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it was preferred to put the cynicism before the complex (or erratically) or because the inertia of the context has withdrawn to such an extent that we find that the exercise of a really questioning and purposeful critical thinking – collective – is not very worthwhile.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.
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
NELSON J. & J. PABLO − Invaluable / Installation / Variable dimensions JULIO LLÓPIZ − Atrás al Casete, 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...