THE HAVANA BIENALS:

Hostage to the Dominant Discourse in the North




I have written an extended paper (in 1995 - unpublished) pertaining to the treatment of the past five Havana Bienals by the art and news media in the U.S. I wrote this paper after having been fortunate enough to have been present at the past 3 Bienals and witnessing upon my return to the States, "coverage," which, especially for the past two Bienals [#s 4 & 5], has been narrowly placed within the dominant discourse created and promoted the United States government. In particular, the articles appearing in Art in America (and we know the "America" referred to here rarely includes the "Americas") "covering" the last two Bienals discuss only in the briefest of passages the intent of the Bienals, such as: the thematic concepts; the broad participation of artists from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and those diasporic artists living in Europe and the U.S.; or the creation of and discussions occurring within the various forums which took place during the Bienals - forums which brought together some of the most important critics and historians from throughout the Third World, to present papers and discuss related issues.

The writers for Art in America and the New York Times "chose" to discuss the Cuban artists whose work appears to challenge "the state (Cuba)." This contexualizing of the Bienals clearly conforms (and helps sensationalize) the dominant prevailing political discourse in the U.S. The article titles clearly establish the limited "interest" and intent of the writers: "Report from Havana: Testing the Limits; Tweaking the Beard of the Maximum Leader; and Report from Cuba: Art Emigration and Tourism.

I will continue to write more on this issue in the near future.

Until then, you may want to read any or all of the following articles (compare Dore Ashton's October 1994 Artforum article with that of Kurt Hollander's in Art in America):

Ashton, Dore. "Havana, 1986" Arts Magazine, February, 1987, pp. 38-39
-----, "Fifth Havana Biennial." Artforum, October 1994, p. 110

Baranik, Rudolf, et al. "Report from Havana: Cuba Conversation." (Participants: Rudolf Baranik, Luis Camnitzer, Eva Cockcroft, Douglas Crimp, Lucy Lippard), Art in America, March 1987, pp. 21-29.

Camnitzer, Luis. "Report from Havana: First Biennial of Latin America." Art in America, December 1984, pp. 41-49.

Hollander, Kurt. "Report from Cuba: Art Emigration and Tourism." Art in America. October, 1994, pp. 41-47.

Murphy, Jay. "Report from Havana: Testing the Limits." Art in America. October, 1992, pp. 65-68.

Weiss, Rachael. "Magicians of the Real World." High Performance Magazine. Summer 1990, pp. 16-17.

Wise, Michael Z. "Tweaking the Beard of the Maximum Leader." New York Times. June 12, 1994, Section H, pp. 35-36.