Edited by Lucrezia Cippitelli

Published by Marco Mancuso

Digicult Editions (2013)

“Connecting La Havana” is a research and educational project (as a series of visits, informal presentations and small-scale workshops) developed in Havana /Cuba between September 2010 and September 2011. Edited by Lucrezia Cippitelli, co-curator of the project TIME_FRAME, the book is the result of this experience and has been developed in collaboration with the Netherlands Media Art Institute – NIMK, with the support of Mondriaan Foundation and Prince Claus Fund.

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As Lucrezia Cippitelli says in the introduction text: ”We visited the main local institutions dedicated to contemporary art of the city: the Centro Wilfredo Lam (headquarter of the Havana Biennale) and the Instituto Superior de Arte – ISA (the main post graduate school of at and one of the more advanced educational institutions of art in all Latin America). We presented a collection of time-based art from Africa, Latin America and from the NIMK collection and led some informal workshops opened to local independent artists. This first research and production phase linked, for the two weeks, several artists from La Havana, different for attitude, development of their career and focus. Independent artists and producers operating in the peripheral neighborhood of Alamar (between them two small groups: Garaje 19 and Omni Zonafranca); the experimental writer and film-maker Raydel Araoz; the already established conceptual artist Rene Francisco with his collective of the IV Pragmatica; media and conceptual artist Raul Ferrera Balanquet; critical media artist Fidel Garcia to name few”.

This book is not a simple documentation of the project Connecting Havana. The aim of the publication is primarily to introduce the work of those artists who participated to the process of learning, teaching, presenting, sharing, researching. A general survey of critical perspectives on contemporary art practices in Havana from the very last years: surely a complicated time-frame for Cuba and for its cultural production.

Lucrezia Cippitelli also remembers that: “The global financial crisis indirectly concerned the island limiting international tourism, main industry of the Country. Weaker Cubans call for a change, which didn’t certainly arrive with the “New Deal” of Raul Castro, the uncharismatic brother of an older and sick Fidel, succeeded to power on 2006. Cultural avant-gardes press inside and outside the island, adopting different approaches. Blogger Yoani Sanchez uses with smart awareness international mainstream media attention, writing about the daily life of a medium average Cuban in her blog, too often using arguments which not all critical intellectuals or artists inside the country find enlightening, but yet obtaining great visibility in the world. The artist Tania Bruguera, since the Nineties engaged in a critical approach towards any power, used her performance space during 2009 Havana Biennale as an open stage for free speech; she achieved extraordinary participation of people and a more extraordinary concern of an authoritarian but less and less authoritative government. Institutional (=governmental) response marked a “post 2009 Havana Biennale” era:  more control and slow but determined reduction of the “free zone” status which Art (Cuban artists but also curators and critics living in the island and working for local institutions) managed to safeguard in their daily practice, balancing censorship requests with smart and metaphorical creative responses”.

Focusing on time-based and media art as tool of self-representation and critical process of creation and participation, “Connecting La Havana” had the chance to visit and involve local creativity, discovering a local context of artists and producers who use the languages of contemporary creation as tool of social interaction, political intervention, cultural critique. Not calling themselves dissidents, not questioning the revolutionary history of the Country, sometimes working within or with institutions.

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