Rethinking Location – The Inspiration of Borders (The Havana Biennale)

ingrid6This year, Pikene på Broen were so lucky to be invited to contribute to the official program of the twelfth Havana Biennale. On the 25th of May, Pikene på Broen successfully held the Transborder Café Rethinking Locations – The Inspiration of Borders, at Patio Amarillo next to Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam in the middle of Havana city.

On stage we had had two excellent panels. First up were Rune Rafaelsen, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, John Petter Opdahl, Norwegian Ambassador to Cuba, Jesus Arboleya, professor of International Relations at Havana University and Cuban-US relation specialist and José Fernández Portal, curator at the Havana Biennale. With moderator Cornelius Stiefenhofer, co-curator at Pikene på Broen, they discussed their motivation for working and being engaged in the field of art and culture. This was followed by discussing the perspectives for developing the art & culture scene of Cuba, taking into account experiences of the Norwegian-Russian cooperation as well as the recent changes in Cuban international relations.

On the second panel, we had artists raise their opinions. Our very own founder of Pikene på Broen, Inger Blix Kvammen sat on stage, with Glexis Novoa, an exiled Cuban artist living and working in Miami, Jorge Luis Santana, a Cuban artist and Director of the International Festival Video Art Camagüey (FIVAC) and Cornelius Stiefenhofer, one of the founders of the International Cultural Center in Arkhangelsk. With our moderator for this panel, Rune Rafaelsen, they discussed what artists can teach us when reflecting on borders and how art can facilitate a dialogue between both artist and people across borders.

In between the discussions we had both music and artist presentations. The local band Son Enclave played wonderful Cuban tunes and created good vibes in the audience. Pikene på Broen’s co-curator, Ingrid Valan moderated the two artists’ presentations of Rune Johansen and Solveig Ovanger.



Rethinking locations – The inspiration of borders
For artists, borders can be a never dwindling source of inspiration. What can artists teach us when reflecting on borders? How can art facilitate a dialogue between both artist and people across borders?

While countries like Cuba experience decreasing business restrictions, the North of Norway suffers from the consequences of new Cold War rhetoric. The once blooming cultural, economic and people-to-people exchanges across the border between Russia and Norway are now facing harsh times. How fast do we forget what worked successfully in the past and how easy are we able to move on under new circumstances? Living on the border of sanctions forces us to rethink our location. Locations change with borders. Are sanctions the new reality and thereby a chance to adapt new behaviour patterns? Still, sanctions rarely last forever. Does life after sanctions mean the return to normality? Small communities, like the town Kirkenes, become a seismograph for geopolitical changes and artists travelling border areas might recognize the distinct energy of a border community. Is this reflected in the art created in these specific environments? When rethinking locations, which direction do the compass needle point?

The panel:

Glexis Novoa, an exile Cuban artist living and working in Miami. Since the late eighties Novoa produced art in many different media, including painting, installation, performance, graphite drawings on marble and also a series of site-specific wall drawings. Novoa describes his work as follows: ‘My work repeatedly turns to the architecture of power and politics as its main subject. I investigate aesthetic representations of power in architecture. I compile and decant information codified as symbols and images representative of historical nuclei of power.’

Jorge Luis Santana, a Cuban artist and Director of the International Festival Video Art Camagüey (FIVAC). FIVAC is reflecting the contemporary video art scene of Cuba as well as offering a wide rage of international video artists. FIVAC has a close link with US academies, artists and galleries, such as the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Association of Madison-Camagüey Sister Cities.

Elvia Rosa Castro, a Cuban curator and art critic. As an independent curator Castro has extended experience of curating exhibitions for the international contemporary art scene, such as Escapando el paisaje at Centro de Desarrollo de Artes Visuales in Havana for the 11th Havana’s Biennial (2012). Castro is also a member of the jury of Portugal Arte EDP 10, the 1st Portuguese Biennial. For several years, she worked in the organizing committee of the SubastaHabana, auction sales of Cuban art. From 2002 to 2006 she was the Executive Editor of ArteCubano, Cuban art magazine. She is a professor at the Faculty of Art History of the University of Havana.

Rune Rafaelsen, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Barents Secretariat. The Secretariat aims at developing the Norwegian-Russian relations in the north by promoting and funding Norwegian-Russian cooperation projects. Rafaelsen is also a board member of the Jefferson Institute, an independent research and education institute based in Washington, DC.

John Petter Opdahl, Norwegian Ambassador to Cuba. Opdahl has been in diplomatic service since 1990. From 2010 he has been the Norwegian Ambassador to Cuba.

Inger Blix Kvammen, Adviser and co-founder of Pikene på Broen. Blix Kvammen is also a visual artist working with themes of migration and cultural exchange across borders, particularly in the context of indigenous cultures throughout the Barents region.

Cornelius Stiefenhofer, Co-curator in Pikene på Broen. Stiefenhofer combines his position in Pikene på Broen with activities within the contemporary art field in Arkhangelsk. Stiefenhofer has organized several conferences on arts and culture in Arkhangelsk and is one of the founders of the International Cultural Center in Arkhangelsk and the founder of the International Photography Festival in Arkhangelsk.

Cultural input during the Transborder Café:

Rune Johansen, Norwegian photographer. Johansen is known for his fascination for details, portraits, odd architecture and maximalist North-Norwegian house interior. Johansen’s photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally, amongst other at Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Oslo, the traveling exhibition Norwegian Icons in Oslo, Tokyo and New York and Nordnorsk Kunstnersenter, Tromsø. During Barents Spektakel 2015, an annual arts and culture festival curated by Pikene på Broen, Johansen exhibited his photo series Fra Kirkenes to Zapoljarny, which were the result of travelling both sides of the Norwegian-Russian border to capture the essence of the Barents people and the surroundings.

Solveig Ovanger, Norwegian artist working mainly with leather and fish skin. In her works the material itself is a basis and inspiration for experimentation and as an artist, she concentrates on the visual and associative properties of the skin she uses. Some of her techniques are old traditional Siberian techniques, a reference to not only her interest in Siberian culture, but also her great grandfather’s travels in Siberia.

Transborder Café (TC) is developed by the collective Pikene på Broen and is an informal concept, a theme based think tank which brings together experts by involving the audience in an open discussion related to current political and cultural issues enriched with contributions by artists, thinkers and researchers.

Jose Portal was a part of Pikene på Broen’s residency program, September 2014. During his stay he also participated in Pikene’s Transborder Café at Ofelas, Sense and nonsense of activism in art, Saturday 6st of Sept 2014.

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