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Dur­ing the last the­o­ret­i­cal meet­ing fos­tered by the 7th Salon of Cuban Con­tem­po­rary Art (SACC) there were de­bates about the “ex­o­ti­za­tion” of art, risks and tones of con­do­lence. The de­bate, which took the event it­self as the cen­ter of re­flec­tion, re­vealed fail­ures as well as pos­si­bil­i­ties of the false col­lab­o­ra­tive es­say. How­ever, it was not suf­fi­cient. It never went beyond the epi­der­mis of the mat­ter, per­haps be­cause it was pre­ferred to put the cyn­i­cism be­fore the com­plex (or er­rat­i­cally) or be­cause the in­er­tia of the con­text has with­drawn to such an ex­tent that we find that the ex­er­cise of a re­ally ques­tion­ing and pur­pose­ful crit­i­cal think­ing – col­lec­tive – is not very worth­while.

In this di­rec­tion, it is symp­to­matic that the man­aged no­tion of risk was fo­cused es­sen­tially on the ex­per­i­men­tal–for­mal­ist (the pre­dom­i­nance of su­per­fi­cial­ity). For ex­am­ple, there was talk of run­ning risks when the Sa­lons or the Bi­en­ni­als, while be­ing spa­ces gen­er­at­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and le­git­imiza­tion, go beyond their own mod­els and pon­der ex­per­i­men­tal prac­tices that are fi­nally mis­un­der­stood be­cause they op­er­ate in cer­tain in­vis­i­ble con­texts. More­over, ref­er­ence was made to the risk as de­scrip­tion for an art of emer­gence that the in­sti­tu­tion must de­fend since it is “its turn.”

But the mean­ings of risk as con­flict­ful, com­mit­ment or sac­ri­fice were avoided. And what's painful did not re­side so much in that th­ese vari­ants were not con­tem­plated as part of the de­bate, but rather that they were ob­vi­ated from the very con­cep­tion of the Salon.

In fact, the non­con­for­mity of many with this 7th SACC emerged with the process of the con­vo­ca­tion, that is to say, from the start of its be­ing made public. The “cor­ri­dor in­vi­ta­tion” came to re­place the usual event strate­gies. Could it be that in keep­ing with the dy­nam­ics of so­cial­iza­tion and open­ing that the event pro­posed the idea of the di­a­logue to con­vince artists or col­lab­o­ra­tors that they par­tic­i­pate was im­ple­mented, with­out even a cu­ra­to­rial text present as sup­port?

As a con­se­quence, the re­sult­ing names were ba­si­cally di­vided into two groups: the small­est one made up of young artists with cer­tain recog­ni­tion and gen­er­ally regulars of the De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter (jorge & larry, Yor­nel Martínez, Julio César Llópiz, Du­niesky Martín, etc.) and, on the other hand, an ex­ten­sive num­ber of stu­dents of the Higher In­sti­tute of Art (ISA), many of whom were mak­ing their de­but in the city's ex­po­si­tion cir­cuit with the Salon.

And there is no crit­i­cism or any re­gret in re­ceiv­ing “the spring of as­saults to the eye” to the detri­ment of “the al­ready archived en­tries in the le­gacy”1 – as Rufo said. But it can­not be a ques­tion of “the as­sign­ment,” or that it is “your turn.” The cu­ra­tor­ship has to be more de­mand­ing in the se­lec­tion process, it has to un­der­take field in­ves­ti­ga­tion with suf­fi­cient time so that the Salon is not turned into a “big top” or a “makeshift house.” In this way, so many dread­fully made pieces with bland con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion wouldn't have been in­cluded. Be­cause con­trary to what some think, it is true that the Salon was the phe­nom­e­non in its to­tal­ity, but it is the works that, in short, ma­te­ri­al­ize and sus­tain the idea.

Thus, such a well thought–out ba­sis was notably lim­ited.

