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Ellen OliverHayden Lilly DaiberMiari StephensDaniel PerlmutterNaomi RommLenka SaldoDylan FitzwaterAurelis TroncosoYolandi Cruz Guerrero
"Layers of the Onion: Identity, Space, and Location in Three Generations of Cuban Modern Dance"
My project incorporates elements of writing, choreography, and performance. At the heart of my project is a choreographed solo dance called La Cebolla. My choreographic process was influenced by my research in Cuban modern dance, and I worked with themes of location, space, and identity. The movement in my choreography is inspired by Ai Ki Ram Jutsu martial arts classes, Universidad de las Artes modern dance classes, hip hop, contact improvisation, and my own identity and movement in Cuba. Additionally, onions became a metaphor for my process in this research: I have learned that Cuban dance is composed of many complex layers that grow throughout time. My research paper counterposes my personal experience of dance in Cuba with three generations of Cuban modern dance choreographers. I focus particularly on the post-1959 institutionalization and nationalization of Afro-Cuban cultural practices, ballet, and North American modern dance, as well as how the choreography of the current generation has become more fluid in response to changing conditions. Throughout this semester, I conducted interviews, attended rehearsals and performances, and participated in classes at the Universidad de las Artes. Additionally, I taught contact improvisation and presented my choreography at the Festival de las Artes.
Hayden Lilly Daiber
"Ubiquitous. Unique. Reproduction. An Investigation in Silkscreening"
I searched for how I could create unique images from what is ubiquitous in Havana by, paradoxically, working with artistic processes of reproduction and appropriation. Using the techniques of silkscreen and frottage, I explored ways to make fluid what seemed to be the inherent meaning of a repeated image—like, for example, Havana’s ubiquitous busts of José Martí—while at the same time considering how context alters the meaning. I made rubbings (frottages) of public sculptures and spaces around the city, such as the lions at the entrance of the Mariana Grajales Park and the relief at the base of the Martí statue in Parque Central, as well as ornaments on buildings that I later I abstracted in my work. In the process I both observed and participated in the public use of these spaces. These frottages, combined with my own photographs and appropriated images, are the basis for my silkscreens. My final set of silkscreen prints, as well as the matrices themselves, are appropriations that visually represent the popular images and objects that inhabit my everyday life in Cuba, as well as my ambiguous relationship to the cultural significance of these images and objects.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper examines the personal and social significance of Black Women’s hair in Havana. Hair carries a significant importance especially for Black women, as it is often classified as a marker of economic or social status, racial identity and personal aesthetic or expression. I conducted over twenty interviews throughout Havana with Black women from the ages of 21-78, residing in various municipalities, with different occupations and a variety of hair textures. Using two key concepts—material conditions and personal, intimate experiences--I investigate Black women’s hair as a manifestation of survival. On one hand, Black women’s hairstyling can affect their role in the workplace or job market, as many jobs require a specific, limiting presencia that predominately targets black features. Thus, the manner in which a Black woman styles her hair may be crucial for her material or economic livelihood. On the other hand, hair can be a form of personal expression that allows Black women to appreciate and love their beauty. In this sense, hairstyling constitutes a form of personal self-survival for Black women— a technique to navigate of a world that devalues and criticizes their features.
"Between the Havana Biennial(s): Before the Biennial"
I came to Cuba wanting to study the Havana Biennial. Through my investigation, which was both artistic and curatorial, analytic and testimonial, I have missed the Havana Biennial. I was not in Havana during the event itself; therefore, I did not have access to the spectacle in question, only its surrounding area, planning, and organization. But more importantly, I could not study the Havana Biennial itself because I found it necessary to study its contradictions, its borders, and its multiplicities. The event has contradicting definitions, including a divergence of “official” and “unofficial” art worlds. It exists in the space of Havana, yet at the same time, as a node of the so-called “globalized art world.” I have made a book that is an account of these contradictions and my participation in and around them. Like the Havana Biennial, my book is bound in a single structure, yet it has many different entrance points. It acts as a document of contact between two dueling narratives, a site where different definitions of the Havana Biennial create friction, and, therefore, new energy and new information.
"To Build From Fragments: An Investigation of Memory Through Lithography and Collage"
My project commenced as a study of the practice of lithography, as well as its historical and contemporary cultural significances. As I began to experience the physicality of the process, I began to assess the literal and metaphorical posture of my body as I prepare and execute a lithographic print. In terms of the conceptual aspect of my work, I began to focus on questions of space, memory, and the body. At the same time, I began drawing connections between my own body and the body that is a lithographic stone. As I progressed in my work, I began to use writing to reflect on my personal experiences in Cuba as well as on lithography as a site of historical memory on the island; also, I began to include collage work in my process. My final series of prints and collages addresses the lithographic stone as a barer of ghosts of previous drawings, as well as of the memories and histories that are held within my body as the material marker of familial and cultural remembrance. While the lithographs developed in their own right, the collages were born out of the concept of constructing images from fragments of the prints, mimicking the weaving of memory.
