Breaking the Barriers of Art

Interview with Juanito Delgado. Detrás del Muro at the 13th Havana Biennial

/ 23 July, 2019

The 13th Havana Biennial is getting near and expectations are growing before this great event. As is tradition in the last two editions, the project Detrás del Muro (Behind the Wall) is returning to the Malecón seaside drive to facilitate the dialogue between art and society. ART OnCuba spoke with Juanito Delgado, the project’s founder and director, to find out about the artistic course of this year’s Detrás del Muro.

What’s new in this edition of Detrás del Muro?

This year, as you well know, Detrás del Muro continues being inspired on truth, that is, we have to continue working to teach society what is the best of art and what is the best of human beings. I believe that the best of human beings can, in my way of thinking, be transcribed into art.

On this occasion Detrás del Muro has as a novelty, in addition to the curatorship we are producing for the 13th Havana Biennial under the title Escenario Líquido (Liquid Stage), our presentation as a socio-cultural project, whose name is dedelmu, a working name for Detrás del Muro. We also have as a novelty our website and the growth of our activity in the social networks. Our goal is that from now on they don’t see us as a project that only works for the Biennial, but as a Project permanently dedicated to working with the city and people in the aesthetic education and the formation of human values. (…)

Tell me a little more about dedelmu. Do you have a venue? How many people comprise it? How is the work dynamics?

Right now we are working in my house. In the future our headquarters will be at307 Malecón, thanks to the Office of the Historian, Dr. Eusebio Leal and his entire team. I have a way of working, for which I thank Dr. Nisia Agüero, in which I like everyone to give their opinion and to participate based on an idea or a process of creation, suggested by my own aspirations. (…) I have a multidisciplinary team that includes curators, communicators, psychologists, artists, designers, an architect and a photographer. It is a team of young people with a lot of talent, and especially with a great desire to work. (…)

Detrás del Muro is also a school, I feel I have a school. Now as part of Escenario Líquido we will have the thesis of two ISA [Higher Institute of Art] students, the works of Elio Jesús and Lianet Martínez; our designers will present their BA theses about us in ISDI [Higher Institute of Design]; Evelin Álvarez, a graduate of the ISA, is completing her master’s thesis on Detrás del Muro. We want to work, to teach, to learn.

A great deal of the performances we will present have become social projects, as is the case of the performance of Susana Pilar Delahante, who has already started with the registrations for the second edition of her project Lo llevamos rizo, which is her proposal for Escenario Líquido, with the support of the Casa de África [House of Africa]. The same happens with other proposals, as is also the case of the OSIKAN Group. (…)

How has the curatorial selection of the works been?

This edition of Detrás del Muro has been worked on since the last Havana Biennial (2015) ended. We have made a rigorous selection of artists. As in 2015, on this occasion we have invited a group of collaborating curators. In this way, we achieve a clearer dialogue with other perspectives, with other trends at a global level.

(…) The proposals are coming and I decentralize: my team is responsible for supporting each of the artists and projects. Many of the foreign artists I invite are of personal interest, either because their proposals dialogue closely with the public space, which is our raison d’être, or because I want to bring them to Havana to participate in the Biennial, aware of the prestige they have in the world of art. But there are also the artists who are interested in working with us, who contact us. (…)

This year 71 artists are working with us, with about 80 projects. We will be working on the traditional Malecón, as is customary, and also on Avenida del Puerto, on the Explanada de la Punta, the first stretch of Avenida del Prado, the Callejón de los Peluqueros and the Solar de La California, inside the Colón Barrio. And among the amalgam of works that we will have, there is performance, video, installation, sculpture, painting, social workshops, design, architecture and a lot of sensitivity towards urban culture. For this edition I have summoned artists from 14 countries: Mexico, France, Peru, Panama, Norway, Spain, the United States, Chile, Austria, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Bermuda and Cuba, of course. I went all over the world; I still have the debt with Africa, but unfortunately on this occasion it won’t be settled. (…)

Some general comments about the Biennial, what are your expectations?

We must think more about the Biennial. We must think that in the future it will be the Havana Biennial Foundation and that it will work uninterruptedly in order to find new essence for universal art. (…)

We must continue working with curators, theorists, critics, historians, society, so that the Biennial grows even more, so that each day it is better and it becomes a project that generates new ideas, that attracts more curators and specialists from the rest of the world. (…)

I believe we are at a moment of integrating ourselves and defending art, far from any personal position. We must defend those three letters; we must defend a four-letter word: Cuba. Only then will we be able to change how the rest of world views us. It is undeniable that a people like ours can best express its entire identity through art. (…)

Adis Rodríguez Castro

Graduate in Art History at the University of Havana (2013). In 2017 she was awarded with a Chevening Scholarship (International Award Scheme Aimed at Developing Global Leaders. Founded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and partner organizations). This program allowed her to study a Master’s degree in Creative Industries (Management) at Birkbeck University of London, UK. During five years, she has been working as a community manager in ART OnCuba Magazine, promoting Cuban artists around the world. Interests amidst the art world are: contemporary art, art market, gallery management, creative industries and new media.

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