Havana Biennial and the new times
The overturn of the possible
In strict terms of not yet validation by the capricious mainstream of the international art market, the Havana Biennial dared to initially proclaim its occurrence as a sovereign promising major league in the art world. Due to the quality of its proposition, the Havana event has gathered for over 30 years much of the most notorious and flourishing exile fauna of the non-centered art world.
However, how much of this Third World or Global South perspective is still a solid core for the occurrence of the Havana setting three decades after the first edition, and what check and balances can modestly be made right after the last 2019 edition?
The construction of the possible
In 2019 the 13 Bienal de La Habana was launched with a theme at it's core: La construcción de lo posible (The construction of the possible). However La construcción de lo possible, besides an explicit melodious theme in Spanish, could convey more than an apparent literal significance.
Therefore we had the initiative to take a look in perspective to the 2019 made-up central theme of the 13 Havana Biennial in order to reflect it in the most up to date circumstances.
Here are the images of the alleged tacky 2019 Bienal slogan (The construction of the possible) somehow viewed through its over 30-year occurrence passing the first Biennial in 1984.
“The destruction of the impossible” vs. the official “The construction of the possible”
The idea about reading the new Biennale proposition backward came via someone who does not necessarily work in the art field. Although his insight is more than valid since the person is an avid art consumer and was also educated in visual arts and art theory. So, how did a still incognito and unpretentious Biennale spectator ended up influencing the views for this post?
Well, although at Cuba Fine Art Box we do not support any specific agenda other than the good standing and the marketability of Cuban visual arts, we aim to be promoters of the conventional sense and the critical views of our surrounding reality. Thus we find plausible to reflect somehow the sentencing comment of our anonymous 13 Havana Biennial spectator who claimed that the made-up theme is a joke and it is perfectly readable backward.
<< In the actual circumstances, launching in Cuba an event like a Biennial with such a tacky, nonoperational theme is nerve-wracking.>>
So is our friend suggesting that behind the declaration of The construction of the possible there could also be a subtle, vibrant deconstructed insinuation about The destruction of the impossible? Ah!
But come on!
The whole leitmotif of the 2019 Biennial cannot be so wrong! It just cannot!
No way! Not only because there is no room in our minds for so much negativity, but because there is no space for such suspicion. Or there is?
Although our blog is orientated to approach valuable angles about the commercialization of Cuban visual arts in order to help potential collectors to buy Cuban art, we somehow fell in love with this sort of raving nuance about the declared theme for the 13 Havana Biennial . In due course, we were triggered to contrast the background that lies in the formulation of the 2019 declared slogan The construction of the possible and the contextual facts to take into consideration about the insinuation of The destruction of the impossible in opposition to the declared avowal of the event.
Decanting the imprecise
In our inquiry, and even after being able to balance more opinions, we decided to keep our friend’s hints as a hypothesis to outline the analysis
A random but assiduous Havana Biennial spectator cannot be so wrong and if he were, working on his statements as the candle for our exploration would either confirm or invalidate what undeniably appeared to be a sort of flirtatious hypothesis.
Not yet advised at the end of the event, the whole formulation about the actual act of “construction” in the 13 Havana Biennial continued being enigmatic. Beyond the exact same Global South precepts and perspectives, and their extreme overuse across thirty years, nothing new or really valuable was being suggested. Only something was crystal clear: the intention to work once again on the same formulas that were once highly appreciated even though we were in 2019.
Just think about it: The construction of the possible.
Consider analyzing the word "possible" in its context. As a category involved in the phrase, the word "possible" denotes a hurried declaration that continued recycling subjects more accord to worn-out sensitivities. It was advised that the only well constructed thing here was the hiding of the 2019 Havana Biennial suffered realities.
Although it can be stated that in Cuba we continue to live in a context forcibly defined by the shapes of Third World archetypes, the observance of new breaking paradigms didn’t seem to be relevant in the Biennale. It was a sort of Retro Global South event, like a remake of the same old concerns and worries of the initial 1984 first edition.
There was an alleged suppression of the meaning of that “total reality” in which nowadays can conceptually and aesthetically breathe a self-taught 29-year-old painter native of Brooklyn and an academically instructed 63 years old senior Nepal- born Chinese social media viral video artist. It was nonsense, like a big retro art party, and everyone that was involved in organizing the event seemed to be subtlety so aware about it.
The 2019 Havana Biennial gave the impression of trying to feed an old ego, and as an act of eerie complacency with every aspect of the most accurate branded Third World or South Global ecosystem, the event marked one and every proposition of its official program. There was gentle form of censorship that Cuban artists and assiduous spectators of the Havana Biennial quickly recognized and commented about. Every foreign visitor and participant could also tell.
<<A modern "global", beyond past idiosyncrasies, was not present in this edition, and it even appeared to be banned. Our branding stinks, but it’s ours, and it lacks elasticity, but it nourishes our inherited megalomaniac South Global propaganda interest...>>. However, such witty comment of our hypothesis contributor had only one full limitation; his observation was just a random Biennial spectator view, therefore our interest to continue reviewing apropos his pivot point.
And in terms of construction
In clear over-consumption of the same premises, the 13 Havana Biennial seemed to insist on not finding closure to matters excessively cured in past editions. The exhaustion of the official scheme of the Havana venue in 2019 was only overcome by an advantage in the unofficial circuit. Yes, there was a very active exhibition circuit.
With timid but firm determination, the outcasts or not welcomed artists went beyond the formal framework of the Biennial to seed perhaps the unique advisable path to different sensitivities. At least in the unendorsed trail, the longevity of the same South Global paradigms was replaced by fresher assessments.
Thankfully, in the parallel, unofficial, “not authorized” exhibitions that occurred during the time that the 2019 Havana Biennial happened, other approaches contributed to not consent to a word by word reading of the event, that claiming there is way to make it, although the action of the verb in The construction of the possible phrase is absent, or somehow.
In a clear sense, besides presenting issues of up-to-the-minute concern beyond the strict South Global perspective, the contribution of the outliners was markedly rebellious. And there it came up again the backward reading of the declared 2019 slogan.
Unofficially, The destruction of the impossible is a clean opposition to the official The construction of the possible, and this sounds like an act of unintentional closing. Closing the event? Was this meant to be the final Havana Biennial? Oh no! Closing as a figure of speech, meaning that it would make sense.
The symbolism erected into a path of significance about the Biennial initiation as a “product of Cuba’s fruition since the Revolution of 1959” and its 2019 so-called inglorious aftermath could convey lots of significance.
In that line of thinking by Miguel Rojas- Sotelo in his 2009 case study “Cultural Maps, Networks and Flows: The History and Impact of the Havana Biennale 1984 to the present.” it is advised how the Biennial besides being a reflection of the Cuban Revolution and its projection among the South Global paradigms, was also a tool of calibration and disposal for some inner tensions. Inner tensions? Here we go now!
Therefore, the Havana Biennial this 2019 came to play a disguised role in the affirmation of a sole Sate interest. It’s enough observing the reiteration of the same agenda that could imply the paranoia of a ruling that feels not yet <<free from its colonial past and continues to build knowledge in the shadow of modernity.>> However, now at what price and on what basis?
The previous statement also by Miguel Rojas Sotelo in his 2009 study about the Havana Biennial, leads to an ample understanding of the insistence and then decadency of the event. As a luxury dish on the table, the conceit of the connoted intentions of the Biennial was not overlooked by many of the assistants at the 2019 edition.
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