Art and Necessity at the Havana Biennial

05/28/2015 04:13 pm ET | Updated May 28, 2016

Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII Havana Biennial

Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII ha (14ymedio)

The man approaches and pulls a fork from the work Delicatessen that is being exhibited on the Havana Malecon during the XII Havana Biennial. Nearby, two neighbors speculate that, at the end of the event, the sand used in Resaca (Hangover) will be given to the surrounding residents to repair their homes. To art appreciation are added hardships and daring, incorporating the spectators into a show they want to make their own, by taking it home and reusing it.

The arrival of the Biennial to our city is a good time to enjoy the aesthetic surprises that await us around every corner, but it also confirms the collision of art and need. Near the artworks employing major material resources the inquisitive eyes of a guard are always watching. The protected works, with their "Don't touch" signs or surrounded by closed perimeters, abound on sidewalks and in parks, more than they should. A contrast between the interaction sought by the artists who place their works in public spaces and the excessive protection to which they are subjected, precisely so that this public doesn't end up taking them away in their pockets, piece by piece.

The guard who prevents vandalism or looting also adds an ideological curator who ensures that no installation, performance or show deviates from the official script. A group of watchdogs of the artistically correct impeded Tania Bruguera from entering the Museum of Fine Arts at the end of last week. These censors of free creation also forced Gorki Aguila into a car, after preventing him from hanging the face of the graffiti artist El Sexto on the same walls where he had left us his indelible signature.

Need marks each work of art of the Havana Biennial. Material need, where a screw used in some pedestal could end up in the door of a home, or in a chair or even in the bed where four people sleep every night. And the other need, that of freedom, makes us approach the art to take for ourselves a piece of its rebellion, before the guard blows his whistle and we leave, empty-handed.

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14ymedio, Cuba's first independent daily digital news outlet, published directly from the island, is available in Spanish here. Translations of selected articles in English are here.