Matthew Barney in Cuba

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?

Nobody knows.

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.

Matthew Barney. Photo: Huffington Post

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.

Yanelys Nuñez

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva: Writing is to expose oneself, undress before the inquisitive eyes of all. I like to write, not because I have developed a real fondness for nudity, but because I love composing words, thinking of stories, phrases that touch, images that provoke different feelings. Here I have a place to talk about art, life, me. In the end, feeling good about what you do is what matters; either with or without clothing.


7 thoughts on “Matthew Barney in Cuba

  • June 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm
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    I definitely feel out of it

  • June 29, 2015 at 5:31 am
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    You’re not alone IC. I seriously thought this was related to Sesame Street.
    I’m not as connected as I thought.

  • June 27, 2015 at 10:41 am
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    Hahaha!

  • June 27, 2015 at 8:38 am
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    But I was serious. I honestly don’t know who this guy is.

  • June 26, 2015 at 11:30 pm
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    Many of the Cuban writers to HT have a false sense of proportions. They tend to fall short in their measure of the wealth and fame of someone like Beyonce or Rihanna while overvaluing the celebrity of a lesser light like Barney. Time and again superlatives are used to describe a famous Cuban actor or athlete who accomplishments are not as widely known as the writer thinks. At the same time, this writer has no idea what it means to have 2 or 3 Billboard Top Ten singles at the same time.

  • June 26, 2015 at 4:26 pm
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    Should I know who this guy is? I certainly don’t. Is this suppose to be a big deal?

  • June 26, 2015 at 7:11 am
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    These days Barney is as well known for his split and custody disagreement with the far better known singer Bjork over their teenage daughter than he is for his offbeat art. It is no surprise that he could walk around without a bodyguard in Havana. Here in his native San Francisco, where he is best known, he is always seen around town unguarded. Rihanna is in a whole different league of celebrity and certainly warrants the muscle- bound protection. Maybe the lack of promotion surrounding his visit was intentional. Not all celebrities, especially lesser ones like Barney, welcome the criticisms that still come from the extreme right who oppose the Castro regime and therefore critical of artists who support the regime by visiting Cuba.

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