I’m in Cuba catching the tail end of the decima Bienal Habana, the tenth biennial, on the 25th anniversary of the Havana Biennial. “Integration and Resistance in the Global Era” is the theme of the biennial but clearly it’s just as much about poetics.
This is definitely an international art event, several 100 artists from 44 countries, including the installation “Chelsea Visits Havana,” however the works have a regional feel or sensibility - at least the better works do.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of regional art a lot lately though to be perfectly honest what I mean by regional art is anything being done or shown, or more accurately anything I’m seeing, out side of New York City. Mostly I’m wondering what I think regional art is and why we (I) bother to make such a distinction.
One of the installations at the Wilfredo Lam Center, the prime organzer of the 10th Havana Biennial, is a series of paintings by Herve Fischer, a French-Canadian Philosopher, writer, and artist. In a dialogue with the Art History students of the University of Havana prior to the opening of the biennial, Fischer suggests, “The crisis of contemporary art becomes evident in biennials or large exhibitions. Artists from the North find themselves in an adequate context to give free rein to their personal narratives without any interest in dialoguing with the spectators, in a space that considers as a good artist the man who enjoys extreme liberty but without meaning, without communicating with the public, without an idea of social responsibility.”
I don’t necessarily agree that giving rein to personal narratives precludes communicating with the public or creating works of social responsibility, however I think he’ observed a, if not the, fundamental difference between the work one generally sees in galleries and museums in Central and South America, and what ones sees in the North, particularly New York City.
He goes on to say, “here (in Cuba) there is a sense of commitment, a research on social and political matters that have to do with society.” I think that must be true, but I think it may also be true of the work created elsewhere including in the North. Perhaps the differences lie instead in what matters reflect the respective societies’ concerns. Perhaps the main social and political concerns of the North are the exploration of the personal narrative.
TO BE CONTINUED…