Cuba’s Ambassador has visited RMIT to spotlight an innovative partnership between RMIT Centre for Art, Society and Transformation (CAST) and Cuba that will culminate in the 2019 Bienal de la Habana.
The Intercambio project involves a series of active art projects in Australia and Cuba based on or around the Hershey train in Havana and the Upfield railway line in Melbourne.
The Hershey line was built by the chocolate baron Milton Hershey and stands as a metaphor for the changing face of Cuban society from pre-revolutionary capitalism to now.
Intercambio facilitates a conversation between communities in Havana and Melbourne to explore the challenge not only of geographical distance but also language, culture, social systems and urban planning differences.
Ambassador José Manuel Galego Montano said the Bienal de la Habana was one of the most important cultural events across the globe.
“Since its inception in 1984 the Bienal has drawn into its orbit artists from the developing world and beyond.
“Its unique approach to presenting contemporary art, in spaces across the city and in collaboration with local communities, has seen the Havana Bienal become an example for many others, providing an inclusive and more contemporary model for the presentation of advanced artistic practices.
“Intercambio is a partnership that aims not just to develop cultural connections between our two countries, but to build knowledge, potential and excitement via the experience of art,” Montano said.
Dr Geoff Hogg, Director of CAST within the School of Art, said a train provided not only physical transport but in this project it also would become a site for a series of interchange points for both communities to build relationships from afar, drawing on their separate and shared experiences.
“We have a number of successful exchanges with Cuba including the recently completed RMIT art and public space field trip to Cuba, and the Cuban-Australian residency program with Diana Fonseca and Adriana Arronte.
“There’s also the exhibition, Havana Suite, featuring the work of Artist Mia Salsjö, and a forthcoming exhibition of contemporary Cuban video art,” Hogg said.
The devastating effects of Hurricane Irma have meant that the 13th iteration of the Bienal proposed for 2018 has been postponed until 2019.
Story: Paul Noonan