Marking Torrance Art Museum’s (TAM) third time participating in SUR:biennial and first exhibition affiliated with the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time initiatives, TAM is pleased to announce The Cuban Matrix, opening at Torrance Art Museum on September 16, 2017.
The Cuban Matrix is TAM’s contribution to the 2017 SUR: biennial. SUR is a biennial multi-venue, international exhibition program. Participating institutions produce projects with artists from across Latin America, as well as Latin American artists working in and engaging Southern California. 2017’s iteration is SUR’s fourth and Torrance Art Museum’s third participation.
The Cuban Matrix is also a part of Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard TIme is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.
This exhibition is organized by Maurizzio Hector Pineda, Benjamin W. Tippin, and Melissa Tran, under the direction of Max Presneill, the museum’s director, and along with the assistance and support of the Torrance Art Museum Advocates (TAMA). Participating artists include: Ariamna Contino, Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera, Jorge Otero Escobar, Diana Fonseca, Alexander Hernandez, Tony Labat with Juan Carlos Alom, Francisco Maso, Reynier Leyva Novo and Esterio Segura.
The Cuban Matrix is an ambitious project featuring an in-depth look at contemporary Cuban artwork, with emphasis on digital media exchange culture. The focus of the exhibition is the offline digital “mercado” (marketplace) sharing culture that has arisen around the phenomenon of “El Paquete Semanal”: a weekly terabyte packet of entertainment, downloaded web pages and information that is carried into Cuba, shared and consumed throughout Cuban society.
This object-oriented cultural economy, a mix of entrepreneurship, cultural curation and community building, was precisely the conversation that the project had begun to generate. It is from this process that the exhibition as it is now began its journey.
The works in this exhibition are tempered by limited access to the virtual information systems that most of the developed world takes for granted. The artists and their works are shaped by these limitations and the cultural responses that grew to meet them. Though Cuba has, albeit recently, introduced public wi-fi hotspots in parks, which have transformed into spaces of gathering and exchange, and, even more recently, granted private internet access connections, direct access to the global Internet is still harshly limited: both in economic and geographic terms. Public wi-fi is expensive and slow, with speeds that preclude the sharing of larger files and streaming media.
While the high-speed, constantly available information stream that forms the hallmark of contemporary societies in the global north is not at this time available to the people of Cuba, “El Paquete Semanal” forms a unique and ingenious workaround. It is bought cheaply and distributed from hand to hand, shared and downloaded. Containing everything from entertainment to software to international news, “El Paquete” acts as an object that mediates Cuba and the rest of the world.
The works comprising The Cuban Matrix explore aspects of this mediation. The works of an older generation navigate objects and spaces of community and protest, precursors to the digital gathering spaces of resistance. Other works exemplify the historical Cuban cosmopolitanism that through “El Paquete” is heightened and enriched. Cubans, perhaps even more so than many other American peoples, are deeply aware of the world they inhabit. This awareness and cultural facility persists despite the economic isolation Cuba has endured throughout the last half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. Artworks in the show reflect the expansion of the digital “mercado” in Cuban society: access to software, globo-political awareness, the exchange of ideas and the international art community.
We have taken this exhibition as an opportunity to talk about a Cuba that is not often discussed: a digital Cuba. This moment in Cuba, now, is rife with uncertainty – about normalization of international relations, the future of the Cuban identity, their own political future and much more. But beyond that, a Cuba that is navigating two distinct temporal realities: the reality of economic isolation – the blockade or embargo – and that of instant communication and interminable velocity. It is “El Paquete” that forms an intersection between these two. It is both the metaphor and the uniquely Cuban exegesis of their time and place.