"¿Te gusta el party? ¿Te gusta el dinero? ¿Te gusta reguetón? A mi también: ~Seeing Generational Change in Cuban Reguetón~"
This research essay argues that reguetón in Cuba reflects and produces a youth generation that celebrates a new era of globalism and commercialism in a deeply Cuban context. This musical genre itself originated outside the island, but today it has arrived at the center of Cuba’s youth music scene While Cuban artists work within the possibilities of their local context and also fuse reguetón with Cuban musical genres like timba, Cuban reguetón also represents the changing cultural values—and increasingly consumerist values—of younger Cubans. Cubanized reguetón emerges from the complicated relationship between commercial motives, Cuban institutional politics, and the aesthetic aspects of the music. In this essay I discuss the changing culture of the new generation in reguetón based on my ethnographic research, which included interviews with underground reguetoneros, commercial reguetoneros, producers, consumers, DJs, and dancers, as well as attending concerts and visiting home-based recording studios to see and experience the cultural movement. In Havana, reguetón is taking more and more forms, and the new generation is opening a door to the world by incorporating the global trend into their local culture.
"The Red Barrial Afrodescendiente: New Possibilities for Anti-Racist Organizing in Cuba"
This essay analyzes a community organization called the Red Barrial Afrodescendiente [Afrodescendent Neighborhood Network] in order to explore the possibilities for community based anti-racist organizing in Cuba. The Red Barrial Afrodescendiente is a network of small community organizations that was founded in 2012. It has chapters in the neighborhoods of Balcón Arimao, Pogolotti, Buena Vista, Alamar Playa, Párraga, Jesús María, La Ceiba, and Los Ángeles. All of these neighborhoods are predominantly Afrocuban with social realities shaped by complex systems of racism and marginalization, realities which the Red Barrial confronts in its community work. In the essay, I analyze the material and discursive aspects of racism and marginalization in Cuba as they have developed since the triumph of the Cuban revolution, with particular attention to the new social context created by the Special Period. I then take up the example of the Red Barrial Afrodescendiente and show how their community work addresses the intersecting systems of racism, marginalization, and sexism in the local context of these neighborhoods. I argue that the Red Barrial deploys a counterdiscourse articulated by and for the community that critiques racism, sexism and marginalization, while also developing concrete projects which aim to address the material problems of these communities. Through this analysis, I argue that the Red Barrial illustrates the possibilities and importance of community based anti-racist organizing in changing the daily lives of marginalized Afrocubans. communities through participatory organizing from below.
"Mujeres de Ocha: Voces con fuego en la lengua"
Afrocuban culture has had a strong presence within Cuban society since the arrival of Africans who were enslaved in the fifteenth century and onward. Africans brought with them a number of religions, which continue to serve as a form of resistance and a way to preserve African traditions. Mujeres de Ocha: Voces con fuego en la lengua is the initiation of an investigation that began with my particular interest in black Cuban womyn’s resistance within religions of African origin, specifically Regla de Ocha-Ifá. Black Cuban womyn face several forms of discrimination as they are positioned at the intersection of race and gender in the larger society, in addition to having to navigate spiritual spaces that are predominantly occupied by men. These power dynamics in turn impose limitations on womyn in the religion itself, despite the fact that womyn in this religion initially held roles as obba (master of ceremonies), oriate (diviner of diloggun), and as iyanifas (priestesses of Ifá). Throughout this investigation I have attended religious ceremonies, social gatherings, folkloric performances, and interviewed a number of womyn and men who practice Regla de Ocha-Ifá, regarding the representations of womyn in the religion and their opinions regarding the initiation of womyn into Ifá. In these participations I have observed the different tasks that womyn perform and how notions of patriarchy influenced such spaces and are denounced.
Yolandi Cruz Guerrero
"eat the skin / (comete la piel)"
song playing: Cancion de Susan (Blues) Julio Montoro
i had to keep my nails short for this one. had to roll up my sleeves, crack my wrist everyday, sleep with notebook by bedside, a pen at paper distance. i had to go to work and it was worth it.
my project in a labyrinth project. a maze i constructed. my goal with art but specifically with this piece, has never been about staying in the dark even while writing about blue subjects with blue pains filled with the sorrow of the struggle. it has never been about describing the chains, but about breaking them.
it has always aimed to create an exit, a mode of transportation, that would bring me out to see the sun.
this project committed itself to prove that one, all lives matter, especially the ones that purposely eliminated & then left out of history books, over and over intended to erase them from public memory. and two, all human beings have an enamours gathering of ethnographic data that should be considered be taking very serious as valuable academic material.
the investigation i conducted in my search for existing information about La Lupe in Havana and Santiago of Cuba and in the United States, helped me understand that i never wanted to study her life in the first place. what i did want to do was learn about and with her in order to try to feel stronger within myself. it turns out i did both things at the same time. i paid my respects to her artistic trajectory by gathering and forming a bibliography that i intend to leave to CIDMUC, the National Music Museum, and to my interviewees who also believed that La Lupe was not an artist that should have ever been placed in the margins or left out of the culture memory of this country.
i came out stronger then what i was before the project by being able to think deeply about the process of translation as physical metaphor for the way i conducted my research about La Lupe’s life.