Today, on Monday, June 22nd the 12th Havana Biennial has symbolically come to an end. I use the word symbolically because… although many exhibits have already been dismounted and others are ready to, this edition of Havana mega-gathering will continue living in people’s memory for a long time. This is mainly due to the usual spontaneous debate generated between artists and specialists of the field.
After 30 years of its foundation, our Biennial has been willing to reinvent itself with a risky and ambitious curatorial proposal. This time, we dispensed with the customary process of sending for artists using a theme or a problematic framework that works as a focal point or pivot of a general curatorship. On this occasion, there was no any great collective exhibit that could have been used as the center of the official event. Therefore, the general program reveals a long list of small and medium-sized exhibits, performance actions, ongoing projects, arts interventions in public areas, communities, several institutions, talks, lectures, etc.
This extensive program, honored by the presence of important artists of international renown, has been without doubt very healthy. This flooding of Biennial towards the city and that way of involving many other cultural institutions, has given a far-reaching, decentralized, and popular significance to an event that does not have anything in common with the hegemonic model of other first-world Biennials. Since its foundations, this has been the theoretical, ideological, and ethical reason of this gathering in Havana: being a real, creative, and feasible option to this standardized and elitist Biennial framework.
However, everything is not ideal and rosy. We have to ponder upon several aspects. The first week in the program was not planned for flesh-and-blood human beings that can only be in one place at once. These initial days were truly crazy. It was difficult to avoid the feeling of helplessness and anguish for not attending every inauguration show, especially the ones on ephemeral actions such as performances.
On the other hand, a presentation like the one performed in Casablanca, on account of production costs, couldn’t stand in its first complete proposal the whole month of the event. Then, it is valid to ask oneself, Biennial event is thought for two weeks or a whole month. That has been, without doubt, one of the main complaints lodged by the public.
Another vital aspect, collective expositions at iconic institutions such as Lam Center or Pabellón Cuba, just to mention two examples, left a lot to be desired. As a result of such unbalance between ephemeral and scattered actions all over the city, and the curatorial inconsistency of some expositions at important venues, the parallel program of contemporary Cuban art has gained prominence, so more general audiences confuse it and take it as the Biennial itself. This is a phenomenon that has occurred since several previous editions. Paradoxical dilemma, the rich context generated by Biennial favors the visibility of Cuban art; meanwhile, this one overshadows the official program.
–Dr. Hamlet Fernández