Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES — We don’t know if they welcomed him at the airport with the traditional Guantanamera, if a Ministry of Culture official escorted him to his hotel…we don’t know anything. All we know for sure is that renowned artist Matthew Barney was – or is – in Cuba.
Apparently, he came to present Cuban audiences with his most recent work, River of Fundament, and to have a brief exchange afterwards.
The presentation, however, wasn’t held at the enshrined Wifredo Lam Center or the Cuban art mecca, the National Fine Arts Museum. It was held at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC).
This is a highly mysterious decision, if we consider the stature of this wealthy media figure.
What unknown power does the FAC have to be able to have such an important contact? Or was Barney the person who expressed an interest in the venue? If so, what is happening on the island to draw his attention?
Why did the Cuban mass media not promote this visit?
The news were circulated in the art world via email and some flyers posted up on walls around town, very discreetly, as though it were just another exhibition in the Biennale.
The people I’ve talked to, workmates, artist friends or art enthusiasts, thought the fact Barney’s presence was announced the day the work it took him seven years to produce was screened was a mere gimmick or joke.
Few could have actually imagined that the former spouse of singer Björk was actually going to the FAC.
The thrill of seeing Barney and enjoying one of his works was what made a significant part of Cuba’s art elite to visit the venue that, despite all its defects, has become an obligatory space, for many reasons.
Though I arrived an hour late, I saw the work’s remaining 5 hours and didn’t feel lost or bored, as the film contains intermezzos that allowed the public to rest their eyes and minds.
I saw Barney conversing with people amicably, without any muscle-bound bodyguard around him, akin to those who accompanied Rihana during her recent visit to the island.
River of Fundament is a great opera loaded with dark and absurd moments, perversion and filth…elements that reminded us of his Cremaster cycle, with which he won the Europa 2000 award at the 45th Venis Biennale.
Barney’s presence in Cuba was a great mystery, almost as much as his work is.
Let’s hope his curious followers can find some answers at one point.