By Osmel Almaguer
The Havana Art Biennial, which first kicked off in 1991, has been a tremendous event for visual arts in our country, welcoming renowned artists from around the globe.
The foreign public has shown an interest for this event, with its tendency in recent years to spill out into the streets. Yet in holding this art fest, another type of cultural exchange occurs. It’s not only one of a cross-cultural nature, but of feedback in which we all come out winners.
The city has become a huge gallery. In the last few Biennials, assemblies and installations could be found in parks, on corners, mounted on walls and set up on sidewalks. Now art is not something only for museums or high society, but something more truly “of the people” – folks like me.
The works are appreciated by people going to and from work, those taking strolls with their families or people taking a look from their balconies.
With particular amazement, and no less admiration, I’ve contemplated the work Survival, by Roberto Fabelo. In it can be appreciated the indications of artistic and spiritual consolidation, uniquely committed to life’s experiences and contemplations.
Enormous cockroaches with human heads climb out across the polished surfaces of the Museum of Cuban Art. Some have fallen, while others seem to have made it to their destination: the roof, or maybe the sky. In any case, this all caused a strange repulsion in me, perhaps because they’re showing us something about ourselves.
The roaches are fleeing from catastrophe, beings whose nature makes them resistant to the most potent bombs, and are the hands down favorites of the next world war. They have now sprung from the artist’s imagination-in three dimensions-to show us what you can’t see and what we pretend not to know.
Could it be that the author’s intent is to enter into dialogue with Gregor Samsa, the well-known main character in Kafka’s Metamorphosis? What is certain is that one hears the pedestrian-spectators comparing the faces of these Blattodeans to some acquaintance, neighbor or co-worker of theirs.
On one of the occasions when I passed by the building with my friend Jorge, we agreed-with irony and complicity-to put the faces of our bosses on the heads of those insects, at least with Photoshop.
Editors note: The Havana Biennial continues through April 30th at venues in the Vedado District, Old Havana and at the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress.