Only a Matter of Pedagogy?

The Collective Subject in Cuban Art in the Change of Century

/ 1 March, 2016

After a “very special” end of century in all orders of life in the Island, in which the existential crisis and the failure of collective utopia had dumped the Cuban artist of the nineties towards himself,i (…) the appearance of pedagogical practices from the group experience of the High Institute of Arts (ISA) brought renewed airs to artistic inquiries in a context of discursive effervescence. In the first place, because of proposing themselves from the group and, in second term, for removing the narrative load which marked the precedent period, to again consider, now on this stage, the sense of what is artistic in first instance.

(…) It was not until the eighties when, with revolutionary determination—in its sense of change of the aesthetic canon, of renovation of the artistic ideal—, group action and collective projects considered processes of artistic creation that gave Cuba entry in postmodernity. The need of this generation to dialogue with the context and to conceive the artist as an agent of change, with a visceral activism and a critical irreverence which finally redounded to the usefulness of art, propitiated the appearance of groups like Puré and 4×4, and projects as Pilón, TELARTE, Arte en la Carretera (Art in the Road) and Arte en la Fábrica (Art in the Factory), in which the aureate stigma of the artist lost relevance following a collective creation which expanded, in different ways, the action of art on everyday life. Precisely from this generation come two key figures in artistic events who, at a distance of more than a decade, are seen as those who have contributed the most in the threshold of the new millennium: Galería DUPP, led by René Francisco Rodríguez, and ENEMA, headed by Lázaro Saavedra.

(…) In 2010 René Francisco received the National Plastic Arts Award and Lázaro Saavedra in 2014. Their ways of artistic teaching propitiated the activation of intellectual and practical means for the positioning of creation from the group. Although it is true that a common denominator for DUPP and ENEMA is that each of them are distinguished by the artistic identity of their “professor”, it is also true that the questioning impetus and innovative capacity of the “students-artists” conforming each group made concrete contributions which determined the artistic results with the nostalgia with which today are remembered. It is true that perception angles were others, but the drive of these groups contributed to have themselves attended and legitimated. Time goes by and the notions of consumption and conception of art also change. It is true that now the same institutional enthusiasm is not shared and the same critical conscience is not there. Perhaps because of that the Cuarta Pragmática, which also counted with the guide of René Francisco and had talented youngsters in his list, from my point of view did not achieve to articulate the notion of the collective above the individual interest and the true contributions this experience offered them, with so elevated referents, should be assessed. It is probably a generational matter. DUPP and ENEMA marked a paradigm that transcended their outstanding pedagogical results to take shape as artistic events with absolute autonomy subsequently rarely reached.

i Remember how the decade began: the performance La esperanza es lo último que se está perdiendo (Hope Is the Last Thing That Is Being Lost, 1990) by Ángel Delgado, in the exhibition El objeto esculturado (The Sculptured Object, in the Center for Visual Arts Development, Havana), condemned the artist to six months in jail because of public scandal offense (during the inauguration, Delgado defecated on the Granma newspaper).

Onedys Calvo

Onedys Calvo

She holds a master’s degree in Art History. Lives and works in Havana. She is a curator with the City Historian’s Office and contributes to various specialized publications, such as Artecubano, Revolución y Cultura and OPUS Habana. She also contributes to the radio station Habana Radio as a journalist, and is the director of the Center for Interpretation of Cuba-Europe Relations, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana.

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