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The 12th Havana Biennial Continues

The 12th Havana Biennial Continues

Accompanying the work, you can hear conversations and encounters, laughter, thirst quenched with water or beer, stops along the Biennial route where every exhibition is a milestone. Those who have come tell stories about what they have seen and they invite other people to go. Upstairs in the temporary exhibits halls, Gustavo Pérez Monzón’s show puts the younger generations of Cubans in touch with a legendary artist about whom much has been said and very little has been seen in Cuba for a good many decades. Across the room, Tomás Sánchez’ lovely landscapes are hanging—they really speak to me because they touch on my own sensibilities. They are enormous paintings, full of details, exquisitely painted and with huge blank spaces that startle and at the same time calm me.

But there isn’t enough time to spend in lengthy contemplations because I have to leave, practically fly to the Spanish Embassy where Estrictamente Personal [Strictly personal] is the collective project being shown. As I arrive, Cirenaica Moreira, curator of the show, is already bleeding over her dress while exercising on the treadmill. It’s some kind of macabre gym! This impressive performance is just the aperitif for what follows, where the artist will be kissing 60 volunteers, each for a minute at a time, through a protective latex layer (a condom). This Exercise in Polygamy is done with members of the audience that approach to be kissed by the artist, to be photographed doing it and to have these images subsequently exhibited. Men, women, young people and those who are not so young are participating in the event.

Ascending the marble staircase crammed with sweaty bodies, you bump into an installation: a plastic shower fills with steam (luckily fake) a bathroom that you inevitably must walk through. Continuing our ascent to the next floor, Grethell Rasúa is drawing some of her own blood to write a prayer for pardon on a white table. A bit later, while Cirenaica is kissing the volunteers on the marble stairs of the Embassy, a room on the second floor witnesses yet another performance. Accompanied by Lázaro Saavedra, Grethell Rasúa extends a line from the white surface of a wall until infinity, going over railings, floors, steps… At the end of the room, Broselianda Hernández gives us her Soledad Pública [Public Solitude] in short videos that movie the viewer for the undeniable expressive capacity of the actress and because I’ve got a feeling that her solitude is genuine.

When we leave, it is nighttime. I pause to watch Carlos Garaicoa’s intervention on the broad sidewalk surrounding part of the Dionisio Velasco Palace, which today houses the Spanish Embassy. There are still a lot of people in the streets. They make appointments and decide on itineraries. Some of them would like to be everywhere so that they don’t miss anything. Others are exhausted, thinking only about getting home soon. But the Biennial continues.

June 2015 This article formed part of the june 2015 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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