August 23, 2019
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Art invites discussion on Havana's Malecon

By Atahualpa Amerise

Havana, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- Never before have basketball nets been seen on Havana's Malecon esplanade, even less stuck on a wall classified as a Historical Heritage site. There are four nets that carry life-sized human figures made of cardboard that are constantly being hit by the basketball shots of youngsters and tourists.

"We expose ourselves to be hit by citizens without any problem," the people represented by the cardboard figures told EFE. People who were none other than the creators of this artistic installation, Martin and Sicilia.

Their work "Basket People" seeks to communicate the self-exploitation to which almost everyone in the western world is subjected, they indicated. But above all, it is a good example of the interactive nature of "Behind the Wall," the stellar art exhibit of the 13th Havana Biennial on show from April 12 to May 11, and which transforms for a month the most iconic wall in the Cuban capital.

A wall that, unlike others, does not separate but unites. Proof of that is its nickname "the longest sofa in Havana," a place where people sit to chat, play instruments, drink beer or rum, and right now can also interact with the creations of some 30 Cuban artists and almost 40 from other countries.

"'Behind the Wall' is a project of passion and love, plus I'm really interested in the dialogue between the sea, the city and the people. It is an interesting trinomial, above all in this area where people live quite poorly and can't afford to go to a theater, museum or gallery," Juan Delgado, curator of the third edition of this exhibition first conceived for the 11th Biennial of 2012, told EFE.

Notable among the Cuban artists exhibiting on the Malecon are several winners of the National Plastic Arts Award, such as Roberto Fabelo, Pedro de Oraa and Arles del Rio, the latter being the creator of "Transfusion," one of the installations currently attracting the most visitors.

"Transfusion" is a lattice of colorful hoses that bring water from the bay to the street for the enjoyment of local children, and in so doing becomes a key part of a work that strikes up a playful dialogue between humans and the sea as the heat of the Cuban springtime becomes increasingly intense.

For her part, Rachel Valdes presents "Immersion," which offers a different sensory experience with changing color filters, the superimposition of scenes and reflections that distort reality, as she defines it. The piece will remain permanently in the Castillo de la Fuerza Real (Castle of the Royal Force) at the east end of the Malecon.

Notable among the foreign artists from 14 countries is the large Spanish presence, with works that go from a book 3 meters (10 feet) tall with which Alfredo Biondoa expresses the power of the written word, to the spectacular stained glass structure by David Magan, to Javier Mascaro's troops who guard the wall.

Nor are there lacking the graffitis of Suso 33. "People are the ones who make cities, and I want to make people greater than the cities," the artist said, who has covered a building in front of the iconic Maceo Park in the Central Havana district with black human silhouettes.

Outstanding among the other international works is the glowing installation "Mariposa Dorada" (Golden Butterfly) by Peruvian-American Grimanesa Amoros and pieces like "Estar sin Ver" (Being without Seeing) by Marcos Lutyens, as well as the projection of the film "Otto" by conceptual artist Laurent Grasso.

The abundance, diversity and capacity for interaction of the works in the 13th Biennial of Havana 2019, compared with the expos of previous years, is due in part to efforts to adorn the city for the 500th anniversary of its founding, to be celebrated next November.

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