Audio Visual Biennial

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by: Y.S.G.

During these days of Biennial, different actions have marked the artistic happenings of the city. The Italian artist Eugenio Tibaldi created an informal poker room in the inner yard of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, a space for a game that, in this case, varies its dynamics. Once the players have been chosen, each of them chose a seat, a bench, a cushion, or a chair almost broken, and according to the players’ choice they also chose a table equally broken. The artist bet black beans in the game; his capital to gamble with his opponents was quite familiar for us. The cards, apparently common, disguised its traditional pictures to give way to images that represented Cuban myths and reality as well. On the back of cards it appears from a passport up to the queen dressed as a member of the Cuban militia in the way it appears in the membership card of FMC (Cuban Women Federation). The players shared a playful moment on this furniture recovered from the streets of Havana and from the offices of Wilfredo Lam Center. This furniture allowed them not only to think about the possible options of alternative channels (so usual in our context), but also to understand the dynamics of human interrelations. Players from different countries, who hardly understood the words of their opponents, enjoyed through a leisure time without being addicted to that fanatical and speculative conditions of poker.

Every sound is a way of time is the piece of visual music presented by the Cuban artist Glenda León for this festival. In the concert hall of the National Library, unfortunately just once, Glenda showed a projection of scores performed by the young and talented pianist Aldo López Gavilán. The Rain, the fall, fly, the city, randomness and the stars became poetic and sound images that Glenda León usually gives us. Glenda explained that the performance required the pianist played a note where he has seen a leave, a bird, a point of some place, a drop of water, a light of the city or a star. The spectator could experience moments of gentleness where the image full of subtleties was accompanied by a gentle music, up to more intense, strong and contrasting moments. Glenda’s work joins that calling to explore the limits of senses, to listen to images and to visualize sounds.

The Mexican artist Héctor Zamora pursued a similar motivation with Experiment about fluid. In this case, a part of the Music School of Garatti functioned as a stage for the orchestra that never played in it. As a guest of the 12th edition of the Biennial of Havana, Zamora, who had the collaboration of the Cuban composer Wilma Alba Cal, made a sound and visual intervention. Gestures apparently so simple as lighting the cubicle and turning them into the “auditorium” of soloist and ensembles, crowded the place with an unusual energy that overwhelmed the attending public of both performances. And it is said “apparently simple” because the first thing couldn’t be possible without the sponsorship of the luxury boutique LUISAVIAROMA, and of the galleries Luciana Brito (Brazil) and Labor (Mexico), on one hand; and without the dexterity of the working team, on the other hand. The second required all the skill of the young composer who had to avoid two main obstacles: the singular acoustic of the place due to its ruined state and the fact that singers couldn’t hear each other. In this way, Zamora gave the public a beautiful visual and sound composition. In return he only asked for permanent flow.

Another proposal where music plays an essential role is Meditation on memory, by the Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk. Like many of the works that made up the main exhibition, in the opening day the public saw a performance with abakua music executed in situ. The selection of this religion of African origin wasn’t in vain: among the ethnics from which the first abakuas came is the ibibio, to which the artist belongs. In that way, he found a real link that united him to the Island and part of his culture, in which he would rediscover his own by a thorough research work (with the essential consultancy of Tato Quiñones). Up to next May 22nd it could be visited in one of the wide rooms of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center to enjoy the sober relationship between black and White, the exquisite lines, the balance of compositions where the horror vacuum doesn’t overwhelms but seduces; and the delightful rhythm of the background music take you to an ancestral place full of myths.

As part of the group exhibition Between, Within, Out that takes place in the Pabellón Cuba, the Cuban artist Susana Pilar Delhante presents a quite appealing project: the beauty contest of natural Afro hair “We wear it curly”. This contest, addressed to all who is interested, is a micro event within the whole exhibition. It is thought to be a long show that started with the registering at the end of May and included lectures, showing of films and workshops to teach people how to treat this kind of hair. Although the actions thought by Susana seem to be marked by an element that flows from idleness to triviality, it is essentially a huge reflection about some social issues. On the contest of profiles in its Afro variants, braids and dreadlocks, a whole analysis is unleashed taking the natural choice of this kind of hair and the “need” of its straightening with chemical treatments. Indeed the tendency to straightening the “Afro hair” has become a vital need for many women, and even men. To have a disheveled hair in our society could be a symptom of carelessness, and perhaps bad taste. Many women, since childhood, are combed with the so called “hot comb” to compete with the straight hair. This whitening tendency is a burden we carry out, a sign of colonialism, from a rooted racism. It is about western canons of beauty, which have fixed historical rules and standards, repeated and instilled in the social framework. In today’s Cuba, having straight hair, with shine and moisture, treated with the magic of Keratin, could be a sign of a good socio-economic status and of good taste. That’s why Susana proposes a revision of stereotypes with respect to the natural Afro hair, the beauty of its forms and its texture. “We wear it curly” is a resistance act; it is the statement of an identity wore down by the weight of one culture over another. The ten women of different ages and occupations who modeled last June 13th in the Pabellón Cuba assumed it that way.

Y.S.G.

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