In tune with the con­tem­po­rary de­bates, this time the event was be­ing pre­sented as a duc­tile es­say, try­ing to over­come the fa­tal­ity of its ar­chaic con­di­tion. The per­me­able al­liances, the re­cur­rent turns, the open scores formed part of a land­scape where the col­lab­o­ra­tion was ag­glu­ti­nat­ing. Thus the di­vi­sions, the mix­tures, the de­cen­tral­iza­tion of the spa­ces (al­though in prac­tice the Cen­ter con­tin­ues be­ing the cen­ter), of the role of the cu­ra­tor and of the cu­ra­tor­ship, of the in­sti­tu­tion, of the con­cept of art­work and even of the very no­tion of the artist were priv­i­leged. How­ever, a de­tail stood out: the the­o­ret­i­cal plat­form of the sus­pended 13th Ha­vana Bi­en­nial pro­posed sim­i­lar re­sources.2

Un­der the guide­line of “Con­flu­ences, net­works and cross­ings” the in­ter­na­tional event would pro­long the col­lab­o­ra­tive phe­nom­e­non, which was cre­ated by look­ing at the pro­cesses and the trans­dici­pline that was brought about by the pre­vi­ous edi­tion, “Be­tween the idea and the ex­pe­ri­ence.” The idea of de­cen­tral­iz­ing the role of the cu­ra­tor or of the cu­ra­tor­ship as a guid­ing line of the ex­hi­bi­tion came from that, es­tab­lish­ing a hor­i­zon­tal fo­cus of the mat­ter as a crit­i­cism of art's in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion (déjà vu). On the other hand, the global prob­lems did not go unat­tended, while the Bi­en­nial would as­sume in its cor­pus the way in which art ap­pro­pri­ates it­self of spon­ta­neous an­swers and par­a­digms of sur­vival of the cur­rent world.

In fact, the non­con­for­mity of many with this 7th SACC emerged with the process of the con­vo­ca­tion, that is to say, from the start of its be­ing made public.

In gen­eral, it was in the in­ter­est of the Bi­en­nial to show emerg­ing al­ter­na­tives of the pro­duc­tion and cir­cu­la­tion of the art that en­riches the model. For this di­a­logues would be held with cu­ra­tors of other spa­ces with re­lated in­ter­ests, at­ten­tion would be paid to the work of cre­ators in the prov­inces, the al­ter­na­tive or pri­vate spa­ces would be linked and the the­o­ret­i­cal event would be rep­re­sented based on the logic in work­shops, etc.

There­fore, given the rap­proche­ment in the pre­sen­ta­tions of both pro­grams, per­haps it was for­tu­nate that the Bi­en­nial was post­poned. On the con­trary, it would have been a mis­take, a cult to the steril­ity of the anal­o­gous pro­jec­tion, in such a short time, of the coun­try's two most im­por­tant visual arts events.

Then, as Ibis Hernán­dez3 said, “if the Art In­sti­tu­tion it­self en­ters more in com­pe­ti­tion, than in col­lab­o­ra­tion, what are we talk­ing about?”

In con­clu­sion: the SACC in­sists based on a back­ward move­ment, even when its ten­dency is to look to­ward the fu­ture. With the sev­enth edi­tion it demon­strated that, in the Cuban in­sti­tu­tional con­text the pre­car­i­ous­ness in­creas­ingly over­flows the ma­te­rial lim­its to also in­con­ve­nience the mo­bil­ity of the spirit, of think­ing. Un­doubt­edly, the vi­tal risk is im­mi­nent. ƒ

Photos: Maité Fernán­dez

NEL­SON J. & J. PABLO − In­valu­able / In­stal­la­tion / Vari­able di­men­sions JULIO LLÓPIZ − Atrás al Casete, 2017 / In­stal­la­tion / Vari­able di­men­sions

Photos: Maité Fernán­dez

DU­NIESKY MARTIN − Ver­siones from the se­ries Registros colec­tivos, 2014-2018 / Work in progress / Vari­able di­men­sions JOSÉ MANUEL MESÍAS − Ad­vo­ca­ciones del Espíritu Santo, 2017 / In­stal­la­tion / Vari­able di­men­sions

1. Ca­ballero, Rufo. Hacer el amor con­sigo. In: Agua Ben­dita. Crítica de Arte, 1987–2007. (Ha­vana: Le­tras Cubanas, 2009) 2. As part of the FIVAC, Dan­nys Montes de Oca, Di­rec­tor of the Wifredo Lam Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­ter, on April 7, 2017 gave a talk an­nounc­ing the cen­tral co­or­di­nates of the 13th Bi­en­nial. See: Mar­i­lyn Payrol. Noti­cias de la 13 Bienal. On: http://www. fi­vac­

3. The spe­cial­ist was re­fer­ring specif­i­cally to the game of force es­tab­lished be­tween the cu­rated col­lat­eral ex­hi­bi­tion in La Cabaña by the CNAP and the Lam Cen­ter's prin­ci­pal dis­play of the Bi­en­nial.

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