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11na Bienal de la Habana, 2012
May 17 to June 7 of 2012

Cuba's premier art festival. African American artist Ben Jones is leading a US group to the 2012 Biennial.

Curatorial Statement, 11th Havana Biennial, 5/2012

Artistic Practices and Social Imaginaries 
About the theme of the 11th Havana Biennial 

We are facing a new edition of the Havana Biennial that will be developed in international circumstances where debates regarding the scenarios of contemporary art have been substantially modified and have acquired new meanings for artists as well as for the institutions and the different audiences.

Therefore, we consider it appropriate to dedicate this eleventh edition to an assessment of the behavior of the relationship between visual productions and the social imaginary. In principle, we must point out that when we speak of social imaginary, we are not referring to a theoretical body, but to the way people imagine their social space and express themselves through cultural and historical references, and to the symbolic dimension they acquire through art.

The social imaginary expresses the bonds and relationships of wide groups of people that include, at the very best, society in its entirety, sharing common interests and establishing levels of legitimacy. It is the place where form is given to the notions of what is public, of citizen space and of the different aspects that make communicative interaction possible. Although this concept includes the social norms, it also involves those components of personal character and individual subjectivity that unquestionably become part of a larger system. Its nature implicitly contains the main conflicts we detect today in the urban environment, one of the networks where it becomes evident in an exceptional way.

Nowadays, the exhaustion of old models of social and institutional representation lead to the search for harbors and cultural connections as ways of vindicating new forms of coexistence and socialization; these imply other ways of perceiving and understanding culture.

Although the entertainment industry has tried to influence the intellectual reach of audiences with the objective of using marginal speeches under the media effect, there are many channels that facilitate communication in parallel ways and allow for the exchange of their meanings at different levels. To a certain extent, this favors the shaping of a greater audience whose participation becomes much more creative and plural.

At the present time, the concept of what is public includes transverse scenarios in its dialogic conception; this causes the public sphere to become the main axis of exchanges associated with new configurations of the social imaginaries. In this process, it again acquires a special connotation in which the role of art and art practices become essential.

In previous editions of the Havana Biennial, some incipient experiences of this phenomenon were the object of curatorial interest. Since 1986, workshops and actions in certain communities of the Cuban capital have been conceived that showed consciousness of the role of the city and its social subjects in the redimensioning of the implication of art in the different contexts.

The task now is not to retake the imaginaries that constitute a tradition, but to think about how to create discourses that imply or commit the citizen and the observer on a more complex scale. The audience must not remain in the places of cult, traditionally represented by the big museums, gallery circuits or international events. It is essential to also listen to the noise on the street; we must devise a way to leave the sacred sites to think about the passer-by, he who is left out of the specialized circuits, to work for the site specific, time specific and public specific. We are interested in generating a climate of affection and sensitivity based on more primary relationships. We need to imagine the city with the people, in the context and the neighborhood, so that it may bring us closer to the complexities generated by existence.

Art has been expanding its space of action. The forms of acting and the premises to structure its narratives continue to generate debate. What can or cannot be sanctioned within the presentation of the work and the impact that a certain process of work can have from the ethical point of view is still controversial. Faced with this dilemma, other solutions appear in the way of creating links and in the elaboration of a textuality that creates intersections which seemed scattered until now.

The manner in which we used to understand the art-life relationship does not correspond to a mathematical equation, nor is it teleology to aspire to as the end of all things. The galleries, art centers, and museums have been gradually incorporating promotional strategies that favor commitment to a more participatory art involving the spectator.

Without ignoring the levels of visibility and legitimacy produced by spaces like these, the conceptual premises of the Biennial must clearly state the possibility that artistic creation has to play with the imaginaries that form the maps of these times. It is also necessary to favor the new subjectivities that accompany the evolution of the symbolic and how interconnections between audiences, artists, and the creative process are established.

We propose to emphasize on the role of art in the transformation of objects and as catalyst of social subjects. This Biennial aspires to explore the dissimilar meanings of what is public, taking into account, from the usual and interventions in urban spaces, the projects of interactive, playful, multidisciplinary nature; the processes of social insertion and work in the communities, to the supports that have gradually expanded the levels of accessibility to technology and the current forms of communication.

Our interest aims at giving thought to the bases on which social networks are created and become socialization spaces among persons from different parts of the world, in which the most intimate profiles of human beings are diluted and put to test.

Likewise, art has not remained aloof from the deterioration of the environment in the contemporary world nor from the crises that have been generated in the big cities. This situation leads to us to rethink the models of configuration of urbanities from the emergent needs of survival. Environmental education today is once more motivation to mobilize broad sectors of civil society around the world.

The warnings made by science on the fragility of the ecosystem have had to be retaken socially. The hegemonic power fosters its warlike and consumer interest, and establishes the relationship to nature as a utilitarian resource, without preserving the minimum conditions of the vital environment. This is a completely new platform for the projection of the public sphere in the contemporary world.

As a result of these considerations, it is important for this Biennial to favor the dialog between the inside and the outside, to work with live art and to permanently involve the observer. We set out for ourselves, this time with greater emphasis, to transform the Cuban context and the public scenarios into a temporary laboratory of art experimentation.

Organizing Committee of the
11th Havana Biennial 2012


Bienal Overview: Artists, Projects, Exhibitions, and “Interventions”  3/15/2012 Cuban Art News: "11th Havana Biennial takes to the streets; first time for U.S. curators in main program."

Resumen de la Bienal: Artistas, proyectos, exposiciones, e “intervenciones”  3/15/2012 Cuban Art News 

Bienal de La Habana 2012 (11 de mayo-11 de junio)  5/25/2011 Emilio Ichikawa: Texto curatorial completo en PDF

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Havana Biennial

11th Havana Biennial, 2012


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