12th Biennial of Havana : between prepositions and adverbs
The development of a strong collective art project requires the initiative of curators ready to construct meaning, disrupt looks, build new concepts and above all face the organizational maelstrom involved in gathering the works of artists from different countries. The motive for such a challenge in this case is the 12th edition of the Biennial of Havana, which will be taken by assault by not a few joint projects, including Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside, which will occupy a vertebral place in the exhibiting circuit of the Cuban capital. Taking as a central theme one of the most hot issues in the current Cuban context, and curated by Dannys Montes de Oca and Royce W. Smith, we witness today the particularities of the sample through the authoritative voice of its curators.
How and when did the idea of making the collective project Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside arise?
The idea for this exhibition came in June 2013 at “Wifredo Lam” Center for Contemporary Arts after some fruitless appointments and postponed meetings of both curators. We wanted to share our professional projects and future perspectives: firstly, the 30th anniversary of the Havana Biennial and its 12th edition and secondly the celebration of the 1st Biennale of Asuncion (October 2015). These destinations united us in a common purpose which we believe remains an unmet need for rules and luxuries of art that “major” events and biennials represent, the fact that any art event should aspire to be true transforming agent. The rain stopped “Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside” long enough to confirm that, creating new worlds is a permanent chapter in which both Havana and Asuncion were responding with the urgency and imperatives of their respective contexts. Havanaon a procedural and transdisciplinary approach of the curatorial practice and in search of a contribution to the idea that art should be stated as perennial exercise of everyday life regardless of its subsequent admission to the established system of museums, galleries and mega- exhibitions. And Asunción, in defining a new view of the Americas and the “Americans”, which, oblivious to the apparent American exceptionalism, is able to help up areas of cultural contemporaneity of this vast continent that do not involve the exaltation of aesthetic ideological canon of contemporary art, and yet dialogue about the importance of the local level and its exchange link with global practices.
What were those concerns that encouraged the curators to think about a project which has as backbone the Cuba-United States relationship, even before the start of the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries?
The Cuba / USA relationship is revealed as practice of Latin American “affections” and inclusions beyond our respective differences and crossroads. Talking about affections in a biennial dedicated to transdisciplinary could then be a trial for achieving this new territory or atlas of the Americas, based on dialogue, in the positive confrontation and mutual understanding; taking into account both the historical links between the two countries, as their emerging relations, which by the way, only reflects a need that as a symptom the exhibition itself wanted to address. This is intended as a mapping of exchanges and flows, self-conscious of its new place or role. We talk about creating new locations and regions, the recovery of family stories, and recognitions, which subjectivities to sweep the colonial dichotomy of the “ontological outside” and the “ethnographic inside” in the order of both the horizontal linkages as North-South relations.
What are the objectives pursued by the project?
This project explores the common experience of affection and meanings shared by artists living in the United States but from different origins and international experiences, and also transcultural experience, for their mestizo origins and cosmopolitan projection of Cuban artists and audience. It aims to create a strip of approaches and dialogues through art, amid situations of tension and misunderstandings between the two countries; taking as “physical and mental body” an area of the city of Havana. We want to create spaces of intersection and poetic movements that could be experienced from various points of this possible relationship (Cuban artists and international and migrants artists residing in the United States), (US-based artists and Cuban urban and social plot), (Artists based in the US and local audience), (Cuban artists working for their context) and (Cuban artists and local audiences), among many other joints that are able to dilute the gaps that separate us and the fissures that distance us. The participatory, interactive, disciplinary and procedural character of the projects and works generated will be aimed to explore different forms of knowledge and apprehension of realities, different types of crosslinks of creative perspectives and different models of participation and emotional stimuli, thereby encouraging virtue, joy and life expectancy, and the art space as a context of human relations.
This assessment must lead us to the conclusion that also the Cuba / USA relationship should be approached from a new kind of perception, appealing to a sensory intelligence capable of shedding new fruit, confident that the form of knowledge and experience, like the development of an idea, will lead us to its further use. Understanding in this case the creative process as perceptive process of multifaceted realities and levels discovers the constitutive transdisciplinarity of the idea that summons us and the multidirectional sense of its possible use in the imagined territories. It is not a dreamed territory or the utopia of struggles as we know it, but that territory to which we are committed to transform and create by force of its own circumstances.
