The Havana Biennial, between boycott and political upheaval | International

Mounting at the Havana Biennial of the collective exhibition 'Caminos que no conduden a Roma.  Coloniality, decolonization and contemporaneity '.
Mounting at the Havana Biennial of the collective exhibition ‘Caminos que no conduden a Roma. Coloniality, decolonization and contemporaneity ‘.HAVANA BIENNIAL

“Habemus Biennial. The end of the boycott begins ”. With these words from the organizers, the first group exhibition of the XIV Havana Biennial was inaugurated on Friday at the Wifredo Lam Center in the midst of an atmosphere of turmoil. politics for the call for an opposition march on November 15, and after weeks of boycott by Cuban and foreign artists, who have campaigned for the non-holding of the exhibition while “there are artists persecuted, imprisoned or forced into exile and in the island does not have full freedom of expression ”. For the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, it is “a counterrevolutionary and imperialist boycott”, which has not succeeded in preventing the event from taking place or causing notable casualties.

In keeping with current times, never before has a Havana Biennial been so politicized, and the exhibition has always served as a platform for Cuban artists to expose critical and uncomfortable works for power. Hundreds of artists from all over the world have joined the boycott, including figures such as the Serbian Marina Abramovic or the Cuban painter Tomás Sánchez, but in front of this initiative another called by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada came out in support of the exhibition, and according to La Havana this already has the support of more than 800 artists and people from the art world.

Under the title ‘Future and contemporaneity’, for the first time the Biennial will take place in three different moments for almost six months (the usual duration was one month), with the expected participation of about 300 artists. The first phase, ‘Preamble’, began with the exhibition inaugurated on Friday, and will run until December 5 focused on theoretical aspects of the art world. From December 6 to March 24, 2022, it will be the turn of “La Habana de la Bienal”, in which various exhibitions of Cuban and foreign artists are scheduled, and the last phase will be “Return to the Future”, on March 25 to April 30, with a curatorial exhibition divided into several nuclei or projects.

So far, according to the director of the Biennial, Nelson Ramírez, the casualties of foreign artists have been few (the promoters of the boycott report that at least a dozen have already left the show). Many of the guests, Ramírez denounced, have received “direct pressure” not to attend, “some from their galleries”, and said that others have been “confused” after a work “of proselytism and extortion” from the promoters. of the boycott, from positions of the “extreme right” but also from “a speech of the left”.

The director of the Biennial admitted as a “painful loss” that there had been “some casualties of artists” —which he preferred not to identify—, and described as “very rare that it is intended to justify the boycott against an artistic event from the idea that that censorship and that repression is with the objective of privileging freedom of expression ”.

On the other hand, it is argued that the boycott is legal, among other reasons, because in recent months several artists have been jailed for expressing opinions against the Government or for their opposition activism, such as Hamlet Lavastida, who spent almost three months in prison later. to return to Cuba from Germany —and finally accepted exile in exchange for jail—, or Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, main leader of the San Isidro Movement, who has been in prison since the July 11 protests. Otero Alcántara’s activism was key in the events of 27-N 2020, which happened at the gates of the Ministry of Culture, when a group of 300 young artists demonstrated to demand that the harassment against dissident artists cease.

Join EL PAÍS now to follow all the news and read without limits

Subscribe here

After that unprecedented sit-in, antecedent to the current unrest, came the protests of July 11 and now the call for the so-called ‘civic march for change’, promoted by the Archipelago platform, whose leader is the playwright Yunior García, one of the the protagonists of that demonstration on 27-N. García has declared his intention to march alone in Havana this Sunday, and on Monday Archipelago has summoned Cubans to take to the streets as part of the march for change. For the Cuban government, the three dates are part of the same “destabilizing scheme” orchestrated from Washington.

It shows that the thing is worrying is that the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, referred again on Friday to the 15-N: “they have raised a whole media halo so that the world expects what will happen in Cuba on the 15th of November”. “It does not take us away,” he said, “we are calm, safe, but attentive and alert, and we are prepared to defend the Revolution, to confront any interventionist action against our country, especially against everything that threatens the peace, citizen tranquility and our constitutional order ”. In this climate of tension and despite the boycott, the Havana Biennial has begun.

Follow all the international information at Facebook and Twitter, or in our weekly newsletter.

Source link

Leave a Comment