“The Havana Biennial was established in 1984 and is one of the longest-standing biennial art exhibitions. “Entre, Dentro, Fuera / Between, Inside, Outside” marks the first time in the history of the Havana Biennial in which a Cuban and U.S. curator have closely worked together on a project.” This article provides a little background information on the co-curators Royce Smith and Dannys Montes de Oca, as well as the exhibit.
Everyone worked together as a team to realize this exhibit. From the curators who had to navigate the organizational hurdles on a minute by minute basis, to the construction team and custodians working with limited resources to build the structures, to the artists who had to adapt and invent in response to a constantly changing panorama. This was Cuba, where we got to experience in one week what Cubans experience every day in their lives. So what is my lasting impression as I write from Miami just one day after leaving Havana?
As a Cuban-American I am no stranger to the positive and inventive nature of the Cuban people. Yet I was still marveled at how they maintained this outlook and approach to life in the face of systemic curve balls being hurled on a daily basis. Vacationing in Cuba is not the same as ‘working’ in Cuba and participating in the Biennial as an artist provided this unique and unforgettable opportunity. Whenever we encountered one of those curve balls the Cuban people would always respond with ‘Todo es posible!’ or ‘Vamos a encontrar manera’ ‘We will find a way’, and they did. Even if it meant taking the shirt off their back, or in my case, offering me their personal fan. After Cristine, our UNM art student assistant, spent all day trying to buy a fan for my space, our Cuban assistant offered to bring hers from home. We experienced this on a regular basis and this was what left a lasting impression.
This doesn’t mean that the Cuban people accept the broken systems that often lead to chaos. They are always looking for ways to improve things and I also saw a lot of hope that changes will come. My wonderful Cuban assistant Viviana shared a story that the new US-Cuba relationship was announced on December 17th, a special saints day for San Lazaro, the healer, which for the Cuban people is known as the day of miracles. We are all hoping for the miracle that the transition will be a positive one for all.
Thanks to Dannys and Royce for inviting me and taking on this challenge and congratulations to their success! The exhibit “Entre, Dentro, Fuera / Between, Inside, Outside” will be up in the Pabellon until June 25, 2015. Please go to Havana to see it.