OPC Blog Entry 5
March 29th, 2009
Today we took a city bus to the neighborhood of San Agustín, the headquarters of the laboratorio artístico de San Agustín (LASA). This alternative venue was established in 2008 by the artist Candelario when his friends needed space to work. About an hour outside central Havana, San Agustín has become for LASA a forum for interactive engagement with the social and spatial aspects of a small community. This approach of direct intervention is defined by LASA as “contextual art.”
According to the group’s own description, borrowed from Paul Ardenne’s Un art contextuel, in this model “the art work is an insertion in the complexity of the concrete world, its confrontation with the material conditions.” Curator Dannys Montes de Oca Morada, in writing about LASA, says “What characterizes this type of project and particularly LASA is an action that involved many agents from the social sphere, originating as operational platform or scene of actions that establish an ecosystem of relations, exchange and communication to subvert also the traditional models of production, circulation, and reception of the work, its aural condition and its physical limits of autonomous existence.”
As their writings suggest, the performances presented at LASA this weekend were immersed in the public space of San Agustín. For the biennial exhibition, international artists invited by LASA came to the neighborhood and created work that involved the residents and the cityscape in the area.
German artist Peter Kees drove around in a 1950s-era car and asked members of the community what they considered the quintessential sounds of San Agustín. After collecting a number of audio clips, Kees attached a neon orange loudspeaker to the roof of the car to replay them. The car was displayed in the rear area of LASA’s building, installed between painted water tanks on the roof of the adjoining building and films screened in the interior of the art space.
One of the films screened was a lyrical depiction of the neighborhood by Italian/French artist Laura Delle Piane. The film followed a series of neighborhood residents as they went about mundane actions throughout the day, from a middle-aged man shaving to a small girl preparing for ballet practice. As we watched the film, other residents of San Agustín chuckled and pointed out friends and neighbors.
The physical space of LASA demonstrates the biennial’s diverse exhibition spaces: colonial forts, white box galleries, and crumbling warehouse spaces all housed artworks around the city of Havana. See their website for more information: <http://www.lasa-cuba.blogspot.com>.