I find this review, written @ artlog by Anne Huntington of Habana Libre (Free Cuba), an exhibition of photographs by Michael Dweck at the Fototeca de Cuba, in Havana.
Right from the start Huntington presents us with an insoluble paradox:
The works evoke a timeless and contemporary class of writers, models, artists who are defining today’s and tomorrow’s Cuba.How could something "timeless" be "contemporary"? Timeless is unaffected by time. Dweck's monochromatic photos present a Havana frozen in a particular time & space. His nostalgic photo-collage filters an undifferentiated, bucolic moment of carefree smiling young & exotic women.
A view of the installation of Free Cuba
Let me guess: late 50's to early 60's, a land of utopia in Dweck's eyes, yet seemingly buffered from the constant perils of the Cold War. And Bay of Pigs? And the Missile Crisis? For a political title ("Free Cuba"), there is little in the images that speak of history or context.
Michael Dweck, Tropicana in Michael Dweck: Habana Libre at Fototeca de Cuba, Havana.
Which is why, for the sake of problematizing, we should discuss the meaning of "class." Cuba is, at least in theory, a society without classes. So, you wonder why Huntington feels the need to drop names:
Attendees included Cuban artists Carlos Quintana, Rachel Valdez, Roberto Fabelo, Alex Castro, and Camilo Guevara; model Januaria Mora; writers Miguel Barnet and Leonardo Padura; filmmakers Pichi and Pavel Giroud; DJ Joy; Cuban cultural ministers; Swedish, Spanish, French, and Italian ambassadors; and international collectors from Paris, Milan, London, Miami, and New York. The opening and after-party were catered by celebrity chef Sarah Saunders, who flew in from London—the list goes on and on.
Artist Michael Dweck.
These are big names: The Castros and Guevaras are nomenclature, the offspring of Cuban heroes. Does name dropping make the exhibit more legit? Huntington isn't coy about selling the event (not Dweck's work, which is, after all the subject of the review):
(...) the museum expected about 400 guests and over 2,300 people came, the largest turn-out in the museum’s history. The rum poured, the cigars lit, and the opening soared. Press, artists, writers, pats, ex-pats—an elegant and sexy crowd mixed and mingled, discussing the photographs.The rum! The cigars! Ok. How about the work itself?
This is why Huntington's review of Free Cuba falls flat. Nothing is more foreign to freedom than a staged defense.