A "classic" Cuban Pavilion for the Venice Biennale?
The last two editions the Cuban presence at one of the most significant artistic events in the world, the Venice Biennale, are appealing in that they reveal concepts and images from a country that used to be, for the most part, an outsider at these mega events. The 55th Venice Biennale also has a Cuban pavilion and its “central” location at the National Archaeological Museum in the Piazza San Marco gives one the impression that Cuba could be read as a museum piece as well as its mirror image, in the sense that it supplements a tradition and history of “museum pieces” generally excluding the Third World.
The name of the show was “La perversión de lo clásico: Anarquía de los relatos” (The Perversion of the Classic: An Anarchy of Narratives). Yet even as the classic space imposed a conceptual framework, the artwork of the seven Cubans artists – living on and off the Island – tried to establish a dialogue with the museum context, while at the same time emphasizing some Cuban issues: emigration (Sandra Ramos), the possible future of the country (Liudmila & Nelson), the history and the construction of Cuban identity (Antonio E. Fernández)…
Cuban contemporary art has been always critical since artists participate in cultural debates not just about aesthetic concerns but also social issues and politics. The Cuban pavilion, however, has no intention of keeping the focus on a limited, local narrative. On the contrary, the artists dive into the relationship between power and information, explore the use of new media and even make coy references to how the system of biennial international art exhibitions can legitimize or exclude an artist (Lázaro Saavedra): the globalization of art is often just a façade for oppression, not an intrinsic conceptual necessity. The support for this show came from the organizers of the Havana Biennale, at least conceptually speaking.Nahela Hechavarría