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Behind the wall

The first edition of Detrás del Muro was the genesis of a radical change in contemporary art. At first, its purpose was to occupy the physical space of the Traditional Malecón and to treat it as an exhibition platform. The utopia of crossing this iconic space fed Juan Slender Calzadilla and the team that accompanied him during those days. Soon, to the physical would be added the myriad of subjective complexities that result from working with public space. And the initial gesture was transformed into a collaborative energy. Working with the community was imposed then, because the community itself was impressive. And the dialogue with the people began to flow in a multidimensional way. Thanks to those first steps today Detrás del Muro is a cultural product made by the maleconeros in their daily actions.
From its first edition Detrás del Muro awakened in the conscience of Cuban artists the importance of working with the city, not as a theme or motive, but as an operative, space, reality. It reactivated the street as a support for good words and good work. It could be said that it constituted an estimable push to work with the community, an artistic tendency somewhat disengaged from the arsenal of contemporary Cuban art in recent years. In addition, it aroused the anxiety among our artists for the monumentality, for the large scale, overcoming the limitations imposed by strong periods of economic insolvency and artistic subtlety. On the other hand, the utopia of uniting art and life was radically denied in that first edition, and with it almost all the other utopias finally died. Behind the Wall offered Cuban art a mechanism of invaluable radicalization.

The first edition was an act of overwriting the Havanan Malecón. Each work proposed an entertaining dialogue with the passer-by, activating the usual perceptive mechanisms only now on a large scale and in a space with a strong symbolic charge. Each work was an encounter, a happy discovery, it could be affirmed. Performances, installations, sculptures were the main focus of attention. The operation of the Malecón was rewritten. Its character, elaborated by the renowned French landscape painter Forestier, of monumental route composed of dry squares and corridors, was relaborated through the mediation of art and the colossal was invested by the human. For the first time this space had its own voice, offered seats to the walker, different breaks to the concrete wall, doors, illusions, trompe l’oeil, in short, markers of space and time, within a threatening territory, overwhelming, devilishly beautiful, even terrifying. The first edition of Detrás del Muro was an act of reconnaissance of the land that later, in the successive editions of the event, and in the daily work, we would conquer.

-Elvia Rosa Castro

Catalog Detrás del Muro