Habimus Biennale. The End of the Boycott Begins. With these words from the organizers, the first group exhibition of the 14th Havana Biennale opened on Friday at the Wifredo Lam Center amidst an atmosphere of turmoil. Politics to call for an opposition rally on November 15, after weeks of boycott by Cuban and foreign artists, who campaigned for the exhibition not to take place while “there are artists who are persecuted, imprisoned or forced into exile and on the island who do not enjoy complete freedom of expression.” For the Cuban Ministry of Culture, It is an “imperialist and counter-revolutionary province”, They were not able to prevent the event from being held or cause significant losses.
In keeping with the current era, the Havana Biennial has never been politicized, and the gallery has always served as a platform for Cuban artists to expose critical and uncomfortable works of authority. Hundreds of artists from all over the world joined the boycott, including figures such as Serbian Marina Abramović or Cuban painter Tomas Sanchez, but in front of this initiative came out another called by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada to support the exhibition, and according to Havana, this has already gained support More than 800 artists and people from the art world.
Under the title “Future and Contemporary,” the biennale will be held for the first time at three different moments in about six months (the usual duration was one month), with an expected participation of around 300 artists. The first phase, ‘Introduction’, began with the exhibition opening on Friday, and runs through December 5th and focuses on theoretical aspects of the art world. From December 6 to March 24, 2022, comes the turn of “La Habana de la Pinal”, where various exhibitions of Cuban and foreign artists are scheduled, and the last stage will be “Back to the Future”, in March. From April 25-30, with a curatorial exhibition divided into several cores or projects.
So far, according to the biennale’s director, Nelson Ramirez, losses among foreign artists have been few (boycott promoters have reported that at least dozens have left the show). Ramirez denounced that many guests received “direct pressure” not to attend, “some from galleries,” and said others were “confused” after the act of “proselytizing and extortion” from county promoters. , from “alt-right” websites but also from “left discourse”.
The Biennale director admitted that it was a “painful loss” that there had been “some artist victims” – who preferred not to be identified – and described it as “so rare that their purpose is to justify a boycott against an artistic event than the idea that this censorship is and that the repression is intended to favor freedom of expression” .
On the other hand, the boycott is said to be legal, among other reasons, because in recent months many artists have been imprisoned for expressing their opinions against the government or for their opposition activity, such as Hamlet Lavasteda, who later spent nearly three months in prison. To return to Cuba from Germany – and finally accepted exile in exchange for imprisonment – or Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, the main leader of the San Isidro movement, who has been in prison since the July 11 protests. Otero Alcantara’s activism was central to the N27 2020 events, which took place at the gates of the Ministry of Culture, when a group of 300 young artists demonstrated to demand a halt to harassment of opposition artists.
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After that unprecedented sit-in, which preceded the current unrest, came the July 11 protests and now the call for the so-called “Civil March for Change,” promoted by the Archipelago Platform, and led by playwright Junor Garcia. One of the heroes of that demonstration on 27-North. Garcia announced his intention to march alone in Havana on Sunday, and On Monday, the archipelago summoned Cubans to the streets as part of the March of Change. For the Cuban government, the three dates are part of the same “destabilization scheme” orchestrated by Washington.
It shows that the worrying thing is that the Cuban President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, noted again on Friday 15-N: “They have raised a whole media aura so that the world will anticipate what will happen in Cuba on the 15th of this month, November.” He said: “This does not rob us, we are calm, safe, but vigilant and vigilant, ready to defend the revolution, to face any interference against our country, especially against everything that threatens peace, the calm of the citizen and our constitutional order.” In this atmosphere of tension and despite the boycott, the Havana Biennale began.
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