CURATORIAL / RESEARCH > ARTE NO ES FACIL: 2008-2016, US/Cuba

Co-curated by Marilyn Volkman & Dan Paz

ARTE NO ES FÁCIL (ANEF) emerged out of the opportunity to connect with emerging Cuban artists exhibiting in ESTADO DE EXCEPCIÓN curated by Tania Bruguera for the 10th Havana Biennial in 2009. The exhibition focused on the work of participants from Bruguera’s political art school, ARTE DE CONDUCTA, marking its closing after seven years. Over the two years that followed, the ANEF project developed into an effort to make art practices visible across heavily regulated borders between Cuba and the United States.

By 2012, ARTE NO ES FÁCIL grew to include over 45 Cuban and North American participants, the work of whom was featured in Chicago during three months of exhibition at Links Hall. The series received support from the MacArthur Foundation to bring 12 of the 25 participating Cuban artists to the United States to work with their collaborators in person.


As the curators of ARTE NO ES FÁCIL, Marilyn Volkman and Dan Paz created and supported collaborative pairings of artists split between Chicago and Havana in an effort to maintain open lines of communication despite technological, political and economic divides. The co-creators of the project spent years translating interviews and email correspondence, facilitating legal travel and facilitating decision-making amongst collaborating participants.

The project continued in 2013 with programming in Cuba addressing the capacity for artist-run projects to anticipate socio-political change. Then in 2015, ANEF partnered with Fábrica de Arte Cubano in Havana to host 3 exhibitions and a symposium entitled Art Present: Mapping Space that Could Return to Earth Again. Artists from Cuba, the U.S., Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Qatar presented their work for the Biennial. Participants were selected based on a commitment to reorganizing the structures of their own communities through art.

ARTE NO ES FÁCIL concluded in 2016. Its final document will be a chronicle of art made in pivotal historic moments leading up to the temporary efforts toward the "normalization" of US-Cuban relations during US President Barack Obama's second term in office. ANEF incorporates the voices of over 80 transnational cultural producers.

Over the course of the project, participating artists visited the Cuba and the United States to create work and reside in artists’ homes. What the residency meant to each of us was varied and complex. Apart from the history, apart from producing exhibitions and wading through a bureaucratic swamp to obtain visas, we ultimately maintained our belief in the importance of personal intimacy as a means of understanding how US-Cuban relations could be shaped through efforts of art.

CHICAGO EXHIBITIONS - 2012
Together with participating Chicago and Havana artists, we planned nine nights of exhibitions at the Chicago nonprofit Links Hall, and applied for visas supporting 12 Cuban artists to come to the United States. Traveling artists were jointly determined based on the requirements of their work and the reality of whether or not the US and Cuban governments would grant a visa. A group of Chicago artists were also selected to go to Cuba under the General License implemented by President Obama in support of “people-to-people connections made through academic, cultural and religious exchanges.”

Collaborative Pairings were Created to:
1. Perform, interpret, or re-present a work in the alternate location on collaborator’s behalf; or: 2. Deliver a formal lecture on behalf of a collaborator; or: 3. Create new work generated from discussion to be performed in Chicago, and then in Havana.

CHICAGO RESIDENCY
Over the course of three months, participating Cuban artists visited the United States to create work and reside in artists’ homes across Chicago. What the residency meant to each of us was varied and complex. Apart from the history, apart from producing exhibitions and wading through a bureaucratic swamp to obtain visas, we ultimately maintained our belief in the importance of personal intimacy as a means of understanding how US-Cuban relations could be shaped through art experiences.

ANEF / ART PRESENT PARTICIPANTS & CONTRIBUTORS
Anthony Lester Blackhood, Nuria Guell, Levi Enrique Orta Mendoza, Manuel Alejandro Hernández Cardona, Grethel Rusua, Raychel Carrion, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Brookhart Jonquil, Susana Pilar Delahante Matienzo, Cara Lewis, David Wolf, Steven Cottingham, Karly Mortimer, sophia bartholomew, Jeremy Pavka, Hannah Doerkson, Rigoberto Díaz Martinez, Carlos Martiel Delgado Sainz, OMNI, Luis Eligio, David D OMNI, Duniesky Martin, Rachel Herman, Alejandro Diaz Perez, Francisco Masó, Erik Wenzel, CHANCES DANCES, ​Mary Volkman, Dale Volkman, Aay Preston Myint, DIAZ LEWIS, Erik Wenzel, Adrian Curbelo, Jackie Carmen Guerrero, David Cordero, Lawrence Kirk, Jeremy Pavka, sophia bartholomew, Yolanda Hernandez, Marlon Portales Cusett, Faye Gleisser, Gibran Villalobos and William Ruggiero, Regina Mamou, Michelle Maydanchik, Manol Georgieff, Adrian Anagnost.Christy Lemaster, Diane Derr, Meg Leary, Amy Babinec, Andre Callot, Nessie Ruiz, Roell Schmidt, Matthew Hickey, Ana Trier, Marie Casimir, Jen Karmin, Amaury Pacheco, Dana Carter, Latham Zearfoss, Ana Olema, Sergio Valdez, David Hartwell, Erica Mott, Casey Smallwood, Danny Volk, Jason Pallas, Joe Miller, Sam Stalling, among others

CREATORS:
Marilyn Volkman (US)
Dan Paz (US)

Co-Organizers:
Solveig Font, Curator, F.A.C / Sometimes Art Space (CU)
Susana Pilar (CU)
Duniesky Martin, Faculty, Instituto Superior de Arte (CU)
Roell Schmidt, Director, Links Hall (US)
Marie Casimir, Links Hall (US)


Made possible with the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation, Links Hall, Open Practice Committee, Claire Kantor Foundation, UChicagoArts, FOTA, and countless other private and institutional donations and contributions.