Politics, aeronautics, astronomy, deep-sea exploration, and extreme climatology are just some of subjects from which Tavares Strachan (b. 1979, Nassau, Bahamas) creates monumental allegories that speak of cultural displacement, human aspiration and the limitations imposed by mortality, remembering and power. His text-based neon sculptures are anthems for our political and cultural moment, his lexicon an effort to mobilize community and social change.
Some years back Strachan asked himself a simple question: Who gets to decide who is remembered and who is forgotten? Before the Internet, The Encyclopedia Britannica, was an important repository of universal knowledge. Compiled almost exclusively by white men, it left great swathes of human knowledge untouched. Moved by this epistemological gap, Strachan put together his own compendium: The Encyclopedia of Invisibility, featuring 15,000 entries that cover a forgotten archive of people, places, concepts, objects, artworks, scientific phenomena and other stories. Among the entries are writings on Matthew Henson, the Black American explorer who first arrived at the North Pole in 1909, Saint Lucian poet and playwright Derek Walcott, and the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), a bovine known as the Asian unicorn.
A recent entry in Strachan’s Encyclopedia is Camilo Cienfuegos. A key figure of the Cuban Revolution, the young revolutionary was popular enough to be widely hailed as “the Comandante of the people.” His death at 27 in an airplane crash raised a whirlwind of suspicion about the ambitions of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, as well as concern about who would get to write his story. With his large-scale neon sculpture One Hundred More Fires (2023), Strachan literally brings Camilo Cienfuegos’ story back into the light.