Cristina Vives, independent art curator in Cuba: "What we do is viewed with suspicion"

Cristina Vives, independent art curator in Cuba: "What we do is viewed with suspicion"

Cristina Vives, independent art curator in Cuba: "What we do is viewed with suspicion"

(EFE).- Promoting art independently and privately in Cuba continues to be viewed with “distrust” and leaves those who engage in this activity in a certain situation of “vulnerability,” curator Cristina Vives said in an interview with EFE. with 30 years of experience in the sector.

“Thirty years after being independent and successful, what we do is viewed with suspicion and that is directly proportional to being controlled, observed and questioned all the time,” says Vives from his studio in Havana, a magnet in the art world. from the country.

This family project, which started with Vives and her husband, the renowned Cuban photographer José Alberto Figueroa, arose in the midst of the profound crisis caused by the Special Period of the 1990s in Cuba. Now it also includes her daughter, Cristina Figueroa.

For Vives, getting out of the framework of state institutions at that time, with the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe and the economic, political and social confusion that this entailed for Cuba, was a “suicide leap.” But he “never” has regretted the decision.

“Since the late 1980s, there was a galloping crisis of cultural institutions in which many of the most prominent artists left the country looking for other paths, avoiding censorship and creative limitations. Everything was in decline,” he recalls.

This family project, which started with Vives and her husband, the Cuban photographer José Alberto Figueroa, arose in the midst of the profound crisis caused by the Special Period

It is within this panorama that Vives and Figueroa set up a studio in their apartment in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, an initiative that is currently a benchmark for the private management of contemporary art on the island.

“We surround ourselves with the most outstanding, innovative, groundbreaking and questioning Cuban art of the 90s and we fill the walls with young creators such as Tania Bruguera, Belkys Ayón, Raúl Cordero, among others who left the Art Institute between 1992 and 1994”, recalls Vives.

She emphasizes that the study, later named Figueroa-Vives, also arose from the “frustration of a great attempt to collaborate with cultural institutions.” “That’s when we said: not one more.”

“The years have passed and it is not surprising how we think and act. We can be uncomfortable but they are used to it, there is more tolerance,” he says.

His career, with a dozen exhibitions in Cuba and other countries, several investigations and a network of collaborators, does not guarantee them anything, however. “We continue to walk a tightrope,” says this Cuban curator.

“We will always be vulnerable, as long as we are not a recognized, legally respected and supported institution,” laments Vives who, even so, specifies that “if there is something to defend, it is the ability to not be afraid.”

Despite the three decades that have passed, Vives makes comparisons between the current situation and that of its beginnings. Now, he points out, there are “sensitive gaps in cultural leadership and in the strength of institutions,” something that, along with “the almost massive exodus of a lot of artistic talent” reminds him of the Special Period.

The studio, later named Figueroa-Vives, also arose from the “frustration of a great attempt to collaborate with cultural institutions”

“Although second parts (crisis) are impossible to resist”, comments the curator, who speaks of the need to reinvent oneself and the feeling of continuing to move in a “space of vulnerability”.

Vives feels that now “it is being easier” for them to dialogue with the new generations that direct some cultural institutions of the Cuban State because “they come with a spirit where ideological guilt does not touch them.”

“They are not so contaminated,” says his daughter, in charge of the online display of the family art studio.

He says that in 2014 they realized that they had to be more “aggressive” publicly and decided to position themselves on social networks and manage a web page so that their message would reach many more people and they could connect with more galleries on and off the island.

“If you believe in art, you support it. And we have done this by trying to unite our ability to curate exhibitions with the will of entities such as the Norwegian Embassy and the Spanish Embassy, ​​which have supported us a lot,” he explains.

This collaboration has allowed them to achieve visibility even outside of Cuba and also to maintain the projects, mentions Figueroa, who points out the recent joint exhibitions between artists from the Island and the Spanish studio Nave Oporto.

Both have a very clear purpose after 30 years of committing this “suicide”: “To make the (artists) who are (in Cuba) breathe and produce, and those who have left come back.”

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