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8th Havana Biennial, 1 November - 15 December 2003
Press Release of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center
July 2003

Premises and Principles

The Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center is preparing the eighth Havana Biennial, which will be held on November, 2003.

Taking into account that the last Biennial was an agent for the transition towards the changes we intend to carry out, and which were only presented in that occasion, the Organizing Committee would like to declare that the principles that would regulate the new curatorial and museographic project, as well as its structure, aimed at familiarizing some sectors of the specialized critic, curators, artists, journalists and the general public, with the ideas that will serve as a foundation for the Eighth Havana Biennial.

We consider that in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean there are material and cultural conditions different from those of other regions, which condition a type of expression, whose codes and values are capable of allowing a constructive dialogue with other publics and contexts for a better understanding of our particular realities. Likewise, in our regions, the diverse cultural expressions establish a type of relationship with the public that are considered part of life, without mediation of any institution or specific technological requirements.

Art and life become therefore, elements or components of a same sense and meaning at the level of the community, with their logical differences depending on the region in which they appear. In some cases, the balance is more inclined towards the political aspect, or towards the religious, or towards the richness of rites and rituals and popular festivities, or to other aspects.

Some of our most serious problems find an echo and a response in the creative level as a way to conjure them and there are quite a few artists that feel the need to translate them into proposals that would eventually contribute to the reflection on our destiny, our past and present existence, in spite of the difficulties, that are many and ever growing, which are frequently manipulated by sectors which are foreign to our realities aimed at making marginalization, violence, corruption, forced migration or poverty, objects for collection and aesthetic contemplation, very far from all forms of recognition or critical reflection.

This has generated a certain Third World consumption, South, territorialization and above all multiculturalism, in spite of the good intentions of those who want to approach us trying to know us better and to understand the vastness of the cultures and the spiritual richness in these regions of the world. This curiosity, this avidity, this consumption, also happens, in many cases, through the art market that contaminates today almost the whole visual environment of man in any place of the planet.

The Havana Biennial, since its creation in 1984, has shown a good part of that spiritual richness of our regions, and has acted as far as possible from this economic mechanism in spite of not being able to suppress as we would always like. The inevitability of its presence in any forum or international arena.

In this eighth edition we wish to open still more that dialogue, not only by means of the specific works of the invited artists, but also in their relation to the exhibition spaces and the urban environment which gain more and more importance every day for meanings in the daily life of our nations.

Context and Scenario of the Biennial

The city of Havana has been the ideal frame to go deeper into the improvement of the relationship among citizens, between the citizen and his habitat and to promote reflection on the integration of the artistic fact into life in a certain specific space. On the other hand, the city, especially the historic area, has all the conditions for designing cultural actions that stimulate the participation of the population in the community as another way of making ever more real the integration of man in its cultural, technical and social expressions.

It is important the participation of the public and of the institutions that form the present urban grid, among which, of course, mention should be made of those devoted to art. The Havana Biennial is trying to involve a larger network of old spaces and new spaces aimed at modifying its traditional structure of communication and exhibition.

An important role in this objective play the artists themselves, who will be agents and promoters of exchange through their individual works or through other projects, involved in the development of the city and the individual. Thus, their contribution to the improvement of the visual environment and the possibility of influencing their habitat will pave the way for practices that will erase traditional borders between art and life.

The Havana Biennial aims at developing multiple structures of participation of artists together with technicians, professionals and citizens in projects that express, somehow, the changes in contemporary art, in which also traditional art operate within the social, cultural and political context which will be discussed in the event.

Our proposal is included in structures that are conditioned by a project of a nation and of national culture institutionalized during the last decades, and also in the midst of some recent changes that have been occurring in the country’s life. Thus the ideological framework and the theoretical assumptions in which the Havana Biennial, since its very creation, works. Not taking them into account objectively would be unpractical and illusive, though some critics and observers twist them and deform them with other purposes, or simple do not take them into account as significant elements when evaluating the event from other points of view, thus decontextualizing a phenomenon so complex as a Biennial of visual arts, which, like in any other part of the world has its own laws, codes, values and specific conditions.

Our commitment is with the life and the culture of the peoples integrating a world less developed economically. Our commitment is with the societies hoping to attain better levels of development and social justice. Our commitment is with every day reality trying to find understanding, consideration and respect, even though it sometimes becomes a painstaking struggle for survival.

This entails a serious ethical commitment. It is not the same curating in Brazil than in United Arab Emirates, in France than in Senegal, in Guatemala than in Indonesia. We are interested in the life of millions of men and women on Earth, and on the daily life of our peoples. Therefore, as curators committed to and interested in the ideological and social repercussions generated by our actions, we will do everything in our hands to contribute to the improvement of that life. We always wonder, what’s the use of holding a Biennial? And we will always wonder whom do we hold a Biennial for?

Art, and its many expressions, is a very efficient instrument for understanding and approximation between men. We are interested in the ideas we might share with artists and art experts, with a heterogeneous and diverse audience willing to participate in the projects we propose. Hence the Biennial retains its promotional and investigative character at the same time it renews its own structures to become a living dynamic institution closely related to the demands of the new times.

Eighth Havana Biennial

We are organizing an event in which not only visual artists will participate, but also artists devoted to other disciplines and sectors from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, and also from other regions of the world, though in a minor way, like we did in the last Seventh Biennial, under the spirit:

Art Together with Life

This means a Biennale where those artists linked to the multiple forms of life of our peoples, from a critical and reflective outlook of our reality to the passionate exaltation of all forms of beauty, passing also through irony or humor, will exhibit their works.

Works that show harshly or with subtleness the wide spectrum of problems that affect our nations daily and in their relations with the rest of the world. Such ideo-aesthetic proposals may be restricted to the domestic, national or international sphere in an enriching dialectic between different contexts, and later be exhibited separately in the city or in an organic relation with particular institutional or alternative spaces, whether ephemeral or permanent, real or virtual.

We seek to integrate not only the expressions of conventional visual arts but other forms of approaching life that likewise bring about ideas and emotions.

Aimed at making our Biennial an event in which participation is a major aspect from its very conception, we are open to all ideas that might enrich it. So it is our hope that we could receive suggestions or recommendations that would contribute to make the Biennial a much better event from all points of view. We have always believed in a common work, a collective work.

As is usual in our work, the Staff of Curators of the Havana Biennial will select the artists and the projects that will participate departing from the information and documentation compiled in their research trips to the countries in question, proposals received and other sources on information, taking into account all the above mentioned aspects.

Likewise, the Staff of Curators can decide it might be convenient to exhibit works or artistic expressions considered to be special cases, with the objective of contributing to the knowledge and information of the Cuba public, and at the same time enrich the diversity of proposals that shape the Biennial.


For more information, please contact:

Bienal de La Habana
Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam
Calle San Ignacio y Empedrado, Plaza de La Catedral
La Habana Vieja, Cuba

Phone: +537 - 8613419 and 8612096
Fax: +537 - 8338477
Email: wlam@cubarte.cult.cu or ojeda@wlam.cult.cu


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