What is a site-specific intervention? It is the name given to projects consisting in works of art produced by artists for specific areas, generally places, whose function and use is not to exhibit art. Therefore, such places can be varied in nature. For instance, they can be architectural constructions, public areas or natural landscapes. However, they almost always have some historical, cultural, social, economic, ecological significance or many other reasons that may attract the creator’s attention. Regardless of the case, the specific characteristics of the place become an essential starting point of all interventions created by artists in such areas. Such interventions can also be of various kinds: performance gestures, interactive actions involving the public, object or merely visual installations, among others.
In this 12th Havana Biennial, several projects have been carried out according to such characteristics. I suggest taking a closer look at one of them. The dilapidated building, mostly known as “fábrica de bicicletas de Linea y 18,” was turned into a site-specific project by thirteen foreign artists under the curatorship of the following Cubans: Wilfredo Prieto, Direlia Lazo y Gretel Medina.
Montañas con una esquina rota, the title used for such site-specific intervention, has aroused great controversy. First of all, owing to the fact that it is extremely difficult to identify and find the marks left by creators in the place. Most of them are almost invisible gestures that, as you can see on the screen, get confused or rather pretended to be waste populating the deserted factory ever since: mechanical pieces of junk, raw materials, piles of rubble. In short, worthless waste material that is common of a place in ruins. Obviously, that has been the curatorial objective. Nonetheless, it is important to reflect on the matter.
When the historical and therefore symbolical meaning of a place is so powerful, and the physical and functional current state is dreadful, as it happens in the large buildings located in Línea and 18th Streets, does the invisible and chameleonic mimicry, like the one developed by the group of artists invited, contribute in something to the sensory experience of the environment and the historical reflection? In my opinion, it does not have any contribution. The reason is, above all, that when we are in the place, this keeps the unscathed prominence before our eyes; it speaks by itself, that’s why artists’ interventions seem simple and innocuous additions. Ultimately, they do not provide a considerable aesthetic or semantic content. The best case scenario is that they do not exceed the mere ironic joke. This happens with regard to the parachute hanging from the ceiling, or the set of cans that collects water falling from an alleged leak on a practically opencast floor.
If in a project of this kind, the impact achieved by creators and curatorship does not succeed in generating their own speech, despite actions being nourished and projected from the historical symbolism of the place, art will not serve its purpose. It will be fireworks of Biennial, and no more.
–Dr. Hamlet Fernández