Mountains with a broken edge

/ 12 May, 2015

What is the purpose as an event of Montañas con una esquina rota? Under what premises and objectives does it emerge?

Direlia Lazo: The project arose from a string of invitations, Jorge Fernandez invited Wilfredo Prieto to make a collective exhibition for the Biennale, he invited me and I invite Gretel Medina. The first thing was to locate the space which is very difficult at times of the Biennial, we walked every inch until it appeared the bicycle factory and then there came the idea of a site-specific exhibition, the list of artists, etc. The project is then defined as a series of interventions in the factory space and its surroundings that dialogue with the history and architecture of this special place that somehow represents the paradoxical nature of the Havana ruins.

Gretel Medina: Well, the draft Montañas… also arises from Wilfredo´s motivation to invite artists having to do with the proposals made by this year’s Biennale, specifically those related to art as a process and the mixture of artistic creation and research, which may have to with historical, contextual aspects. I think those are the assumptions on which we rely to carry out the project and from there we formed a strong and varied roster of artists. That is, artists from different geographical, cultural spaces, who also have different motivations, status; but at the same time share, as we have always thought, a common sensibility. It is not that their works or methodologies are similar, but the sensitivity, the results of their works are related.

Wilfredo Prieto: I think the key to this project is the meeting of a group of international and national artists (two national artists) that, somehow, believe that there are new ways of understanding contemporary art; that is, that there is a new sensibility that is emerging. It seems very important to me, precisely, to share this experience with younger generations of Cuban artists. So the first thing is to unite these various approaches that also have a common thread, some common area between them, and at the same time to contrast it with the Cuban production. More than an exhibition it is an event where the performers will come to Cuba to exchange with the art scene, perhaps through conferences that can be organized. I believe that this exchange will be really interesting, more than the project itself which is already a path too.

Within the urban framework of the city the place known as Bicycle Factory, on Linea and 18th Streets, space where the exhibition will be held, was a place of social and economic interest to the victory of the revolution; however its “usefulness” or “functionality” has disappeared because of its progressive deterioration. Could you explain to what types of questions do its selection as space for the project answered?

 WP: The space selection responds rather to physical condition, size, its architectural dimensions and location in the city by being a central area. Then, of course, it is also very motivating the conditions in which it is, virtually a ruin. It is a place that now is under construction, therefore, that gradual process of repair will be part of the exhibition. Montañas … also becomes a kind of starting point, which has been almost like a sort of convergence between past, present and future. It was first a tram station, it became a bus terminal, then a bicycle factory, and now it is planned to make a kind of cultural center; where residencies, exhibitions will be made. So our project is as an intermediate, a break to all that progress and regress.

DL: The site selection was not to make a statement about the ruin and decay of architecture in Havana. This site has been factory of buses, bicycles, repair center, the scene of a fire; bus terminal, very busy in its surroundings despite the abandonment. We felt passion for the decay of the place but from an aesthetic point of view. It is rather a confrontation with temporality, the transformation the space has undergone; its active structure once prevailing and now demolished, fragile.

GM: When we started to imagine this kind of sample we always thought an unusual place, that is, we were not interested in traditional art space. Indeed, we wanted to give the opportunity for artists to have freedoms, even physical, to explore, to look for particular stories, to offer a whole wealth of physical research of the space; we also wanted them to have the material possibility of being able to leave the traditional art object and to work with other materials, with another context. We thus began to explore the city, then we found this old factory that was in ruins, and we loved the future this space is going to have.

With what kind of actions does the exhibition intend to revive the everyday life of space?

GM: With everyday life of the space we were referring a little to the history of the context, because we try to offer artists all we had researched about the site on Línea Street. We wanted to also consider the place as a center of operations for us to deploy to the rest of the city. Thus, in dialogue with the artists, there have been at least a couple of projects that are considering the dynamics of movement within the city, and they are not going to be confined only to the physical space of the factory, but they will be roaming. There is a project by Helen Mirra, one of the American artists in the exhibition, which consists on walking through the city and then drawing ideas on the map, then having the Factory as a point of departure or arrival.

