press release

The official stories of national, ethnic, and historic identity are no longer convincing—today, these constructs have been fatally weakened by an array of turbulent forces that have led us to choose between an exploitative globalization process and an imaginary ethno-cultural purity. Trembling Thinking seeks another path by looking back at two figures from the Caribbean archipelago, who anticipated these conditions: Lydia Cabrera (Havana, 1899–Miami, 1991) and Édouard Glissant (Sainte-Marie, Martinique, 1928–Paris, 2011).

Glissant points to the importance of global dialogues in which local differences are not negated but produced. His works have such urgency to prevent the stagnation of cultural homogenization. His critique of isolation and fundamentalism is something that he shares with Cabrera, who built bridges between cultures and disciplines. Cabrera critiqued the fetishization of decontextualized African art and artifacts among the Parisian elite. As a translator, she encouraged solidarity between preeminent thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Wifredo Lam.

For Cabrera and Glissant, thinking beyond narrow understandings of identities was a necessity. Glissant emphasized always something unknowable—something opaque—inside each person, which rather than dividing us links us. This opacity must be defended vigorously in our own time, when we face a constant drive to discern and diagnose, to know with certainty. Cabrera and Glissant crossed another rigid barrier of our time: the multiple fences dividing poetry, philosophy, truth, and fiction. To maintain an open and subjective relation to the world, the refusal to systematize thinking unites Cabrera and Glissant, bringing them in relation to each other. A thought that trembles refuses to be definitively located, to be one. Rather, it shakes, vibrates, and stays multiple, leaving its identity indefinable.

Glissant and Cabrera’s influence is projected through works of modern and contemporary artists documented in archival material: photographs, first editions by Cabrera and Aimé Césaire, letters to Cabrera from Roger Caillois, Pierre Verger, and María Zambrano, and notebooks and drawings by Cabrera and Glissant.

The exhibition is accompanied by a pocket book with an essay by curators Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gabriela Rangel, and Asad Raza as well as a publication, Lydia Cabrera, between the sum and the parts (edited by Karen Marta and Gabriela Rangel) with texts by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gabriela Rangel, Martin Tsang, and Christopher Winks.

Lydia Cabrera and Édouard Glissant: Trembling Thinking is organized in partnership with the Cuban Heritage Collection of the University of Miami Libraries.

It is made possible by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Americas Society gratefully acknolewledges the support from the Arts of the Americas Circle members.

Additional support is provided by Genomma Lab Internacional and Mex-Am Cultural Foundation. In-kind support is graciously provided by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York.