posted by Christopher Howard — Nov 04, 2015
Kate Flint, Provost Professor of Art History and English at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, wrote an article for Public Books on her experiences at the Havana Biennial, which was held May 22–June 22, 2015. In her text, titled “Breaking Down Walls at the Havana Biennial” and published on November 1, Flint describes her encounters with works of art throughout the city. Here is one experience:
Many works of art on show in the “Zona Franca” were overtly political: Michel Mirabal’s distressed and fragmenting Cuban and American flags; Luis Camejo’s delicate drawings of Cuban monuments collapsed, flooded, overgrown at the end of the third millennium; Arlés del Rio’s La necesidad de otros aires (The Need for Other Airs), an entire room filled with breathing tubes hanging from the ceiling, like elongated snorkels, reminding us that being choked by police, or by political or social constraints, or, for that matter, by pollution (and deep concern for the environment was a frequently occurring theme at the Biennale) is a global, as well as a local, concern.
Flint, who traveled to Cuba as part of a trip organized by CAA, participated in a performance work by Tania Bruguera, the artist who will deliver the keynote address during Convocation at the 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Flint wrote:
During the Biennial’s first weekend, Bruguera staged a hundred-hour reading of Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism. Seated inside her own home, she was breaking no laws (she asked for, but was told she didn’t need, a police permit). The reading—usually in Spanish—was broadcast through loudspeakers, muted at night, to the street outside…. The readings were carried out by those who signed up on a sheet inside space, bare but for a chair, video camera, treats brought by supporters, and a tethered dove…. I was about the 124th person to sign up to read. About an hour later, I was invited to sit in the chair. I’d only intended to read a short paragraph, but no one around seemed to want to take over. Indeed, people seemed to be clearing up their things. Seven pages of Arendt (in Spanish) later, Bruguera herself came over and took the book from me, finished that particular paragraph, and we all exited.
You can also read another article on the same trip to Cuba, written by Katherine Jánszky Michaelsen, professor of art history at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, on the CAA website.
The next CAA-sponsored trip is the Turkish-Islamic Art Study Tour, taking place June 3–18, 2016. For more information, please visit CAA’s international tours page.