WP: There will be many works that will hardly be classified in a so accurately visual way: works that end with performance or tour, but are neither one thing nor the other. It will be an important interaction with the viewer outside the exhibition space. In the case of Pierre Huyghe, for example, he will take a model of the Sierra Maestra mountain range to the Turquino Peak. Then, there is another progress of the space, that is, it is not going to be understood as the place of an exhibition in the traditional boundaries, and will also be completely transgressed. On the other hand, the work of Ponjuán is going to be participatory and will go taking shape all along the Biennale. Tatiana Mesa is another interesting case, because hers is a very subtle work, so to discover, as well as becoming Sherlock Holmes to understand where it is, and becomes a more everyday image, homier, more personal in public space.

DL: It’s interesting that as we progress in the production of the pieces, it has been created a line of work that is beyond the physical premises of the factory to be inserted into the urban plot, in a more tangible and intangible ways. The project of Abraham Cruzvillegas -making a nod to the previous functionality of the place-, includes a rickshaw with a tour of very significant places of the city and a very unique soundtrack, an arterial experience, directed not only to those riding the rickshaw but to those who see it or hear it in the distance. Gabriel Kuri´s draft, a result of his visit to the area, consists on “giving a new meaning” to the productivity of the factory, making it headquarters of an activity that usually takes place outside of it.

What has been the main criterion for selection?

WP: The criterion I think it’s been very busy. Three of us are healing the project, even I do not consider myself a curator, but rather a selector; although it has not been a selection only of mine, the payroll has also included Direlia and Gretel and there are new characters that have appeared. Maybe these are “ways of doing” that, somehow, are innovating communication, seen from a very particular point, from a very specific criterion. They are quite experimental artists, they are not creators with commercial conditions, but on the contrary; I think this is a basic link in the selection. It influences the type of experimentation, purity, the smart way more than anything else. There is a great diversity of cultural forms, from different eras; artists who have matured their work at a certain time and that somehow belong to a single sensibility, to a single stage, one place.

DL: We wanted to involve artists who work with everyday life from very different perspectives, some more poetic, others more pragmatic and thus being able to create that narrative from space. Cuban art has a very strong aesthetic into the game with the everyday, casual, this sort of clever jokes powered by the symbolism of the elements they use, and we seemed interesting to contrast these ways from other angles. This is not the first exhibition to be done in abandoned or unused spaces, in Cuba we have a long tradition of exhibiting in unconventional spaces, yet it is an attempt to make the experience more domestic.

GM: The way these works dialogue with the art context, which is a very borderline form. The poetics of each of these artists is always on the limit. It is looking to make art from life itself, seeking in everyday symbolic springs and turn them into art, but from a dialogue with the context. I think that’s the common sensibility: the way they have to work with the material, to attribute specific values to objects, the way they build art out of nothing. We’re not talking about techné artists but artists of thought. This then leads to works that are very organic, that talk a lot with each of the spaces in which they are presented.

Clearly, it is a challenge from the curatorial point of view the work with virtually ephemeral works, arising from the interaction, spontaneity, dialogue with the space itself. How do you have resolved contingencies of procedural and “natural” nature in the curatorial concept and museology?

DL: It has been very important to collectively understand the space in its temporary and abandonment condition; hence the projects have had to be defined according to the limitations of space and its context. It is very uncomfortable to work in this state of precariousness, but also the limitations have generated very suggestive projects.

GM: Yes, that’s one of the main challenges. The first thing we assume as curators is that that would happen, and we try not being seduced by the school, by the ways of art circulation, by the need to have an object in space; just like trusting in the force that could have the proposals at the time in which they are and let that to be the moment of art; trying not to control the artists to the proposals to be really organic. Moreover, we have good documentation and promotion for most of the public to approach these processes, and finally, and I think this is the most important, to promote dialogue of the artists who are coming with the context.

WP: Right now the project is absolutely amorphous, it is not even clear how all the projects are going to be; there will be many significant changes including last-minute changes that are the ones I like the most. I think then that having a clue of the result right now is impossible. Even if there will be a result of this experiment, all these visits to Cuba, the exchange between artists, the way in which the event with a group of Cuban volunteers and a group of international volunteers is projected. I think it’s a project that has been made more with the desire than anything else, with the desire to do, to communicate something.

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