The New Museum Panel
Art + Defiance: A Conversation between New York and Havana NEW MUSEUM | 21 Oct 08
Moderator Linda Yablonsky in conversation with Diego Cortez, Kirsha Kaechele, Charles Renfro, Christopher J. Klatell, Peter Nadin and via a live link to Cuba, Kcho, Ruben del Valle Lantaron, and Isabel Maria Perez Perez.
Featuring a short film by Natsuko Uchino + Aimee Toledano. Followed by a reception
Moderator Linda Yablonsky, writer and critic / Diego Cortez, Curator / Kirsha Kaechele, Director of KKProjects New Orleans / Peter Nadin, artist / Charles Renfro, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro Architects / Christopher J. Klatell, Esq., of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Liberman, Counsel to the Republic of Cuba and art law practitioner / Ruben del Valle Lantaron, President of Cuba's National Council on the Visual Arts and Director of the Havana Biennial / Isabel Maria Perez Perez, Executive Editor of ArteCubano / Kcho, Cuban artist
New York City
ART + DEFIANCE: Peter Nadin’s First Mark / El Primer Trazo in Cuba
In the fall of 2007 the exhibition Peter Nadin: First Mark / El Primer Trazo opened at the Wilfredo Lam Center in Havana, Cuba and has since toured to six of the island’s cities and towns and will continue on to Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia in 2009. The exhibition accompanied by a book published by Charta has become a landmark event for the Cuban art scene drawing over 30,000 visitors in the eastern city of Holguin alone. The Cuban media has extensively covered the progress of the show’s tour calling this one of the Caribbean island’s most important cultural events in recent years. Nadin’s work which is literally drawn from the land has struck an unexpected chord with the agrarian culture of Cuba. “I found the Cuban’s expectations of art and it’s value to be quite different than I had expected.
They had a more physical relationship to the art as if it was a gift from the artist to the culture and community and an act in which the audience wanted to reciprocate.” Peter Nadin
Peter Nadin’s First Mark series of artworks is the ﬁrst body of work the artist has exhibited in over ﬁfteen years. He has spent much of that time removed from the “art world,” exploring new approaches and venues for his work while “unlearning” much of his previous art practice. The paintings and sculptures involve a process closely linked to the artist’s farm and its animals, vegetation and environs.
The tactile, olfactory, visual, and auditory experiences of the land move him to create his marks on linen using materials from the farm such as honey, wax, bee propolis, black walnut, elderberry, chicken eggs, and cashmere wool which are the tools of the place.
Special thanks to the Marcari Vineyards
For information contact Mohamed Alladin or J.A. Forde at Company Agenda 212.358.9516
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
KKProjects | Life is Art Foundation
2448 north villere street
new orleans | la
Pre Panel Questions and Discussion: (between Linda Yoblansky + Kirsha Kaechele)
LY: What is the relationship of Art and Defiance and why is it important? Aristotle maintained that any political system by its nature has to put the well being of the community over that of the individual. Art on the other hand puts the sensibility of the individual over that of the community. Therefore art is often in defiance of the political system. This defiance he considered to be of vital importance not only to the making of art but also to the well being of the community.
What then does it mean to defy?
KK: In the case of Cuba it is my sense that the art does not exist in defiance of the idea of the community over the individual. Now keep in mind I am only an observer, but it was very much my impression that Cuba naturally embraces a model of art as a force for unifying and enriching the community- a movement which I believe is finding new invigoration in American art culture. In the US, the expansion of art out of traditional mediums, then out of physical mediums into conceptual, and out isolation of the individual into collaborations with life is still somewhat radical. In Cuba, it’s an old hat. That is just the way they make art.
LY: What is your relationship to Cuba, what work are you doing there- is it something with the next biennale?
KK: My relationship to Cuba is one of deep indebtedness and appreciation, as it is one of the only living expressions, and therefore a validation, of my own not only unconventional, but questionably valid curatorial methods. The Cubans really embody a let’s-see-what-happens philosophy, we can call it an ecological approach. Kcho is putting together an exhibition as part of the Havana Biennial, and we are “planning” to exhibit New Orleans artists, and artists from our larger community who we know will understand and interact with the Cuban methods. We also hope to bring an exhibition to Holguin, to the museum that showed Peter Nadin’s work, another site-specific installation. Cuban administrative methods are even more lax than my own- if that’s possible- so by the nature of it, we will see what actually becomes. We can be certain that whatever that is will have survived a vigorous Darwinian selection processes and will therefore be deeply suited to, and engaged in Cuba and Cuban culture. That may be Nothing, but I think it will be Something extraordinary.
LY: What brought you there?
I came to Cuba for the opening of Nadin’s exhibition in Holguin- and how amazing that was! His honey troughs were full of flies, chickens walked in and out of the museum. The work could not have been better placed, it was so at home in the environment. That visit to Cuba was a long time coming as New Orleans was originally intended as a stop on the way…
LY: What is the relationship between New Orleans and Cuba?
New Orleans and Cuba are extremely similar in that art and culture are not so much commercially driven. The measure and practice of a great life is not tied to the accumulation of wealth, but to the quality and richness of bonding experiences. Both places posses an unbridled and non-goal oriented creativity. Perhaps because, like it or not, there IS no commercial driver, art really is practiced for the sake of art. It is not that profound of an idea but it seems to be somewhat rare- an unforeseen benefit of poverty.
The other great thing the two places share is there is no pretentiousness around the culture of art. There is nothing to be pretentious about. Without incentives for greed and power accumulation, the artist and art professional is left with no choice but to enjoy art as an expressive medium and communicative tool. Again, it is not a groundbreaking idea, but one that seems to have been buried under a lot of other things in certain western art-world circles.
What struck me about Cuba is that this freedom in the making and exhibiting of art is paired with a deep social generosity. What was imposed through socialist rule as obligation seems to have been assimilated as a spiritual and ethical given- a method of conduct thoroughly embraced by the culture. It seems possible that this is a benefit that has come from great suffering, an enforced (and certainly uncomfortable) set of restraints. In the same way that a monk finds improved character through the renouncement of worldly things, the Cubans seem to have found a more loving and generous society through their sacrifices, even if enforced.
It would clearly be wrong to support enforced asceticism, and as a freedom lover I’m incapable of it, but in Cuba it seems to have worked. The greater good is always in the equation and the perils of selfishness seem less widely suffered. The trade off is that the desires of the individual are repressed.
As we know, it is interminably debatable whether the freedom of the individual or the repression of the individual for the greater good delivers the happier society. The generosity and depth of the Cubans makes one aware of the impoverished state of American art and culture, even as beneficiaries of great (if now waning) economic power.
In Cuba, art is subject to societal responsibility. An outsider might think it begins with the fact that the government will only allow work which functions in this manner. This may be the case, but this sentiment seems to have extended into the general belief that art is good if it delivers benefit to all who experience it.
I am an outsider and these are only impressions, but I left Cuba with a great sense of inspiration and a broadened belief in art as a force whose quality is enhanced by the depth and scope of the relationships contained within it.