
The first time I read Umberto Eco’s The Open Work I was twenty years old. It remains really important to me. According to Eco, a contemporary art piece is open to a high degree of criticism, and for that reason is susceptible to being interpreted in many ways by the viewer.
This idea that an artwork based in strength could be ambiguous made me ponder. And what happens when the artist needs to convey a very specific message? Perhaps avant-garde art cannot communicate an accurate message without becoming a piece of realism or illustrations in children’s books?
Since then, finding a solution to this problem has become a real obsession, the motif of all my work to date.
JTC—Define the word “Home”?
JMPC—The place where you are at.
JTC—What are you doing for our event – #Regenerate14?
JMPC—When you first told me about the project and that it would be done in a hostel, the idea came into my head of “no place.” And what makes a place? A hotel is a place where a paradox is created. It’s a place where you live but it is not your home. A good hostel or hotel tries to project an idea of home, to save this dichotomy.
Under this principle I want to exorcise this paradox with an action on identity. I will invite some friends to project their work on this “no place” for three days. I have no idea what will happen, actually, because it will be like my own life – unpredictable. But it will definitely be about my own experience in this city I consider my home. My friends – artists – are part of my everyday discourse, and they are very important in defining my conception of home.
JTC—How do you accept chaos in your life and work?
JMPC—I work under a quite irrational and viscous state of images that are reproduced as bacteria and come to life on their own. Things are being presented and organized in order of appearance. The cities are full of this vital inconsistency and my life adds to millions of others’ lives. You’re never one hundred percent in charge of your own experience.
My style is ubiquitous, disobedient, and fuzzy. I prefer the risk of being cataloged as dispersed and as an amoral trickster. My style (if any) is based on the painting as a language that is referring to itself. It is an egocentric, self-sufficient work.
JTC—Who or what inspires you?
JMPC—Cities inspire me. Berlin is a city that has many faces, many lives all in unison. It is an urban disaster bound by the collective fiction of a great metropolis. Yes, it is my lab.
JTC—When you were a child, did you paint?
JMPC—Um… I don’t know. I guess, like everyone else, my parents probably would have taken it more seriously, but then it was too late to do anything useful.
JTC—When you’re not in the studio or at Das Hotel, where can I find you?
JTC—Do you remember your dreams? Tell me your most recent memory of a dream?
JMPC—I do not usually remember my dreams. That’s probably why I am one of those people who gets bored if someone tries to tell me about their dreams.
JTC—When you’re in the studio painting, what is your go-to album?
JMPC—Usually jazz. Then I begin the painful journey of putting my ideas on a canvas.
JTC—If you had to choose one color to paint with for the rest of your career, what color would it be?
JMPC—What color? The color of time passing; worn and dirty colors.
JTC—What are your thoughts on technology? How does the Internet affect you?
JMPC—Technology has always been with us; today is no different than yesterday. It is part of our identity. Anthropology has taught us that there was a time when the idea of “art” was diluted in rite and functionality. Maybe we are in a very similar state with respect to technology. Anyway, science is the ultimately edgy discourse nowdays.
Freud once mentioned “Das Unbehagen in der Kultur” (the uneasiness in culture) – maybe he was referring to our unstoppable need to interpret reality. I do not know. Maybe technology fulfills this role, as art did in the past; mediating between the rational and the symbolic. Maybe it serves no purpose.
JTC—Tell me about your perfect day. Lunch? Dinner? Party?
JMPC—I think my days are perfect, even when they don’t include some of the things that you mentioned. Anyway, I am grateful to live in peace.
JTC—When was the last time you cried?
JMPC—I don’t remember the title of the movie.
JTC—I have to say, you’ve made our Berlin trip so much more exciting! I love you!
JMPC—Thank you guys. You are lovely.
JTC—Lastly, tell me something no one knows about you?
JMPC—I like the ephemeral by nature. I like to go out looking at everything, staring at people, clothes, manners… I like the Berlin walls which are a kind of collective chatter of its inhabitants: flyers, posters, graffiti, advertisements, invitations to events… I live in a very dirty neighborhood; if you walk looking at the ground you can find out the history of the last two weeks of the city’s life. I love that.