A Breath of Fresh Air from Havana’s Zona Rayo Activa

A mural with the picture of a boy decorates this public space in Havana, which is a meeting place for community projects and responsible businesses.

IPS Cuba

French artist JR blew up the image of a boy from the gallery’s neighborhood, Barrio Chino, for Zona Rayo Activa.  Photo: Courtesy of Max Barbosa

HAVANA TIMES – As part of the XIII Havana Biennial’s program of events, artworks have improved the Zona Rayo Activa community space, in Central Havana, where the socio-cultural project “Tercer Paraiso” and the “Arte Continua” Center organized an experiences fair.

Ever since the Tercer Paraiso project (founded by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto) began to operate in Cuba almost five years ago, it has served as a platform for different initiatives to come together, who strive for social transformation using creativity and art.

The last of these gatherings, as part of the country’s most important visual arts program, brought together a group of different businesses, activists and institutions on April 14th, however, they all had one thing in common which was to promote a culture of eco-friendly practices, equality and inclusion.

PAC’s animal adoption stand was one of the most visited. Photo: Courtesy of Max Barbosa

The body art studio “La Marca” was there, as was the “Clandestina” clothes store, the City Animals Protection group (PAC), “Ciclo de Ecopapel” business which makes products out of hand-recycled paper, and the “El otro estudio” arts project.

Other projects also joined the event, such as the “Gema” group, the state-run Institute of Philosophy, the international NGO Oxfam and the “Evoluciona” campaign against harassment.

Zona Rayo Activa is an uninhabited solar (dilapidated tenement), where an old store once stood and then a dump, which was later recovered in 2015 by the Arte Continua gallery and Tercer Paraiso to encourage a relationship with the local community.

The machine that gave away seeds created by El otro estudio was one of the highlights for visitors.

Set up on top of a free software and hardware system and made with recycled materials, the prototype aims to invert the meaning of dispensing machines, which are based on superfluous consumption, and show that technology can have a more noble purpose, Sergio Valdes, one of the artists involved in the project, explained to IPS Cuba.

Ciclo Ecopapel, a family-run business, which makes recycled paper with domestic tools and natural techniques, taught their process during the fair. Photo: Courtesy of Max Barbosa

“The machine follows the principle of useful art, which creates something that people can take home and it won’t go up on the wall, but it is something that might help to educate their children or they can eat it.” he said.

This idea arose during the last Rebirth forum that Tercer Paraiso organizes every year to connect with different activists of the community and to write up a common plan of action.

“What’s valuable about Arte Continua and Tercer Paraiso’s presence in Cuba is that they don’t just sign up to an event, we are working all year round. The Biennial was how we got here, but we haven’t stopped since,” Laura Salas, the project’s representative on the Caribbean island, explained.

Tercer Paraiso, which seeks to strike a balance between man, Nature and science, has managed to broaden its networks of participants and understanding of art in a lot of the world.

Graphically-speaking, it is identified by a variation of the mathematic symbol for the infinite which has been represented on different stages worldwide: Milan and Pisa (Italy, 2012), Brussels (Belgium, 2014) and the water of Havana Bay, on December 16, 2014.