What was the criterion for determining the list of artists?
Firstly, this is an exhibition conceived by curators whose gestures respond to the real possibility of renegotiating the historical relationship between the two countries, which has been itself a process of negotiations and multiple complexities. Therefore the exhibition works as a mechanism of mediation and intervention in processes and intercultural dynamics and includes artists who have strengthened in their works the ability to generate contextual interests as a form of socio-cultural bridge. The selection of artists corresponds to the procedural, transdisciplinary and participatory approach that the Biennial addresses, hence the list is composed of: Casey Neistat (United States), Stephanie Syjuco (Philippines / USA), Elizabeth Stevenson (Canada / USA ), Agnes Chavez (Cuba / USA), Pedro Lasch (Mexico / Germany / USA), Levente Sulyok (Hungary / USA), Omar Estrada (Cuba / Canada) and Cubans Adonis Ferro, Dennis Peralta y Maysabel, Harold Vázquez, Glenda Salazar, Levi Orta, Susana Delahante Matienzo and Guillermo Ramirez Malberti.
What is going to be the stage of plastic actions? What kind of relationship is established between the works and their context of display? Wouldn’t it be a contradiction using the Cuba Pavilion when the Biennial is appealing to public spaces and contact in the streets?
The project will focus on a ludicrous-participatory character for a diverse audience, predominantly cosmopolitan, urban and lover of stimuli like those flowing through the Havana district of Vedado, specifically in La Rampa and 23rd Street and based on the Cuba Pavilion, establishing a confluence and confrontation of knowledge between the notions of Art, Social Participation and Show, which is also consubstantial to that space from its own architectural design. All artists included have a previous practice with this type of communication springs and with different audiences, so the experience will also provide a platform to which may be added other kind of events or coexist itself with an extensive program of workshops, performances, lectures, film shows, etc., which will take place throughout the month of the Biennale. Actions generated directly there may be involved or not with the experience of art, or become part of it since being inserted in its dynamics. It aims to establish a type of approach that calls into question the notion of exhibition space from the time that for us the Pavilion is a traffic artery, a “between, inside, outside” space, an “in-between” in the urban fabric which aura of social connectivity, of agora, must be redeemed whenever possible by connecting naturally and expeditiously itself with what life demands of art: an event that transcends the very participatory experience and exchange of knowledge and emotions. Moreover, this is not a Biennial of the “street” although consequently many projects occur in it and outside traditional art spaces. This is a biennial of processes, connectivity to the public, empowerment of micro-policies, consecration of the transdisciplinarity and this is expressed in dissimilar dimensions.
As a paradigm of Cuban modernist architecture of the 1960’s and an optimal time in constant changes and radical transitions, the Cuba Pavilion embodies the ideal of “interaction between local and foreign”, between “inside and outside” and means both historically and symbolically the emergence of a cosmopolitan culture in keeping with the highest aspirations of universality of Cuban culture, and its aesthetic and political vanguard. Likewise, from its topographical position it socially and symbolically connected the artistic and cultural elites of the world that held there the most diverse appointments with populous and urban nature of its surroundings. This germ of connectivity become tradition, to which the Havana Biennial has joined without distinction, is the one we have here resumed.
How is Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside inserted within the curatorial dynamics of the 12th Biennial of Havana?
Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside, in keeping with the conceptual budgets of the 12th Havana Biennial, wants to promote a prospect of approach to art not focused on the visual, appealing to a dislocation of the vertical relationship curator- artist- works in themed, methodological, and conceptual terms and where the construction process to born from the experience of confrontation and senses shared by artists living in the United States, but from different origins and international experience, and also transcultural experience, hybrid origins and cosmopolitan projection of Cuban artists and public.
This project, as well as the current edition of the Havana Biennial, tries a “meta-objective” process to eventually destroy the essence of forms, places and rules, creating an environment in which artists and spectators to “go beyond “disciplines and produce gestures to change the landscape of perceptions. The aesthetic ideological context of our exhibition proposes that contemporaneity arises from the dynamic conditions between fixed concepts and unique stories, within specific cultures and out of institutions and customs that have conditioned our feelings and sensitivities. The artists of Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside will explore for this the phenomena of contrast and difference in a wide range of experiences and exchanges with the local public.