Adad Hannah’s Cuba Still (Remake) is a photographic intervention that uses video as its apparatus. More precisely, Cuba Still (Remake) is a projection-based response to a photograph the artist found when wandering Havana. This silver print, exhibited as part of the artist’s installation, is a promotional photographic still from an unknown film featuring what appears to be a cast of libertines and beatniks. Front and centre in the photo a lugubrious man lounges in a deftly tilted hat. A woman behind him strikes an exaggerated pose, hands on hips, one heel raised. There is also a guitarist, a drummer, and a man dancing while holding a vaguely Futurist bust. It is a scene of joviality and folly.
Cuba Still (Remake) replicates this silver print as a video that first appears to be a static photographic projection. For his reconstructed video version of the original silver print, Hannah individually videotaped models in the tableau vivant poses and dress of the photographic prototype’s cast and looped the footage. Each figure’s video is then projected onto one wall, creating a collage of filmed images. Wooden stencils mounted in front of digital projectors in custom-made lecterns eliminate extraneous details from each figure’s footage, adding to the assemblage’s effect.
Nostalgia tints Hannah’s work. A longing for an earlier epoch is present in Cuba Still (Remake), a bricolage that the artist uses to invoke the original, but also to re-experience it through a contemporary medium by shattering, interpreting, and finally reassembling it in a fashion that makes its subject seem more vital, if less immediate. Initially appearing to be a still video projection, the models’ subtle muscular movements and slightly flaring chests reveal it to be a moving image. Yet these bodies, mid-gesture, will never consummate their movements in Hannah’s video.
Remake reflects Hannah’s ongoing interest in channelling pre-existing fragments of visual culture into expressions that diverge, contort, or suspend the original meaning or intent. This strategy of replicating the still effects of photography using video is a consistent method in his oeuvre. Approaching found materials as ciphers to be recoded rather than distinctly understood, Hannah’s project deals in the aesthetics of approximation. For instance in the original photograph, footwear is especially difficult to determine. Rather than be stymied by this problem, Hannah rejoices in improvisation: such details are inserted and replaced according to the whims of personal desire and inventiveness rather than strict adherence to the original. Penny loafers for ballet-flats, and so on.
Time’s passage is inherently suggested in the photograph the artist has used as a point of reference, but Cuba Still (Remake) pushes this aspect further than its original. If a photograph is a suspension of an instant, then it’s restaging with this artwork initially suggests the unlocking of that historical strongbox, which first seemed forever sealed. But Remake does not transmit the past; its structure is not capable of such an operation. Rather it presents a pastiche of history’s flow, demonstrating that our record of the past is itself deeply reliant on approximations.