Interview to Reinaldo Ortega, producer and curator of the visual arts section of the Fabrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory) project,created by musician X Alfonso...
Mixed – just as its country of origin – is the Cuban Art Factory created by X Alfonso with the purpose of connecting the audience with realities. Apart from its combination of musicians, visual artists, actors and dancers, the Factory produces the undertakings of those who work in it. Through gestures and photographic and filmed images, the machinery offers, not in an individual way, but in a sort of alchemy, a cosmopolitan view of Cuba today and its contemporaneity. But, first of all, it offers a space of confluences and confidences for those interested in a different form of recreation.
As the host of the International Peace and Love Festival in Havana, the Cuban Art Factory extended its borders, building bridges of cooperation through which ideals transgressing established ideas walk and using, once more, art as a vehicle for human improvement.
The Factory acts as the promoter of eclectic samples, where the concepts of authorship and the limits between the work and what it represents disappear. Reinaldo Ortega, producer and curator of the visual arts section in the project, talks about his experiences.
“We began to work in 2008. We made our debut in the Mella Theater, screening the documentary film Sin Título (Untitled) by X Alfonso. In that presentation we mixed theater, music and visual arts and the idea of making all expressions converge in the same place emerged. Since around the middle of 2010 we have been permanently in PABEXPO and we also act anywhere they give us the chance.
“Peace and Love is a festival held in Sweden and since its essence is very similar to that in Factory – that is, the confluence of various expressions favoring a different world –we have connected our experience with theirs. This is how this idea surfaced in Havana.
“Factory has two essential purposes in the Peace and Love Festival: first, we preach that peace and love are necessary in life and, second, we characterize contemporary Cuban thinking. We work in many thematic directions: religion, fashion, homosexuality, everything that may be the raw material of the central mainstays of our way of doing things, of the young generation, of the people that are now pulsating. This is our foremost interest.”
According to X Alfonso, general producer of the project, constant creation and commitment with social transformation are indispensable requirements for the artists who want to participate. What other conditions does the selection require?
“As visual artists, we have always tried to make a punctual analysis of the position of Cuban contemporary thinking, what trends does it defend, what motivates us, what do the new generations think. And these are dialogues that are not normally held. In our times, we generally live life in a very indifferent way and this alienation should not go unnoticed. Of the utmost importance is to find creators dealing with social topics; we are not interested in visual arts as a pretext to exhibit. We do not value abstraction; we are interested in having you talk about the moment you are living in, the fact that as an artist you are not indifferent to what you have to live and you contribute your bit of sand.
“When choosing artists for a sample it is also important to see in them the necessary attitude to spread their work. Factory is an entirely independent project with no sponsorship or subvention. Therefore, the main question is being self-sufficient and, to that end, we require a work praxis allowing us to move on and exempt us from having to see how to exhibit those who come to us. That is why we look for hard working people who are willing to help.
“Another thing we still have to solve is for artists to understand that our work demands large visualization. From the nineties on, when precariousness starts to be hot on our heels, some Cuban authors exploit this situation to justify their lack of vision, will, spirit, materials; there’s no place for that type of attitude here. We do not discriminate artists on the basis of their being graduates or not. With my experience, I can perceive their level and what each of them can give. Creators from the provinces are not discriminated either; we make national calls and even calls for foreign artists. For us, it is work and attitude what are important and that is measured in an interview.
“Our calls are open not only for photography, but also for sculpture, for installations. We are interested in innovative proposals for which we try to find specific and practical solutions with the purpose of solving their assembly. We always see that everything is well tied up, well solved.”
Youngsters especially talk of the Fabrica as a space “to have fun” and “see each other’s faces”… Why do you think that is?
“The project is designed for people to come and consume art; we do not work for the audience that regularly goes to galleries with their hands on their backs seeing what new thing they can find. We try to reach persons who had never thought about visiting a gallery, a theater, and suddenly find this trap of a show; they find something odd, unusual, but attractive. That is the people for whom we work.
“To that purpose, in our presentations we devise a program in which all expressions simultaneously converge. We generally use music as bait. Then, at a given moment in the night, we have a performance or some dance, followed by DJs or disco music and, of course, with the place decorated with visual pieces.
“That is how we made not only that people had fun, but Factory exercise an educational function so as, in a given way, influence them by what they see and hear, by what surrounds them and they cannot escape from. Everything, besides, worked through light, space, texture, color, as a night paf, rather tenuous and tasteful.
“To find a place for recreation, youngsters frequently have to pay plenty of money and, at times, what they get doesn’t please them. That is why our promotion is made in the streets and also in universities. Our audience is composed by persons who share concerns and are connected by the space. You feel that conversation topics are different there, as are the forms of acting and dialoguing with artistic proposals.”
How would you describe the impact Fabrica de Arte Cubano has had as a space not only for recreation, but also for the creation of social relations?
“It has been a fruitful experience in spreading what Cuban artists are creating, especially the younger ones. Those who go to the Factory have access to musicians, painters, dancers… living culture is taking place right there. But what is more significant is that rather close relationships have emerged among artists of various expressions, among artists and the audience, and among the audience and the works of art. And even among members of the audience. And all this taking into account that the Cuban audience has much information and, at times, does not find places to share it, especially places that are, most of all, cultural spaces.
“Many started to interact with these forms of expression that were alien to them and now people approach me asking when the next call will be and ask for contacts. I tell them that right now we have no space for a new project and we are accepting any help from someone who may offer us some space to work. The scale before the last one was in the Cuban Photographic Library with the exhibition Comunes en nuestro pensamiento (Shared in Our Thought), which was open from January 20 to February 20, in which we mostly worked with photography and sculpture.
“As X Alfonso says, Factory is the place where everyone is an artist. A musician is valued at par with a person who makes his life fixing percolators, has a restaurant or organizes concerts. We Cubans carry art within us. I wish there would be more places where all that might concur.
How was your work as a curator in the exhibition at the Peace and Love Festival?
“In the specific case of Peace and Love, although it was difficult to make a guardianship for a two day event, I feel much satisfied by the answer given by the artists, very extroverted people, very open, very desirous to work, to do things. What we want is to give them the chance to offer their opinions too. We don’t want them to feel segregated or succumb because, in avant-garde visual arts, elites do exist. We try to be entirely against that. All artists with a good work, no matter where they are from, have the chance to come and exhibit if they beat with our times. It all depends on what you want to do, on what you are ready to achieve.
“That is why I firmly believe, as X Alfonso says, that Factory has been able to turn into a movement, into a constant generator of ideas.”
Translated by Gertrudis Ortega