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The Millenial Generation in Cuban art

The Millenial Generation in Cuban art

by Ricardo Alberto Pérez

Within the different Cuban artistic media these days, we can talk about the presence of a generation of people made up of those who were born in the 1980s through the early 2000s, the universally identified Millenials, or Generation Y. Other alternative names are being attributed to them, like Generation We, Global Generation, Generation next, Echo Boomers, the Net Generation or Digital Natives.

These Cuban artists are aware that everything they do is placed within the context that was marked by the disappearance of the USSR and Socialist Europe. Therefore, their experience of having to grow up in a Cuba which has had to reorganize itself in the world in order to maintain its social system has indubitably affected their behavior, the nature of their aspirations and the quality of their concepts.

In order to put our finger on this phenomenon, we will start by citing several examples in the visual arts. In Cuba, this field has acquired a sort of thermometer for our reality. The names of Mauricio Abad, Reinier Leyva Novo, Mabel Poblet and Grethell Rasúa immediately come to mind as clear examples of what could be called new creative sensibilities capable of overcoming barriers and limitations with great spontaneity and litheness.

In Mauricio Abad’s most well-known work, he attempts to legitimize spaces for the community in this new millennium. In some cases he turns to his peers to take part in his projects. Reinier Leyva Novo confronts history free of any prejudices or taboos and minus all solemnity, offering the possibility of a more sincere and attractive relationship with it. Mabel Poblet’s charm rests in her associating herself with the capacity to deal with such time-tested topics as migration and memory, using a new, enriching viewpoint that contributes exciting ideas. Grethell Rasúa is an audacious artist who presents us with pieces that invite viewers to have a more normal relationship with their bodies, especially with the fluids emanating from them.

Looking at the photography being created by this young Cuban generation of artists, we are struck by the radical demystification of subject matter and scenarios, even of their very own bodies that often provide them with subjects. It is a growing obsession to emphasize the transformations becoming visible on the urban scene. Just one example is the work of Rodney Batista (born in Havana in 1988)—he has a unique manner of approaching the complex and ancient subject of death.

When we sift through literature and the theater, we observe that there have been many new authors in both of these fields. Notable cases are those of Rogelio Orizondo in theater and Legna Rodríguez in literature. Orizondo’s work shows moving depth as he examines new problems with a gift of being able to universalize conflicts which have previously seemed to be somewhat local. Legna Rodríguez’s poetry and narratives deal with sexuality in a totally new way within our literary tradition. Her boldness ends up seeming to be as innocent as it is intense, completely charming her readers.

Within the varied and at times contradictory realm of Cuban music, I am impressed with how young performers have taken the lead in spreading and popularizing a genre such as jazz. It is surprising to see how quickly they grow and become established figures. The list of musical artists is almost endless but we have to mention a few: Jorge Luis Pacheco, Harold López-Nussa, Michel Herrera, Ariel Brínguez, Emir Santa Cruz and Janio Abreu.

In the case of the National Ballet of Cuba, pervaded with extraordinary professionalism and the willingness for sacrifice, dancers are exhibiting their ability to insert themselves into foreign dance companies after some very satisfactory adaptation processes. We can cite the particular cases of Hayna Gutiérrez, Romel Frómeta, Yolanda Correa and Víctor Gilí.

And in the audiovisual world, Cuba’s Millennials are already leaving their mark. The subjects broached and the manner in which the problems are approached from the basis of their new aesthetic arguments. Without any doubt, Carlos Lechuga is a genuine representative of this group of filmmakers. Despite his youth, he has received numerous awards at international film festivals. His work is indicative of a cinema which is genuinely renewing in spirit.

If there is anything I am absolutely sure of, it’s that the forward thrust being given by these young creators is contributing to creating and develop new spaces that will give the unceasing dialogue of Cuban culture the opportunity to stay alive and healthy and continue into the future